USA Select pip Tonga A 20-15.
With the wind on their backs, Tonga A took control of the opening quarter, setting up camp in American territory and seldom allowing their opponents to play beyond the halfway line and, although they scored the half’s only try, their 8-3 half time lead might have been more generous had their kicking been more accurate.
Twice in two minutes points went begging when full back Fine Vea Mesui Lemoto narrowly missed 40-metre penalties and then outside half Fangatapu Apikotoa hit the upright with a neat drop-goal, but the opening points came in the 21st minute when the USA team was penalized for not releasing in a tackle, allowing Lemoto to kick a three-pointer.
That spurred the Selects who not only crossed the halfway line with intent for the first time but also put Tonga A under pressure. No points were scored though and the Tongans were soon in another attacking position. From the back of a scrum, workmanlike number eight Matini Lupou scored after a back-row move. Lemoto missed the easy conversion, again hitting the upright.
not until the 30 minute mark did USA finally manage to get on the scoreboard with an easy Nese Malifa penalty after Tonga A erred offside. A second, long-range drop goal from Apikotoa missed and the teams went to the break with the Tongans leading 8-3.
At the restart the USA Select side wasted no time in using the wind, now on their backs, and after establishing an attacking position they converted it into points when flanker Pat Danahy crossed despite some good tackling.
The conversion missed, Tonga once again went on the attack, hooker Pataleone Vi and captain Tupou exchanging passes after a clear break from the hooker for their second try. Apikotoa converted Vi’s try and the game opened up.
A raking counter attack did not yield points for the Selects when lock Brian Doyle dropped the ball within inches of the goal line but Tai Enosa, a star performer for US Under 20s a year ago broke the Tongan defence with ease with a side step and ran unopposed for a converted try to draw the game level.
In the 64th minute Tonga lock Taumei Hikila was crucially sin-binned for a shoulder charge and, with a man advantage, the Selects pounced to seal the win, lock Samu Manoa touching down after the ball was moved from one flank to the other and back.
“We are happy with the win, this is the first national tour for a number of our players so it is very special,” said US national coach Eddie O’Sullivan. “A number of places for the fall tour could be decided on this trip and every player is wanting to make an impression.”
But for a few handling errors, the score might have been bigger for the Selects, who have plenty to work on ahead of their upcoming matches.
“Although not happy with those mistakes, I told the team that the positive thing other than the win is that we did not make system errors,” said captain Nic Johnson.
Tonga A’s best performer, scrumhalf Soane Havea, explained that “we made some few mistakes and gave them the opportunities which they used to beat us. But we will grow from our mistakes.”
Source: Frankie Deges IRB.com