The USA claimed the 2011 Las Vegas Shield title with a 19-12 victory over Japan in front of 25,000 spectators at the Sam Boyd Stadium. Although the 13th place finish was not what coach Al Caravelli and his team had in mind, two back-to-back wins saw the crowd buzzing with excitement!
Within 37 seconds Zach Test touched down a fantastic try for the United States, which was created by a terrific break down the touchline by captain Matt Hawkins. The Polar Bear delivered an excellent inside pass for Test to score. Scrumhalf Tai Enosa kicked the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
The Eagles captain sparked another attack, this time Marco Barnard breaking free, but was tackled just short of the try line. Hawkins was on hand to collect the pass and dived over for a commanding 14-0 score line. The Japanese would have the last say in the half, as they managed to free Shohei Toyoshima on the outside for a 7 pointer.
Early in the second half replacement Paul Emerick did what he does best, and broke a tackle, setting up a great attacking ruck in the Japanese half. Slick passing to Zach Test saw him dummy Hawkins on the outside to extend the US lead to 19-7. But Japan came right back with a score from Sione Faamao Teaupa, as he exposed the American defense. The conversion drifted wide, with the Americans leading 19-12.
Excellent defense from the home side in the final few minutes ensured silverware for the Eagles. It was fitting that on the final play the USA received a penalty, with Paul Emerick kicking the ball deep into the stands in front of a delighted crowd.
“We set a very high standard for ourselves. So we are obviously disappointed to be competing for the Shield, but I know we will be back stronger for Hong Kong and Adelaide.” said Matt Hawkins.
Starting: Matt Hawkins (Captain), Marco Barnard, Zack Test, Tai Enosa, Roland Suniula, Colin Hawley, Justin Boyd.
Substitutes: Miles Craigwell, Paul Emerick, Taylor Mokate.
Tries: Zack Test (2), Matt Hawkins.
Conversions: Tai Enosa (2)
Photo Credit: Sharon Lovell (http://noreinsgirlphotography.smugmug.com/)