In the final build-up match to the Rugby World Cup, Japan narrowly defeated the Eagles 20-14 at the Prince Chichbu Memorial Rugby Ground on a wet Sunday evening.
Japan is ranked 13th on the IRB world rankings, and coached by former All Black, John Kirwan.
“It was a good physical game in very wet conditions, and will stand us in good stead for New Zealand. It was a game we might have won at the end, but it would probably have been a bit of a steal, seeing as Japan dominated possession in the second half.
We would have liked to have had more possession in the second period, but at the same time it was an excellent defensive workout,” said Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan.
It was Japan who struck first in the match through some deft backline play, sending fullback Taihei Ueda over in the corner. The Eagles replied straight away with winger Kevin Swiryn collecting the kickoff, and racing 40-meters to touch down. Flyhalf Nese Malifa kicked the conversion, as the Eagles led 7-5.
image courtesy of JRFU
Japan’s Ryan Nicholas then added a penalty to give the home side a slender 8-7 advantage. The conditions proved to be very difficult throughout the match, with rain affecting both handling and kicking.
Center Paul Emerick provided the spark the Eagles needed before half time with two massive tackles, one of which took out two Japanese players and gave Swiryn another runaway try. Malifa added the conversion with the Eagles leading 14-8 at the break.
Injuries to standouts Hayden Smith and Nic Johnson forced O’Sullivan to use his reserve bench early in the second half. Shortly thereafter, Takashi Kikutani, scored for Japan. The loose-forward surged over after a period of attacking pressure. Replacement Shaun Webb hit the conversion, putting Japan in front by a single point.
Emerick made a massive break for the USA, but just put a foot into touch, with the center almost scoring for his country. After back-and-forth, energy-sapping play, winger Takehisa Usuzuki finished off a great team try for Japan.
The Eagles put plenty of phases together, and in the last few minutes camped inside Japan’s 22. Desperate defense eventually turned the ball over as the buzzer sounded with Japan holding on to win 20-14.
Flanker Ryan Chapman and winger James Paterson both earned their first caps for the USA, while veteran prop Mike MacDonald equaled the most all-time appearances by an Eagle. MacDonald and Luke Gross both have 62 caps for the United States.
USA’s Dana Teagarden was one of the assistant referees for the match. Teagarden became the first woman ever to be appointed to referee a senior men’s international match last year.
The Eagles will travel back to the USA today, with the RWC squad assembling in Santa Barbara next weekend before departing to New Zealand.
“Having seen quite a few players over the last three weeks, we are now in a good position to finalize our squad for the RWC,” said O’Sullivan.
The 30-man squad will be released later today.
15 Blaine Scully (Unattached)
14 Kevin Swiryn (Agen)
13 Tai Enosa (Belmont Shore)
12 Paul Emerick (Life University)
11 James Paterson (Otago)
10 Nese Malifa (Glendale)
9 Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club) *Captain
1 Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie)
2 Phillip Thiel (Life University)
3 Eric Fry (Las Vegas Blackjacks)
4 Scott LaValla (Stade Francais)
5 Hayden Smith (Saracens)
6 Patrick Danahy (Life University)
7 Louis Stanfill (Unattached)
8 Jonathan ‘JJ’ Gagiano (Univ. of Cape Town)
16 Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate)
17 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh)
18 Nic Johnson (Unattached)
19 Ryan Chapman (Utah Warriors)
20 Tim Usasz (Nottingham RFC)
21 Roland Suniula (Boston Rugby)
22 Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
USA Tries: Swiryn (8’, 39’)
USA Conversions: Malifa (10’, 40’)
Johnson on for Smith (40’), Pittman on for Fry (43’), Chapman on for Johnson (55’), R.Suniula on for Malifa (62’), A.Suniula on for Emerick (64’), Usasz on for Petri (75’), Biller on for Thiel (75’)
15 Taihei Ueda (Honda Heat)
14 Takehisa Usuzuki (Toshiba Brave Lupus)
13 Alisi Tupuailai (Canon Eagles)
12 Ryan Nicholas (Suntory Sungoliath)
11 Hirotoki Onozawa (Suntory Sungoliath)
10 Murray Williams (Toyota Industries Shuttles)
9 Tomoki Yoshida (Toshiba Brave Lupus)
1 Naoki Kawamata (Panasonic Wild Knights)
2 Yusuke Aoki (Suntory Sungoliath)
3 Nozomu Fujita (Honda Heat)
4 Hitoshi Ono (Toshiba Brave Lupus)
5 Luke Thompson (Kintetsu Liners)
6 Sione Vatuvei (Panasonic Wild Knights)
7 Tadasuke Nishihara (Panasonic Wild Knights)
8 Takashi Kikutani (Toyota Verblitz)
16 Shota Horie (Panasonic Wild Knights)
17 Kensuke Hatakeyama (Suntory Sungoliath)
18 Toshizumi Kitagawa (Toyota Verblitz)
19 Itaru Taniguchi (Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers)
20 Atsushi Hiwasa (Suntory Sungoliath)
21 Koji Taira (Suntory Sungoliath)
22 Shaun Webb (Coca-Cola West Red Sparks)
Japan Tries: Ueda (6’), Kikutani (54’), Usuzuki (66’)
Japan Conversions: Webb (55’)
Japan Penalties: Nicholas (11’)
Webb on for Ueda (46’), Hiwasa on for Yoshida (46’), Taniguchi on for Nishihara (49’), Horie on for Aoki (62’), Taira on for Nicholas (64)
RWC 2011 SCHEDULE | NEW ZEALAND
September 11, 2011: USA vs. Ireland (New Plymouth)
September 15, 2011: USA vs. Russia (New Plymouth)
September 23, 2011: USA vs. Australia (Wellington)
September 27, 2011: USA vs. Italy (Nelson)
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