(Watch video highlights from Australia’s win here.)
The United States knew they were up against it heading into Friday’s Pool C clash with Australia — especially after the Wallabies were upset by Ireland earlier in the week.
The Eagles hoped to put forth another strong effort against a “Tier One” nation, but 14 substitutions to a lineup that defeated Russia hinted at a desire to keep players fresh for a more winnable matchup with Italy to close out pool play.
All of this made a 10-5 American deficit through 23 minutes extremely encouraging for the heavy underdogs.
But as expected, the Australians pulled away and then took out their frustration in the second half, rolling to a 67-5 victory that will likely send them through to the quarterfinals.
The Eagles flashed the grit and determination that have made them fan favorites in New Zealand during a lengthy period of extended pressure that finally resulted in their lone try.
The U.S. held possession through 18 phases deep in the Australian end and eventually drove Australian Adam Ashley-Cooper over his own goal line, resulting in a five-meter scrum. With the Americans on their heels, J.J. Gagiano sprung free on the right side of the scrum and ran in for the try.
The Americans did well to control the ball through the opening 30 minutes — and finished the match with a 53-47 edge — but the Wallabies held strong on the defense and it was only a matter of time before they wore down the Eagles.
“That’s the difference when you play the best sides in the world, they really punish your mistakes and that’s what we learned tonight,” American captain Tim Usasz said. “We came here to be measured against the best and we’ll learn from it.”
Ashley-Cooper scored three tries during a seven-minute span in the second half to pull away, but Australia took a hit in the health department as centers Anthony Faingaa and Pat McCabe and fullback Kurtley Beale all left the field with injuries. Faingaa’s injury was a scary one as he was knocked unconscious on a tackle in the final minute and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.
Australia finished with 11 tries and their biggest ever victory over the U.S., which fell to 0-7 all-time against the Wallabies.
The U.S. finishes its Pool C play when it takes on Italy on Tuesday in Nelson. A win there would give the Americans third place in the group — a significant accomplishment for a nation still trying to establish a foothold in the global rugby landscape.
New Zealand renews rivalry with France
For those new to the sport or those just looking for a great matchup, Saturday’s New Zealand-France contest should be a real battle. As the host team, the All Blacks are bearing the weight of a rugby-rich nation desperate to win its first Cup since 1987. And its been an encouraging start for New Zealand, which has won its first two matches by a combined margin of 124-17.
But the French have recently been New Zealand’s kryptonite, knocking out the Kiwis in the 1999 semifinals and again in the 2007 quarterfinals. The All Blacks — who defeated France 29-9 in the 1987 final — will once again have to get through Les Blues to take their group and continue their quest for another championship.
The match will air at 4:30 a.m. EST on Universal Sports.