Scully scores hat trick, Eagles lose Pacific Nations Cup opener to Japan

Scully scores hat trick, Eagles lose Pacific Nations Cup opener to Japan

CARSON, Calif. – Blaine Scully scored three tries Saturday at StubHub Center, but the Eagles could not rebound from a quick, second-half attack from Japan in a 37-29 loss in their first match of the 2014 IRB Pacific Nations Cup.

Scully almost opened his account in the seventh minute of the match after the Eagles held possession through a few phases. The Leicester Tiger took a loose ball at midfield and beat three Japanese defenders before being tripped up by a fourth five meters from the try line. Without support, Japan managed to clear the danger.

Cam Dolan, appearing in his 10th match for the Eagles, took advantage of a lazy, Ryu Koliniashi Holani pass from a lineout a minute later and ran 20 meters for the match’s first try and the Northampton Saint’s second career international try. Chris Wyles successfully kicked the conversion for an important, 7-0 lead.

The lead was the first for the Eagles since March 29 in Atlanta, Ga., where Mike Tolkin’s men qualified for the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 with a win against Uruguay at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. It did not last long, however, as Japan responded with a try of its own in the 13th minute.

A Japanese maul mere meters away from the try line drew in more Eagles than Tolkin would have liked, and Fumiuaki Tanaka grabbed the ball and beat Mike Petri with a quick step to dot down in the try zone. Ayumu Goromaru kicked the conversion to level the match at 7-7.

Kenki Fukuoka could have given Japan the lead in the 16th minute. The visitors won a scrum and attacked deep from their own half to set up the play for the winger. Fukuoaka got the ball between the Eagles’ 10 and 22 and beat Wyles around the outside, but Folau Niua knocked the ball loose from behind before Fukuoka could force it to the ground.

Goromaru kicked his first penalty goal of the match in the 22nd minute, but Wyles replied with a penalty of his own three minutes later to tie the match, 10-10.

Scully stopped a try in the 28th minute with a trailing tackle on Fukuoka, who could not catch a break in the final third. Japan kept possession, however, and came back with bite and a try from Akihito Yamada. Goromaru converted again to give Japan a 17-10 lead.

It was Japan’s turn for a short lead, however, as Scully scored his first try of the match in the 33rd minute. Japan lost the ball forward near its own 22 and Wyles was there to gather it and fend off his opposite number. He turned towards the touch line and fed Scully with a no-look pass to fool the defender. Scully raced into the try zone for the third try of his career. Wyles knotted the score at 17-17 with a tough-angled conversion from the touch line.

Goromaru had a late chance to send the teams into the half with his side on top, but his penalty attempt missed the target for a 17-17 scoreline. The Eagles carried a bigger pep in their step compared to last weekend, as well, after only mustering two penalty goals in a 24-6 loss.

After his mistake on Dolan’s try in the first half, Holani redeemed himself in giving Japan a lead two minutes into the second half. The eight-man grabbed the ball from a scrum on the Eagles’ try line and dove over for the lead. Goromaru kicked the conversion between the uprights to bring the score to 24-17. He added another penalty in the 50th minute to extend the lead to 27-17.

Holani scored his second try of the half in the 53rd minute with another strong, Japanese scrum knocking on the Eagles’ door.

Photo: Paul Rudman

Down 32-17 with 25 minutes remaining, Tolkin substituted his front rowers for Tom Coolican, Eric Fry, and Titi Lamositele. Thiel appeared to be injured for a second consecutive match, but again managed to walk off of the pitch under his own power.

Fresh legs helped the Eagles, but it was young blood that led to the Eagles’ next try. Seamus Kelly offloaded to first-cap Danny Barrett near Japan’s 10 and the flanker rushed towards the 22 before continuing the Cal connection to Scully, who finished the attack with a dive into the try zone. After confirming with the T.M.O., the referee awarded the try and Wyles converted to cut the deficit to 34-24.

The Men’s Eagles Sevens were represented well in the 66th minute when Niua caught a Japanese kick at the five-meter line. The center moved forward and found Shalom Suniula and Scully to his right, but Japan put an end to the attack after Scully lost the ball.

In the 68th minute, Wyles broke a tackle at Japan’s 10 and was knocked into by a defender, but not before he found an onrushing Scully on the wing. Scully scored his third try of the match and fifth try of his career to put the Eagles closer to a comeback. Wyles stayed down after the play from the hit, and Niua’s conversion attempt went wide to keep Japan ahead by an unconverted try at 34-29.

The Eagles came close to sniffing the try line in the final minutes, but Goromaru put the match to bed with a penalty goal in the 72nd minute for the 37-29 final score.

Despite the loss, the Eagles can take heart in knowing the match was there to be won, as opposed to the loss to Scotland last weekend, in which they could only muster two penalties for a total of six points.

“The performance was miles above last week’s,” Tolkin said after the match. “I think we take that positive out of the game.

“We had gaps where we let them have a lot of momentum. We knew that was an area we had to shut down. We couldn’t let them get periods of continuity and that’s what they did right out of the gate in the second half. But the guys responded well, they didn’t back down until the 80th minute. They were aggressive. Now we just have to make it a consistent 80 minutes.”

Japan wins the Asia/Pacific conference title after a second win in the Pacific Nations Cup. The Eagles will continue their Pacific Nations Cup campaign Saturday, June 21, against Canada at the new Bonney Field in Sacramento. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 P.M. PT. Watch live on Universal Sports and follow live match updates on Twitter with @USARugby.

Men's Eagles | v Japan
1. Nick Wallace
2. Phil Thiel
3. Olive Kilifi
4. Samu Manoa
5. Scott LaValla
6. Danny Barrett
7. Todd Clever
8. Cameron Dolan
9. Mike Petri
10. Shalom Suniula
11. Tim Maupin
12. Seamus Kelly
13. Folau Niua
14. Blaine Scully
15. Chris Wyles

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Tom Coolican (@ 59')
17. Eric Fry (@ 55')
18. Titi Lamositele (@ 55')
19. Louis Stanfill (@ 50')
20. Kyle Sumsion (@ 64')
21. Chad London
22. Thretton Palamo
23. Miles Craigwell

Japan | v USA Eagles
1. Masataka Mikami
2. Shota Horie
3. Kensuke Hatakeyama
4. Shoji Ito
5. Luke Thompson
6. Justin Ives
7. Michael Leitch (C)
8. Ryu Koliniashi Holani
9. Fumiaki Tanaka
10. Harumichi Tatekawa
11. Kenki Fukuoka
12. Yu Tamura
13. Male Sau
14. Akihito Yamada
15. Ayumu Goromaru

Japan | Reserves
16. Hisateru Hirashima
17. Takeshi Kizu
18. Hiroshi Yamashita
19. Shinya Makabe
20. Hitoshi Ono
21. Hendrik Tui
22. Atsushi Hiwasa
23. Toshiaki Hirose

Men's Eagles | 29
Tries: Dolan, Scully (3)
Conversions: Wyles (3)
Penalties: Wyles

Japan | 37
Tries: Tanaka, Yamada, Holani (2)
Conversions: Goromaru (4)
Penalties: Goromaru (3)

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Comments (16)

  • Guest - concrete

    It is blatant that this loss was based in fundamental breakdowns in game management , scrum half scoring within the 5 meter line unmolested ?
    Shake and bake defensive failure within our half ?
    Kicking away when we are attacking within their 35 meter?
    Maybe the head coach needs to be replaced by the "over qualified" pack coach.

  • Guest - Bob

    The team still lost, therefore a hat trick means nothing. Our scrum half needs to go along the coach. Overall we can't even play rugby at a basic level, yet we are challenging the All Blacks in November! I was at the match against Scotland and will attend next weekends test against Canada which I'm sure will end with another loss for the eagles. Pathetic.

  • Guest - Robert

    I also attended the game last evening and was disappointed by the level of play put forth in this effort. Decision making, performance of the forwards and the lack of consistency will plague this team. Scully was the only bright spot as he played with a fierceness one expects from a National player.

  • Guest - Red White and Blue

    I ask this in all seriousness. Because I want us to improve as a rugby nation.
    Why in the world are we volunteering to play New Zealand when we can't even handle Japan?
    They just beat Japan 54-6.... we just lost at home to Japan.
    On top of it it will be on national TV.... This could bury all the small progress we have made.
    This is nuts.... we could not just lose but be completely humiliated.
    Anybody else think about this?

  • Guest - STEVE

    In reply to: Guest - Red White and Blue

    I agree this may be the worst decision ever, including making Tolkin coach

  • Guest - john

    Red, White and Blue
    Don't be so naive. It's all about the money. I heard that we promised NZ a cool Million bucks for the match. They better sell out Soldier Field! It will be a great publicity coup when it happens. Number one team in the world comes to Chicago, beats USA, keeps it under a hundred points, the home team fought gallantly...
    OK so I'm cynical. But I'll be there!

    One more time, Houston in November, Chicago in June

  • Guest - Red, White and Blue

    In reply to: Guest - john

    I get the money factor. Problem to me is We have improved.... But walking into a potential train wreck can cause a lot more damage than a good check can do.

  • Guest - john

    What happened to Luke H?
    Didn't make the reserves? Lavalla in the second row?
    How bad is Todd?

  • Guest - Houston

    why televise games on such a bad network? Comcast in Houston doesn't carry it, and nobody streams it. How are you going to grow interest if you can't expose new people to your product?

    and bring someone we can BEAT to Houston next year

  • Guest - travel4rugby

    In reply to: Guest - Houston

    I've went to Houston the last 2 years and watched last nights game on Universal Sports in SD on DirecTV (BTW: the only sports ch. on DTV not even partially in HD!) But having the USA Eagles on Universal Sports, while College and Sevens Rugby is on NBCSN and NBC is probably for a good reason. The Eagles are still "lovable" losers and are being hidden on purpose, while the college or Sevens tournaments are domestic competitions and the winner will be a US based team, no matter what.

    Re: Houston. Maybe we can move the game time to 8:00 PM at least.

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