Japan, United States to meet in Pacific Nations Cup decider
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Japan and the United States will meet in Suva on Saturday in the final of Pacific Nations Cup rugby tournament after both teams remained unbeaten through the weekend’s second round.
The United States, whose previous best finish in the tournament was second in a three-nation competition in 2014, stayed on course when they edged Samoa 13-10 with a penalty after the full time siren. The Eagles beat Canada 47-19 at Glendale, Colorado in the tournament’s opening round.
World Cup hosts Japan followed up their 34-21 first round win over defending champion Fiji with a 41-7 win over Tonga Saturday at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka.
Fiji rebounded from their first round loss with a 38-13 win over Canada in Suva.
Those results leave Japan and the United States the only unbeaten teams after two rounds. Fiji and Samoa have one win each after Samoa’s 25-17 win over Tonga in Apia in round one. Tonga and Canada are both without a win and will meet on Friday in Lautoka, Fiji.
Fiji will play Samoa in Suva on Saturday in the other third round match.
Japan further boosted its confidence for the World Cup with a comprehensive win over Tonga. The Brave Blossoms scored their first try while winger Kataro Matsushima was in the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on and led 24-0 before Tonga got onto the scoreboard.
Japan then finished strongly with two tries in the last eight minutes.
“We were able to achieve what we wanted to do so I would give eight out of 10 for tonight,” Japan captain Michael Leitch said.
Tonga gained valuable experience ahead of the World Cup, playing at a stadium which will host two of their pool matches.
Flyhalf A.J. MacGinty scored all of the United States’ point, including its only try and the penalty in stoppage time which gave it a narrow win over Samoa. The teams were level 10-0 after 72 minutes in a match
riddled with handling errors but MacGinty calmly slotted the winning goal from close range.
“It was a really tight contest and I’m not sure either team deserved to lose that,” United States captain Blaine Scully said. “It was an 80-minute arm wrestle.”
Fiji led Canada 19-13 at halftime and took control of the match with tries to prop Peni Ravai and winger Josua Tuisova in the first eight minutes of the second half.