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Samoa and Tonga beaten in Pacific Nations Cup

Alapati Leiua touched down again, but it was defeat for Samoa as AJ Maginty’s last-gasp penalty secured victory for the USA in the Pacific Nations Cup.

Siale Piutau’s Tonga also suffered defeat, going down 41-7 at the hands of Japan at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium.


USA fly-half AJ MacGinty scored all of his side’s points, including a nerve-jangling late penalty, as the Eagles secured only their second-ever win over Samoa.

MacGinty kicked 15 points against Canada in round one and proved to be the hero yet again as the USA maintained their unbeaten start to Pacific Nations Cup in Suva.

Matches between the two sides have traditionally been tight affairs – Saturday’s result means that six of their seven meetings have been decided by one score or less – and it was the Eagles who broke the deadlock thanks to a second-minute MacGinty penalty.

Samoa soon took the lead, however, as Alapati Leiua stole through a defensive gap to score the game’s opening try. Fly-half AJ Alatimu added the extras to give the Pacific Islanders a four-point cushion.

It was an advantage that would not last the opening quarter, MacGinty picking a good support line to take a pass from Ruben de Haas and crash over from five metres. The Sale Sharks playmaker added the conversion and the USA led 10-7 at half-time.

The Eagles had enjoyed the upper hand in the opening 40 minutes – Leiua’s try came from one of Samoa’s two entries into their 22 during the first period – but the script was flipped on its head in the second.

Samoan pressure finally told on the USA defence with around eight minutes left as Henry Taefu punished a Tony Lamborn indiscretion with three points. That brought the scores level but as the clock ticked past 80 minutes, the USA were able to keep possession and earn a penalty inside Samoan territory. MacGinty then held his nerve to seal victory.


Tonga will play twice at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium during RWC 2019 and it looked as though they were acclimatising well to their surroundings as an early attack ended with a yellow card for Japan winger Katoro Matsushima, who was adjudged to have knocked on deliberately.

From the resulting lineout fly-half Latiume Fosita hoisted a cross-field kick to the right wing where ‘Atieli Pakalani was waiting in space, however, the ball evaded him in the in-goal area.

And the 14 men of Japan soon made their visitors pay as Amanaki Mafi powered over from close range to open the scoring.

Once back up to their full complement, Japan took control of the contest and ended the first quarter 14-0 in front as Asaeli Ai Valu, who like Mafi was born in Tonga, burrowed over.

The hosts added a third converted try on the half-hour mark as impressive fly-half Yu Tamura delayed his pass perfectly to allow centre Timothy Lafaele to canter over.

Tamura added a penalty early in the second half to stretch Japan’s lead to 24-0, but the hosts were not playing with as much fluency and in the 57th minute Leva Fifita burrowed over the try-line to get Tonga on the scoreboard.

A second Tamura penalty, with 12 minutes remaining, settled any nerves however, and Japan rediscovered their verve to score two tries in the final eight minutes.

Tamura had a hand in the first, putting a grubber through for Matsushima to latch onto but the second was all replacement winger Kenki Fukuoka’s work as he beat two defenders on the touchline before dotting down in the left corner.

Tonga captain, Siale Piutau said: “It was a tough game. We knew that Japan were going to play a fast tempo game and they capitalised on all our errors.”