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The United States fell 40-12 to Tonga Saturday at Kingsholm Stadium in Gloucester, England. The Eagles trailed by just two at halftime and saw several scoring opportunties go begging in the first 50 minutes before Tonga blew the game open.
Tim Stanfill opened the USA's account in the fourth minute, when Folau Niua made a line break, committed the final defender and dished to the wing for the score. Niua converted, putting the Eagles up, 7-0.
Scrum and penalty woes would pile up on the USA in the first half. They were first reflected on the scoreboard in the eighth minute when Kurt Morath slotted a penalty. Then the Sea Eagles forced a penalty at a scrum, leading to their first try. It was unconverted, but Morath tacked on six more points in the half thanks to more American penalties, taking a 14-7 lead.
Folau Niua missed penalties on either side of halftime and a conversion when the Eagle forwards mauled over for a try off a point-blank lineout in the 38th minute. Even with those eight points unclaimed, the USA was in decent shape down just two, 14-12, especially with captain Scott Lavalla missing 10 minutes in the first half to cynical play. However, in under 20 minutes, with Niua's second missed shot at goal, the United States would go from having a chance to take the lead to being down 21.
Tonga's forwards were superior all day, in loose play and the set pieces. They were stymied in the first half, even with Lavalla in the bin, but after being held up in the try zone in the second half, the pressure was finally paid off in 50th minute when a short range pick-and-go crossed the whitewash following a five-meter scrum. Morath nailed the conversion, putting two scores between the Sea Eagles and the USA, 21-12.
The back breaker came just two minutes later. The stagnant Eagle offense was going through phases but making no headway, and Stanfill made a break up the sideline. He tried to keep the ball moving and threw an aimless offload that resulted in sloppy possession, a Tongan turnover and counterattack try. Morath converted, putting the Sea Eagles up three scores. Seconds later, more lack of care for the ball resulted in another Tonga try.
The Eagles did manage a very long possession in the attacking 22, but milked no points from the opportunity, even with the fresh legs of Thretton Palamo, Todd Clever, Tom Coolican and Tai Tuisamoa churning toward the try line. Tonga crossed over once more in the 79th minute to flatter the score line even further.
Tries: T. Stanfill, Quill
Tries: Vainikolo, Ma'afu, Lilo, Tonga, Langilangi
Cons: Morath (2), Fosita
Pens: Morath (3)