Men's Eagles
18 8
28 17
Men's Eagles  @ Kingsholm Stadium
Rugby World Cup
  Glen Jackson (NZL)
Universal Sports Network


GLOUCESTER, England - Taku Ngwenya and captain Chris Wyles capped the Men's Eagles' Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign with tries at Kingsholm Stadium Sunday, but Japan came away with the 28-18 victory.

The U.S.'s tournament ends with no wins to show for the effort, despite leading in two of four matches in Pool B play. Japan kicked off the eighth quadrennial tournament with an upset of South Africa, and will head home with three wins from England.

Back to a starting XV that resembled the sides that nearly defeated Samoa and Scotland earlier in pool play, the Eagles pressured Japan in the opening moments. The forwards refused to succumb to Japan's recent set-piece dominance, keeping scrums upright and steady.

A scrum win in the second minute was undone by a forward pass, but the Eagles did enough to get the ball back and win a penalty. AJ MacGinty gave the U.S. a 3-0 lead after four minutes, but it would quickly be erased.

Japan won a lineout in the seventh minute after the Eagles were forced to clear, and broke through the gain line when Al McFarland missed a tackle along the 10. Kosei Ono grubbered the ball through to the try line for Yoshikazu Fujita to chase. The wing beat Ngwenya to the ball and the Brave Blossoms swung the ball wide to Kotaro Matsushima to dot down for the match's first try.

The U.S.'s attempts at cutting into the 7-3 hole were ended by unforced errors like forward passes, but the work of Andrew Durutalo and the other members of the pack aided the defensive efforts to get on the front foot of play.

The Eagles decided against a possible 7-6 game in the 20th minute after a lineout maul reached the 22 and won a penalty. The lineout throw went right to Durutalo, but it was dropped from the pressure in the attempted maul.

"The errors early on were disappointing - especially after we put points on the board," Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin said. "The mistakes stopped some good momentum that we had built up.

"However, there were good attacking opportunities created through pressure, and we would have put ourselves in a good position to capitalize on a few more of them."

Japan cleared the danger for a U.S. lineout, which turned into more attacking pressure from the Eagles. The ball moved from side to side and forward through more than 20 phases in Japan's half before Wyles sent a skip pass over Ayumu Goromaru to Ngwenya for the try. MacGinty was unable to convert the wide-angled conversion, but the U.S. had the lead at 8-7.

Japan immediately put itself in scoring range with the restart win, and it took less than a minute to find the try zone. A maul formed outside the try line was kept out, but Fujita took the ball and dove over the white paint. Goromaru kicked the conversion to give Japan a 14-8 lead.

Cam Dolan replaced Hayden Smith in the 31st minute to provide added impetus at the end of the half, but Japan felt the benefits of any advantage first with a 33rd-minute penalty goal.

Zack Test was determined to single-handedly overturn the 17-8 score line and chased a MacGinty kick deep into Japan's half. The ball rolled to the corner as Test bore down on Japan captain Michael Leitch, and the wing made a tackle before getting up quickly to tackle the man that received the offload. With the Eagles coming to help, Test made a third tackle in-goal to earn a five-meter scrum for his side.

The Eagles won the scrum, but could not turn the possession into points after a penalty called against the U.S. Japan ended the half on the back foot, maintaining a 17-8 lead.

Japan wasted no time in the second half in widening the distance between the Blossoms and the Eagles, letting Goromaru kick for three points in the 43rd minute. The Eagles did not raise the white flag, and tested Japan's defense in its own half for the better part of five minutes. Thretton Palamo threw his weight around while Samu Manoa saw more of the ball at "The Shed" than in previous matches at the World Cup.

Zach Fenoglio dropped the ball in contact following a forward run in the 53rd minute, but Durutalo drew the referee's whistle to set up MacGinty for a kick. The fly half sent the ball through the uprights for a 20-11 score, but the Eagles were thrown a curveball minutes later.

After a drive to the Eagles' 22, Japan was awarded a penalty in the breakdown 15 meters from the posts. In the ruck, Eric Fry was deemed to have illegally played the ball, and paid the price with a 10-minute session in the sin bin for a yellow card.

Japan kicked for a lineout and quickly scored through Amanaki Mafi, who used the maul as a diversion to find space to dive over the line. With a 25-11 lead and a man-advantage for another eight or so minutes, Japan won the ensuing restart and entered the Eagles' half again.

Manoa made one of the tackles of the tournament in the 66th minute on Ono between the Eagles' 10 and 22, and the U.S. stole possession on the try line before Japan could add any more points to the scoreboard.

"The guys poured everything they had into this game and the great defensive stands with 14 men really exemplified that," Tolkin said.

Durutalo knocked over two Japanese players defending a ruck at midfield in the 69th minute and stole the ball, and the Eagles went forward to the try line through clean phases of play. In the 71st minute, the U.S. stopped its crash-ball attack and passed through hands to Wyles for the try.

Wyles' score, with MacGinty's conversion, brought the Eagles within a converted try of a level match at 25-18, but even Fry's return to the field could not see the U.S. to a draw nor bonus-point loss. Goromaru successfully kicked a penalty goal attempt with five minutes to play and a late knock ended the final try-scoring opportunity for the Eagles.

Despite the win, which moves Japan onto 12 points in Pool B, the Brave Blossoms will travel home to begin the next Rugby World Cup cycle, culminating with the 2019 event in Japan. The Eagles are sure to meet their Pacific rival before then, after three matchups between the 2011 and 2015 World Cups.

"To be honest, Japan had an exceptional Rugby World Cup," Tolkin said. "They were sharper in the RWC [than the match in Sacramento this summer], but their game was not a whole lot different. Some of our unforced errors put them in very dangerous positions to score points."

The U.S.'s seventh Rugby World Cup ends winless, the first time since the 2007 campaign in France and fourth overall. The 31 members of this World Cup squad will return to their club sides to fight for their next call up to their nation's national team.

  • Japan | v. USA
  • 1. Keita Inagaki (Mikami @ 59')
  • 2. Shota Horie (Kizu @ 77')
  • 3. Hiroshi Yamashita (Hatakeyama @ 41')
  • 4. Luke Thompson
  • 5. Justin Ives (Makabe @ 68')
  • 6. Michael Leitch (C)
  • 7. Michael Broadhurst (Tui @ 73')
  • 8. Ryu Koliniasi Holani (Mafi @ 41')
  • 9. Fumiaki Tanaka (Hiwasa @ 62')
  • 10. Kosei Ono (Hesketh @ 73')
  • 11. Kotaro Matsushima
  • 12. Craig Wing
  • 13. Harumichi Tatekawa
  • 14. Yoshikazu Fujita
  • 15. Ayumu Goromaru
  • Japan | Reserves
  • 16. Takeshi Kizu
  • 17. Masataka Mikami
  • 18. Kensuke Hatakeyama
  • 19. Shinya Makabe
  • 20. Amanaki Lelei Mafi
  • 21. Hendrik Tui
  • 22. Atsushi Hiwasa
  • 23. Karne Hesketh
  • Men's Eagles | 18
  • Tries: Ngwenya, Wyles
  • Conversions: MacGinty
  • Penalties: MacGinty (2)
  • Discipline: Fry (Yellow)
  • Japan | 28
  • Tries: Matsushima, Fujita, Mafi
  • Conversions: Goromaru (2)
  • Penalties: Goromaru (2)