USA qualify for RWC 2015
USA survived an almighty scare from Uruguay to book their place at Rugby World Cup 2015 as the Americas 2 qualifier after a 32-13 win in Atlanta saw them go through 59-40 on aggregate.
With less than 15 minutes to go two tries in quick succession from the Suniula brothers, Andrew and Shalom, turned the tide in the Eagles’ favour after a disappointing first half performance had threatened to send them into the inter-continental repechage instead of straight to England as Pool B qualifiers alongside South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the Asia 1 qualifier.
"I'm really proud of the guys," said USA captain Todd Clever, who overcame the pain of a rib injury to steer his side to victory.
"We had some bad bounces in the first game and some bad bounces in the first half and it took longer than expected to get on top.
"But in the second half the leaders of the group led by example and we got front foot ball."
Mike Tolkin’s side scored 29 unanswered points after the break to wipe out a 13-3 half-time deficit, prop Eric Fry starting the recovery when he touched down the first of his side's four tries shortly after the restart.
Up until that point the USA had been masters of their own downfall, a series of handling errors seeing them squander good field position in the early exchanges.
Things went from bad to worse when Andrew Suniula was sent to the sin-bin after he retaliated to a blow to the head by throwing a punch at Uruguay replacement Francisco Bulanti.
The veteran centre was quickly joined in the sin-bin by USA replacement prop Nick Wallace, who was singled out by referee Greg Garner after the Eagles had been found guilty of several scrum offences.
Uruguay made their two-man advantage count when they spread the ball to the left from a wheeled scrum and Joaquin Prada crossed for his second try against the States in as many weeks. Fly half Felipe Berchesi turned the five points into seven with the conversion.
Chris Wyles finally got the USA on the board when he landed a 35th minute penalty before two penalties from Berchesi, when Uruguay were down to 14 men after captain Arturo Avalo had seen yellow for an illegal tackle, saw the visitors take control at the break.
Fry then put a difficult first half at scrum-time behind him to wriggle over eight minutes into the second period and Wyles' conversion was good.
Brothers in arms
The Eagles went in front for the first time in the match when scrum half Mike Petri scorched over from 30 metres out with barely a hand laid on him after a quick tap penalty. Wyles was successful with the conversion and added another after Shalom Suniula had stepped off his left foot to cut inside the Uruguay cover to score the USA’s third try.
Brother Andrew sealed the deal for the USA when he received an offload from wing Luke Hume and raced to the line, grounding the ball at the second attempt despite the close attentions of two Uruguayan defenders.
Wyles was unable to convert the try on this occasion but he kicked a late penalty to conclude the scoring.
All is not lost for Uruguay as Los Teros have a chance to qualify as the 20th and final participant at RWC 2015 through the repechage process.