Samoa bounced back from their defeat to the All Blacks with a 21-16 victory over the USA in San Jose, California.
Titi Lamositele scored the first try of his career, and the USA's sole try on the night, as the Eagles wore down the visitors over 80 minutes, attempting to overturn a 21-3, first-half deficit.
Head Coach Mike Tolkin capped two new Eagles in AJ MacGinty, who started at fly half, and Zack Test in front of a crowd of 10,017.
Despite only a handful of players returning from Samoa’s first-ever home match against New Zealand, the visiting team’s physical style of play carried over in San Jose. The Eagles were kept from possession in the first 10 minutes due to Samoa’s strong play in the breakdown and free-flowing passing.
In the fourth minute, Taku Ngwenya drew the ire of English referee JP Doyle for not releasing in the tackle. Patrick Faapale placed the tee a few inches from the touch line and kicked the ball through the uprights to give his side a 3-0 lead. A second attempt a minute later from a better angle missed wide.
Faapale slotted his second three-pointer in the 15th minute to extend the lead to 6-0.
MacGinty was given the opportunity to score his first points in an Eagles shirt and rose to the occasion, slotting a penalty goal midway through the half. Samoa responded in the 23rd minute with Faapale’s third penalty of the night to restore the six-point lead at 9-3.
Eagles stole multiple lineouts deep inside their own half, but MacGinty’s clearance kick was taken cleanly by Ahsee Tuala. The full-back exploited the chasing, stretched defense and was able to get a clean offload to an onrushing Alesana Tuilaga for the match’s opening try. Faapale’s conversion extended his side’s lead to 16-3.
Tuilagi grubbered the ball into the USA's half from midfield in the 35th minute for his teammate to chase. Ngwenya pressured the Samoan as he nudged it towards the try line, but was penalized as Wyles tracked back to offer support. The tap was taken quickly and Alesana Tuilagi chip-kicked the ball to the far wing for Tuala to dot down in space.
MacGinty attempted to dent Samoa’s 21-3 lead with a penalty attempt on the stroke of halftime, but the windy confines of Avaya Stadium betrayed the debutant, pushing the kick just wide.
While two tries in the final 10 minutes of the half overstated Samoa’s advantage, the Eagles rued the early deficit.
The Eagles came out of the break with an added impetus, and MacGinty’s cross-field kick was caught by Samoa, but the backs pressured on defense and drew a penalty call. The fly half cut Samoa’s lead to 21-6 with the penalty goal.
Tuilagi nearly played a part in a third try in the 60th minute when he received a behind-the-back offload against the grain, but he lost control to give the USA a scrum.
Mike Petri rolled the ball into the scrum and the Eagles moved up the pitch before Tuilagi was penalized for a late hit on Scully. MacGinty turned the advantage into points with a penalty goal to bring the score to 21-9.
Petri set up his fly-half for another run with a quick pop pass from the pitch, but the Eagles were held up before they could dot down in-goal. The USA won the scrum and sent crash ball after crash ball at the Samoan defense, and Lamositele, who replaced Mate Moeakiola in the 24th minute, touched the ball down on the line to score.
With five minutes remaining in a one-possession game at 21-16, the USA made Samoa work for their victory. The visitors were called for a high tackle two minutes from time and the Eagles confidently spread the ball around the pitch, looking for another five-pointer.
Doyle penalized the Eagles after a few phases, however, and Samoa was able to hold the ball in a lineout before kicking to touch to end the match.
Pens: MacGinty 3
Tries: A Tuilagi, Tuala
Pens: Faapale 3
USA: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Alan MacGinty, 9 Shalom Suniula, 8 Danny Barrett, 7 John Quill, 6 Cam Dolan, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Matekitonga Moeakiola, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Eric Fry.
Replacements: 16 Zach Fenoglio, 17 Chris Baumann, 18 Titi Lamositele, 19 Scott Lavalla, 20 Andrew Durutalo, 21 Mike Petri, 22 Andrew Suniula, 23 Zach Test.
Samoa: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Faialaga Afamasaga, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Patrick Faapale, 9 Vavao Afemai, 8 Sanele Vavae Tuilagi, 7 Jack Lam, 6 TJ Ioane, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Jake Grey, 19 Maselino Paulino, 20 Oneone Faafou, 21 Pele Cowley, 22 Johnny Leota, 23 Fa'atoina Autagavaia.
Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant Referees: Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Andrew McMaster (Canada)
Report courtesy of USA Rugby