(Dublin, Ireland) 9 October 1999 -- The USA nearly closed a ten-point gap in the final 13 minutes but fell 27-25 to Romania Saturday night in both teams' second game of the Rugby World Cup.
Paced by two tries from Gheorghe Solomie, Romania led 27-17 but a Kevin Dalzell penalty and an unconverted try to fullback Kurt Shuman in the 77th minute brought the US to within two points.
The Eagles attacked ferociously In the final minutes, through seven or eight frenzied phases, to move the ball from inside their own 22 to within meters of the Romanian goal. After a knock-on by the Romanians, the US had one final attacking moment, but couldn't clear the base of the scrum and time was called.
"Gutted," said head coach Jack Clark after the match. "At the same time, I was proud of the boys. It is hard to come away with only that, but we competed to the very end."
It was a far more solid performance than the USA's previous outing against Ireland. Handling errors were much reduced and the lineout was again strong, in fact stealing five possessions off the Romanian throw.
Scrumhalf Dalzell opened the scoring with a 12th-minute penalty before Romania scored its first try through wing Solomie. US captain and star flanker Dan Lyle then crashed over for a try, putting the US into the lead. But Lyle severely separated his shoulder on the play and was replaced in the 30th minute. The score stayed 10-5 until the half.
The two teams exchanged quick tries after the restart, with Brian Hightower crossing in less than a minute, having sliced into the backline off the weakside wing and bulled his way over. Romania answered immediately under similar circumstances, a fumble in the Eagle backline setting up a second, quick-strike try for Solomie.
Five minutes later and Romania drove over again from a lineout near the US line, captain and lock Tudor Constantin claiming the try. A penalty from Romanian scrumhalf Petre Mitu followed and then another Romanian try from a lineout close to the US goal, touched down by flanker Alain Petrache, left Eagles down 27-17 with 20 minutes to play.
After three long-range penalty attempts had missed earlier--one bouncing off the post--Dalzell cashed in from 25 meters after the Romanians were caught offside.
A 50-meter break started by center Juan Grobler and a couple of crucial lineout steals, one each by locks Alec Park and Luke Gross, fueled the US rally. After playing multiple phases inside the Romanian 22, flyhalf David Niu slid through the defense to set up Shuman's try in the corner, his first score for the US in 13 internationals. Dalzell's sideline conversion attempt was just wide, leaving the US two points adrift with only five minutes to play.
The final US surge included wing Vaea Anitoni's dramatic regather of a David Niu kick ahead to get the US deep into Romanian territory, but after a spartan few minutes of injury time, the final whistle stymied the Eagles' hopes of snatching victory.
The US now prepares to play World Cup co-favorites Australia on Thursday.
"We're on a steep learning curve in the Rugby World Cup," said Clark. "We're going to have learn a few more lessons before we play Australia in Limerick, but we've not much to lose and we will give it a go. It makes no sense for us to go out and try to stifle the game or try to keep the score down. That's a cynical attitude and not the American way."
Final: Romania 27 United States 25 (halftime US 10-5)
Romania: Tries: Gheorgie Solomie (2), Tudor Constatin, Adrian Petrache
Conv: Petre Mitu (2)
Pens: Petre Mitu
USA: Tries: Dan Lyle, Brian Hightower, Kurt Shuman
Conv: Kevin Dalzell (2)
Pens: Kevin Dalzell (2)
Referee: Jim Fleming (Scotland)
United States:. Kurt Shuman; Vaea Anitoni, Juan Grobler, Mark Scharrenberg (Tomasi Takau), Brian Hightower; David Niu, Kevin Dalzell; George Sucher (Joe Clayton), Tom Billups (Kirk Khasigian), Ray Lehner, Luke Gross, Alec Parker, Dan Lyle (captain) (Shaun Paga), Fifita Mo'unga (Dave Hodges), Rob Lumkong (Richard Tardits).
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