USA National Rugby Team

Wales Prevail in Wilmington

(Wilmington, North Carolina) 5 July, 1997 -- Wales shrugged off the North Carolina heat and a determined American effort to down the hosts 30-20 at the University of North Carolina Wilmington's Brooks Field on Saturday.

The young touring side jumped to an 8-0 lead on an Arwel Thomas penalty goal and an unconverted try from Nigel Walker, before the US struck back with a Matt Alexander penalty and a converted try by Tom Takau. Welsh flanker and captain Gwyn Jones then scored a converted, before Alexander and Thomas traded penalty goals before the half.

Havng weathered a first half that included surprisingly sturdy US scrummaging, Wales pulled away through two tries (one converted) by diminutive flyhalf Arwel Thomas. Alexander tried to kick the US back into contention but missed three long-range penalty shots.

US number eight and captain Dan Lyle left the game early in the second period with a damaged knee, taking a bit of steam out of the forward pack. The US also lost fullback Chris Morrow following a collision with teammate Brian Hightower, but playing through to the end, the US sent winger Vaea Anitoni over in the corner late in the game.

On the other hand, the Eagles were guilty of numerous turnovers and had trouble containing the Welsh center pairing of Gareth Thomas and Leigh Davies, who between them broke several tackles for large territorial gains. Still, team defense remained solid late in the game, repelling at least two Welsh forays deep into Eagle territory. The final try count was 4-2 in favor of the Welsh.

"Early in the game and at the end we played the Welsh toe to toe," said US head coach Jack Clark, "but credit to Wales. They are a good team and played well defensively.

"It is critical that we cut our errors to a minimum if we are going to have a chance next week," he added, looking ahead to the two teams' second and final test in San Francisco July 12.

The visitors play one warm-up match before the second test, facing a US Developmental XV in San Francisco at Balboa Park's Boxer Stadium, on July 8 at 6 pm.

United States 20 (13) Tries: Takau, Anitoni
Conv: Alexander (2)
PG: Alexander (2)

Wales 30 (18) Tries: Walker, Jones, Thomas (2)
Conv: Thomas (2)
PG: Thomas (2)