(Dublin, Ireland) 2 October 1999 -- Heart wasn't enough for the United States in its opening match of the Rugby World Cup, as the Eagles suffered a heavy 53-8 loss to Ireland Saturday night at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.
The USA fought for 80 minutes and mostly shut down Ireland's power runners, but were stifled by the host's kick-for-the-corners approach. The Irish tactics kept the US pinned deep inside its quarter for much of the match-nearly 60 minutes in fact. From there, Ireland disrupted the Eagles' lineout and dominated the scrums to tally seven tries, four by hooker Keith Wood.
What little ball the US did secure was often squandered by a backline that could not keep ball in hand.
"Ireland's ability to control their position on the field is very good," noted head coach Jack Clark after the match. "They played a very precise game tonight."
Indeed, local rugby observers described the match as Ireland's best performance in four years, and the Irish coach Warren Gatland said he was 'delighted' with his team's outing.
The hosts rumbled down field from the kickoff, slotting a penalty in the second minute for the first points of the match. A try followed from a set piece when Ireland's decoy runner drew the US defense.
US scrumhalf Kevin Dalzell then struck back with an opportunistic try, grabbing a spilled Irish pass at halfway and cruising to the line untouched. But the US gave up the next points in similar fashion, Ireland scooping up a loose ball after the US tried to launch an attack from deep in its own quarter.
Dalzell added a 38-meter penalty in the 25th minute to make it 17-8, and then it was all Ireland on the scoreboard. Hooker and crowd favorite Wood scored the first of his quartet as Ireland pushed over from a lineout near the US line, for a 24-8 lead at the half. The Irish team went back to the same tactics repeatedly after the break, kicking the ball deep and then pressuring the US into a mistake with Wood the main beneficiary of the tactics.
"I'm not happy with our turnovers being Ireland's primary source of possession," said Clark, "but I was happy with the effort. We played and tackled all night." To their credit, the US players stayed at it even when the game was out of reach, and Ireland's captain Dion O'Cuinneagain later praised their physical effort, particularly in the rucks and mauls.
"Our morale is good," Clark said. "Some teams are at the World Cup to make a mark by winning the competition. We are here to make a mark as an amateur team. The USA has not won a World Cup game since 1987 and already, in the locker room, we were talking about next Saturday."
Surviving the game without serious injury, the US have the full week to prepare for the second pool match against Romania, also at Lansdowne Road.
Final: Ireland 53 United States 8 (halftime Ireland 24-8)
Ireland: Tries: Wood (4), Bishop, O'Driscoll, penalty try
Conv: Humphreys (4), Elwood (2)
Pens: Humphreys (2)
USA: Tries: Dalzell
Referee: Joel Dume (France)
United States: Kurt Shuman; Vaea Anitoni, Juan Grobler, Tomasi Takau (Mark Scharrenberg), Brian Hightower; Mark Williams (David Niu), Kevin Dalzell; George Sucher, Tom Billups (Kirk Khasigian), Ray Lehner, Luke Gross, Alec Parker, Dave Hodges (Shaun Paga), Richard Tardits (Tasi Mounga), Dan Lyle (captain).
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