USA National Rugby Team


First-place Japan Downs US 47-31 to Boost Title Hopes

(Honolulu, Hawaii) 12 June 1999 -- Three first-half tries from Terunori Masuho paced visiting Japan to a 27-17 lead, en route to a 47-31 win that may have earned the Cherry Blossoms the 1999 Epson Cup title before 3900 at Honolulu's Kapiolani Park.

Daisuke Ohata chipped in two tries after the break, part of high-scoring Japan's six-try performance. But the USA climbed back into contention behind tries from Brian Hightower and Tom Billups, making the count 37-31 with 12 minutes to go.

Japan roared away in the game's dying moments on the strength of a Keiji Hirose penalty goal and Ohata's second tally, touched down at the final whistle.

In a much-anticipated game between first-place Japan and the previously unbeaten United States, the Eagles took a 10-6 lead on Kevin Dalzell's 16-minute try, before Masuho exploded for a hat trick in the space of 16 minutes. Only Mark Scharrenberg's 34th-minute score slowed the veteran Japanese winger.

"Credit Japan--they outhustled us today and deserved to win," said US captain Dan Lyle. "We never got going on defense and it showed."

Japan's fourth win of the season against one loss gives the league leaders 18 points after the completion of its five-game slate. The 2-1 USA is tied with 2-1 Fiji for second with nine points, and both have two games left in the season. The US previously downed Fiji 25-14 last month.

Final score: Japan 47 United States 31 (halftime Japan 27-17)

United States: Tries: Kevin Dalzell, Mark Scharrenberg, Brian Hightower, Tom Billups
      Conversions: Kevin Dalzell (2), Mark Williams (2)
      Penalty goals: Kevin Dalzell

Japan: Tries: Terunori Masuho (3), Daisuke Ohata (2), Greg Smith
      Conversions: Keiji Hirose (4)
      Penalty goals: Hirose (3)

United States: Kurt Shuman; Vaea Anitoni, Juan Grobler, Mark Scharrenberg (Alatini Saulala), Brian Hightower; David Niu (Mark Williams>, Kevin Dalzell; George Sucher, Tom Billups (Kirk Khasigian), Ray Lehner (Bill LeClerc), Luke Gross, Philippe Farner, Dave Hodges, Richard Tardits (Jason Walker), Dan Lyle (captain).

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Scott Compton
USA National Rugby Team
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