USA falters in first Rugby World Cup 2015 match

BRIGHTON, England - The Men's Eagles stumbled in their opening match at Rugby World Cup 2015 Sunday, a 25-16 defeat to Samoa at Brighton Community Stadium.

The Pool B clash gives Samoa a momentary tie atop the group with Japan, which shocked the collective rugby world Saturday with a win against pool favorite South Africa. The U.S. will continue its campaign at the sport's pinnacle event Sunday, Sept. 27, against Scotland at Elland Road. The 9:30 a.m. kickoff will be broadcast live on Universal Sports.

The Eagles lined up against Samoa for the second time this calendar year, following a defeat in San Jose's Avaya Stadium in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup. Much like the most recent meeting, Samoa took a 3-0 lead within the first 10 minutes via a Tusi Pisi penalty goal.

A response from the team wearing blue was warranted, and produced by the men on the pitch. AJ MacGinty and Chris Wyles set up a looping attacking move at midfield, but the skip pass to Taku Ngwenya was just behind the winger and rolled into touch.

Penalty trouble started early for the U.S., and stemmed from own errors. In the 13th minute, Zach Fenoglio's lineout throw was deemed illegal for a Samoa scrum. As the teams played for territory with kicks, the Eagles conceded a penalty, though it could not be turned into three points. Pisi's penalty goal attempt was short of the posts, and the U.S. cleared.

Samoa regained possession before the halfway mark of the opening frame, and Pisi used his boot to maximum effect with a grubber into the in-goal area. Full back Tim Nanai-Williams capitalized on a slip from Ngwenya to be the first to reach the ball and score the try. The tough conversion was missed by Pisi, but Samoa's lead was extended to 8-0.

Samoa was not without its own unforced errors, kicking to touch at inopportune times for advantageous positions for Eagles set pieces. In the 26th minute, the U.S. lost possession in its lineout and Samoa made a break for the try line. Blaine Scully made the try-saving tackle 20 meters from the line, but Pisi was able to turn the break into three points after the Eagles took a penalty in the breakdown.

Not five minutes later, the U.S. turned on the heat to force a knock from the Samoans, and MacGinty put the Eagles on the board at 11-3 with a definitive penalty goal.

The Eagles had to clear after a few phases from the restart, but quickly got the ball back from a turnover in a Samoan lineout. Starting in his team's own half, Samu Manoa found MacGinty with a perfectly-weighted pass for the fly half to find a gap in the defensive line. The backs ran forward in support, and Seamus Kelly cut inside between the attacking 10 and 22 before finding a streaking captain with an offload in contact for the try. MacGinty could not convert from a severe angle, keeping the deficit at three, 11-8.

Pisi extended the lead one last time before the halftime whistle following a penalty against the Eagles 25 meters from their own try line. The penalty goal sent the teams into the dressing rooms at Brighton Community Stadium with a 14-8 scoreline.

An added impetus could be seen in the Eagles' play in the opening phases of the second half, as Samoa kicked off to the team wearing blue. Thretton Palamo, who made his presence felt throughout the first half, showed off his handling skills with an exchange with Al McFarland. The Eagles turned over possession, however, before an attacking platform could be set up in the opposition's half.

"When we launched attacks with purpose to run we made line breaks and were dangerous," Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin said. "We needed more ball and continuity. We would have pushed the Samoans to their limit if we could have attacked more often."

Samoa's 46th-minute attack began with a lineout near the U.S. 22. A few phases brought the team to the try line, but it was not until after a ball knocked loose by Ngwenya was recovered by Samoa and touched down by captain Ofisa Treviranus. Pisi's conversion bounced wide off of the right post to keep the score at 19-8.

Minutes later, Pisi's boot resulted in another three points, extending Samoa's lead to 22-8. Ngwenya forced a turnover on the other side of the restart and the Eagles won a penalty with ferocious work on the ball in the attacking half. With 30 minutes remaining, MacGinty lined up the kick to bring the Eagles within two scores at 22-11.

Both teams lacked the real clinical edge of a Rugby World Cup Final contender, but stayed even throughout the match in terms of squandered opportunities. A fruitless attack by Samoa in the 63rd minute ended with a forward pass, while Ngwenya ran nearly the length of the field at top speed before a tackle and meeting with the pitch stripped him of the ball.

Mike Stanley assumed kicking duties for Samoa once the team's starting fly half was substituted, and was called into action in the 70th minute after the Eagles were found crossing on the attack in their own half.

A positive offensive from the Eagles after gaining possession on the restart resulted in a penalty against Samoa. Down, 25-11, and needing two converted tries to level the match, MacGinty kicked to touch to set up a five-meter lineout rather than kick for points.

Each of the U.S. forwards attempted to get the ball over the line after the set piece was won, and Chris Baumann, in his debut Rugby World Cup, dotted down on the white paint for his first international try. MacGinty's conversion was wide, however, keeping the Eagles out of reach at 25-16.

The Eagles did get one final chance to put points on the board and come away from the Pool B matchup with a bonus point, but failed to enter the attacking 22 in the remaining minutes.

The loss does not end the U.S.'s hopes for quarterfinal qualification. Three matches remain for the Eagles to usurp Japan and Samoa atop Pool B, with Scotland set to play the Asian qualifier Wednesday. The U.S. will take the Rugby World Cup 2015 stage again Sunday, Sept. 27, against Scotland live on Universal Sports.

Follow @USARugby on Twitter for more updates from England.

Men's Eagles | v. Samoa

1. Eric Fry

2. Zach Fenoglio

3. Titi Lamositele

4. Hayden Smith

5. Greg Peterson

6. Al McFarland

7. Andrew Durutalo

8. Samu Manoa

9. Mike Petri

10. AJ MacGinty

11. Chris Wyles(C)

12. Thretton Palamo

13. Seamus Kelly

14. Takudzwa Ngwenya

15. Blaine Scully

Men's Eagles | Reserves

16. Phil Thiel

17. Olive Kilifi

18. Chris Baumann

19. Cameron Dolan

20. Danny Barrett

21. Shalom Suniula

22. Folau Niua

23. Brett Thompson

Samoa | v. USA

1. Sakaria Taulafo

2. Ole Avei

3. Anthony Perenise

4. Teofilo Paulo

5. Iosefa Tekori

6. Maurie Fa'asavalu

7. Jack Lam

8. Ofisa Treviranus (C)

9. Kahn Fotuali'i

10. Tusi Pisi

11. Alesana Tuilagi

12. Rey Lee-Lo

13. Paul Perez

14. Ken Pisi

15. Tim Nanai-Williams

Samoa | Reserves

16. Viliamu Afatia

17. Motu Matu'u

18. Census Johnston

19. Faifili Levave

20. Alafoti Faosiliva

21. Vavoa Afemai

22. Mike Stanley

23. Fa'atoina Autagavaia

Men's Eagles | 16

Tries: Wyles, Baumann

Conversions: N/A

Penalties: MacGinty (2)

Samoa | 25

Tries: Nanai-Williams, Treviranus

Conversions: N/A

Penalties: Pisi (4), Stanley

Men's Eagles | Rugby World Cup 2015

v. Samoa - L 25-16

v. Scotland - Sunday, Sept. 27 - 9:30 a.m. ET

v. South Africa - Wednesday, Oct. 7 - noon ET

v. Japan - Sunday, Oct. 11 - 3 p.m. ET