Defending champions England rattled by USA
LENS, 8 September - England ran out 28-10 winners in a skilful and battling display by the USA that saw them pose a stern test to the defending champions.
The USA came out firing, almost notching a breakaway try with the scores at 3-3 after 20 minutes. Captain Mike Hercus intercepted on his own 22 before Paul Emerick was stopped just short of England's line.
Vahafolau Esikia's yellow card saw the USA down to 14 men for the last 10 minutes of the half, and it took two late tries from the RWC 2003 winners to see England go in 21-3 ahead at the break.
Jason Robinson touched down in the corner after Mike Catt's crossfield kick, before Olly Barkley crashed over in the dying seconds. Stand-in fly half Barkley, in for the injured Jonny Wilkinson, notched two conversions and three penalties in the match.
In the second half, world cup debutant flanker Tom Rees touched a quick penalty to himself and charged through for a try despite the attentions of four USA backs in a more encouraging spell for the defending champions.
It followed another close attempt for the USA, scrum half Chad Erskine touching down after the referee had blown for a knock-on by wing Salesi Sika.
USA kept heart with 10 minutes of sustained pressure but could find no way through the England defence.
Then a Barkley breakaway after 63 minutes was cleaned up by substitute Valenese Malifa as the United States flexed their own defensive muscle. Hercus was almost trapped under his own posts by a loose pass, but kicked for touch before England could force a turnover.
The United States continued playing with huge heart, thwarting a wave of England attacks and securing a penalty when forcing Mathew Tait into a mishandle. England rang the changes, with George Chuter, Andy Farrell and Martin Corry all coming on, but failed to rattle the determined USA players.
England went a man down after 73 minutes, former captain Lawrence Dallaglio being sin-binned for a deliberate infringement as England desperately defended their line.
The restart saw Matekitonga Moeakiola roll out of the ruck to crash over, with Hercus's conversion dragging the score back to 28-10.
A last-gasp charge from centre Farrell was thwarted in the last seconds, with the USA delighted at a mere 18-point gap between themselves and the defending champions at the whistle.