The United States’ World Cup preparation continues to build momentum after first-five AJ MacGinty slotted an injury-time penalty to hand the Eagles a 13-10 victory over Samoa in Suva on Saturday afternoon.
Playing in wet conditions – although on a much better playing surface than what was seen during Samoa’s win over Tonga in Apia last week – in front of a dismal crowd at ANZ National Stadium, Manu Samoa stood firm to hold out a rampant American outfit in the dying stages of the contest with some solid defence deep inside their own half.
However, an infringement by reserve prop Alofaaga Sao from a lineout inside his own 22 metre mark handed Sale Sharks pivot MacGinty an opportunity to snatch the result with a penalty kick three minutes into injury time.
The Irish-born 29-year-old duly converted, shaving the inside of the right-hand post to hand the USA a rare victory over Samoa – just their second-ever from seven matches.
The result adds to the Eagles’ 47-19 thrashing of Canada last week, leaving them at the summit of their pool in the Pacific Nations Cup.
As it stands, they sit on nine points from two matches and remain frontrunners to win their maiden Pacific Nations Cup title after their inception into the competition 13 years ago.
Gary Gold’s side opened the scoring just three minutes into the match, with MacGinty landing a penalty to hand his side an early 3-0 lead.
Samoa hit back three minutes afterwards, though, with veteran wing Alapati Leiua scoring under the posts, making the AJ Alatimu’s conversion attempt an easy one.
MacGinty’s scoring run continued after 19 minutes, with the star first-five challenging the defensive line with some tidy running angles to split some opposition defenders and crash over to re-take the lead.
He converted his own try, giving the States a slender lead at 10-7.
There was a 53-minute wait until the next scoring play, with Samoan second-five Henry Taefu slotting a penalty from 30 metres out with only seven minutes remaining, setting up an enticing affair late on in the piece.
The Eagles refused to relent, however, and Sao’s agony was MacGinty’s joy, with the playmaker’s 83rd-minute penalty making him the USA’s only point-scorer on the clash.
The world’s 15th-ranked side will remain in the Fijian capital for their final Pacific Nations Cup bout against Japan next week, which could shape up to effectively act as the final of the competition should the Brave Blossoms defeat Tonga in Osaka on Saturday evening.
As for Samoa, they will hope to salvage a result against Fiji next week before heading into the home straight of their World Cup preparation.
USA 13 (Try to AJ MacGinty; conversion and two penalties to MacGinty)
Samoa 10 (Try to Alapati Leiua; conversion to AJ Alatimu, penalty to Henry Taefu)
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