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Monday 20 August 2018

USA ruin Russia debut

The United States denied Russia a dream Rugby World Cup debut with a scrappy 13-6 victory in their Pool C encounter on Thursday.

Scrum-half Mike Petri scored the only try as the United States' greater experience of playing at a higher level made the difference, with kickers enduring a miserable night in soggy conditions.

US fullback Chris Wyles slotted eight points with the boot through two penalties and a conversion of Petri's try, but he missed another three penalties and a drop goal.

Russia out-half Yury Kushnarev notched his country's first World Cup points, though he too missed three penalties before centre Konstantin Rachkov took over to slot a late penalty.

"We tried to show our best, it was our first game and we tried to prepare for it as much as possible but it was very tough," said Russia lock Alex Voytov.

Director of rugby Kingsley Jones added: "Our scrum really worked for us and probably took a few people by surprise but our lineout didn't function at all and that limited us.

"But I am very proud of the team. They worked hard right to the death and they've come a long way just to be competing and in the grasp of a draw right to the last minute."

Russia had waited 24 years to reach the World Cup but it took just two minutes to earn their first points when Kushnarev slotted a penalty.

The Americans took a couple of deep breaths and slowly worked their way back into the game, taking a controlled approach as they built phases and pressure downfield.

Tough game

"That was a great victory for us. We knew we had something to build on from the performance against Ireland but we knew Russia would come out hard and if we were half-cocked, they would take us down," said coach Eddie O'Sullivan.

"It was a tough game in those conditions and though we had them in trouble, we couldn't put them away. Their defence was extraordinary and they came right back at us in the end."

Wyles slotted a long-range penalty to open the U.S. account before the Suniula brothers, Roland and Andrew, combined to breach the Russia defence and scrumhalf Petri scored a try.

Wyles converted to give the United States a 10-3 lead and despite camping out in Russian territory they were unable to build, Wyles missing two further penalty attempts.

A torrential downpour at the break ended any hopes of the game opening up in the second half as both sides struggled to hold on to the ball.

Wyles's poor kicking continued with a missed penalty and fluffed drop goal before he finally gave his side a 10-point lead with his second penalty in the 65th minute.

Kushnarev missed another penalty attempt before he was replaced by centre Rachkov, who slotted a long-distance penalty to narrow the gap with three minutes remaining.

"I was nervous (in the final minutes)," US captain Todd Clever said of his side's third win at a World Cup. "They're a tough team and they're getting better and better, now I'm just proud of the guys we were able to finish through that."

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