FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union – Premiership – Sale Sharks v Gloucester Rugby – AJ Bell Stadium, Sale, Britain – May 18, 2019 Sale Sharks’ AJ MacGinty scores his sides sixth try Action Images/Jason Cairnduff
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Ice-cool flyhalf AJ MacGinty slotted a penalty with 80 minutes on the clock to give the United States a dramatic 13-10 victory over a physical Samoa on Saturday and send them top of the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) standings.
The victory in Suva, Fiji was the second in a row for the Americans over Manu Samoa — the last one in November 2018 was sealed in similar style — and a major boost for the Eagles before they head off to the World Cup in Japan next month.
The U.S. thrashed Canada 47-19 in their PNC opener in Denver last week and Sale Sharks playmaker MacGinty got them off to a good start on Saturday with the first of his two penalties after three minutes.
Samoa winger Alapati Leiua forced his way through a gap in the defensive line for the first try of the match five minutes later to put the home side 7-3 ahead, however.
MacGinty had the visitors back in front before the 20-minute mark when scrumhalf Ruben De Haas fed him on the burst and he touched down for a try he proceeded to convert.
That was the last scoring until eight minutes from time when flanker Tony Lamborn was penalised by referee Nigel Owens at the breakdown and Samoa centre Henry Taefu levelled the scores from the tee to set up the late drama.
“It was a really tight contest and I’m not sure either team deserved to lose that,” Eagles captain Blaine Scully told the team website.
“It was an eighty-minute arm wrestle. We’ll take a lot of lessons out of this match and hopefully learn from them next week.”
Samoa, who have twice reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup, conclude their PNC campaign against reigning champions Fiji next week, while the United States face World Cup hosts Japan. All the final round matches are in Fiji.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
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