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(Editor's note: This story was originally published with an insensitive headline that has since been edited.)
Team USA earned its first-ever win over Samoa Saturday, with Will Hooley nailing a 39-meter penalty at the death for the 30-29 victory in San Sebastian, Spain. The test win marks the USA’s ninth in a row, making them a perfect 9-0 in test matches this year.
Joe Taufete’e opened scoring in the 11th minute, stretching the ball over the line from on a pick-and-go from inches out. A penalty advantage was on, and the Eagles had gotten into the attacking end via a prior Samoan penalty, too. Will Hooley slotted the conversion, putting the USA up 7-0.
The Eagles kept the pressure on after the kickoff, forcing Samoa into a sloppy turnover. The Americans kept charging forward, and Samoa folded with a penalty in the breakdown. Captain Blaine Scully, who made the line break into the 22, opted for a shot at posts, which Hooley turned into three points, making it 10-0 after 15 minutes.
Hanco Germishuys extended the lead in short order. Ruben de Haas popped a high box kick over the line, it bounced on the ground and into Germishuys’s hands. He sprinted up the touch line and slid into pay dirt just before being caught. The extras were missed – 15-0.
The next box kick didn’t end so well for the Eagles. De Haas hoisted this one up, and it was taken cleanly by the Samoa fullback, who pierced the American defense and put Samoa on the front foot deep in the attacking end. The Eagles staved off the inevitable for a few phases for Samoa’s loosehead slammed over for Samoa’s first score. The conversion was successful, cutting the deficit to eight with 28 minutes gone.
Samoa doubled up just after the half-hour mark when Samoa reversed field quickly and caught the Eagles under-resourced. A broken tackle opened the flood gates, and Samoa scored through the right wing. It was also converted, thinning the USA’s margin to one.
Seconds after the restart, the lead vanished. With Scully coming off for blood during the conversion, Samoa caught the replacement, Will Magie, napping with a return kick off the restart. No one was home for the USA, Samoa gathered the ball and raced in for a third-straight try.
Cam Dolan stopped the bleeding with an intercept try just after the next restart, sliding in at the corner after Samoa got a little too sure of itself and played loosely in its own end. Hooley’s conversion wouldn’t find its mark, leaving Samoa up 21-20 with a couple of minutes left in the half.
The flurry of sloppy play led to more scoring at the onset of the second half. The opening restart of the second half wasn’t taken cleanly by the Eagles, though Nick Civetta and Germishuys both had a chance at it. Samoa flyhacked the loose ball down the field and slid on it for the score. The conversion was missed, keeping the difference to one score at 26-20.
Samoa nearly scored another broken play try in the 53rd minute when Bryce Campbell mishandled a pass and it landed right in the hands of a Samoan midfielder. He chipped it ahead, and Gannon Moore hustled back, rounded the Samoan wing in pursuit and dotted down for a 22 dropout. Samoa looked away again shortly thereafter, but the final pass went forward.
The referee didn’t go very far to protect the scrumhalves at the breakdown, causing de Haas trouble all day. It manifested in a turnover in the 58th minute, from which Samoa kicked and looked to be in position to gather. However, Moore blitzed in from nowhere and saved another try, stiff-arming his way out of the try zone and up the field to give the Eagles some breathing room.
Paul Lasike turned the momentum with a dazzling one-handed interception, putting the Eagles into the attacking end. They were gaining ground steadily until Taufete’e lost the ball forward attempting an offload.
On the USA’s next attacking possession, Hooley was smashed by Samoa’s blitzing outside center, who was called for a dangerous tackle. The Eagles kept the pressure on Samoa, resulting in another penalty. What should have been a gimme was shanked when Hooley slipped in the loose turf while kicking.
The Eagles got into a kicking battle thereafter, until Samoa opted to swing the ball wide. Dolan saw it coming, and he swooped in for his second intercept try of the match. Hooley slotted this one, reclaiming the lead for the USA, 27-26.
Nick Civetta was called offside in the defensive line in the 73rd minute, giving Samoa a shot at goal. The kick was good, putting Samoa back in front, 29-27.
With time winding down and the USA in possession, Samoa infringed twice in a row. The second came at full time under the pressure of a slow-but-steadily-moving driving maul from the Americans. Will Hooley teed up the game winner from just under 40 meters out to the right of the sticks and stroked it over.
The Eagles will try to extend their nine-game winning streak against Romania in Bucharest Nov. 17.