Georgia edge USA in Georgia
INTERNATIONAL REPORT: Georgia ensured that the United States completed their international friendlies winless following their 21-17 victory at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.
The USA will finish the summer's set of test matches with a two-game 2019 World Cup Qualifier series against Canada June 24 in Hamilton, Ontario, and July 1 in San Diego.
The teams were satisfied fighting for territory in the air in the opening minutes, keeping out of contact in a sweltering heat in the southern state of Georgia.
The Eagles were able to hold their own in early scrums, as well, but a short kick by AJ MacGinty around midfield was returned by fullback Merab Kvirikashvili for the opening try, 5-0.
Matai Leuta nearly dotted down moments later after breaking a tackle 10 meters from the try-line and bashing through another, but the Eagles were penalized in the breakdown before the ball could be recycled.
MacGinty put the Eagles on the scoreboard in the 17th minute, rewarding the team for pressuring Georgia in its own end. Slippery Georgian flyhalf Lasha Khmaladze stayed out of the tackle near the 22 in the 25th minute, enough to earn a penalty for his side. Kvirikashvili extended the lead to 11-3 with the penalty goal.
Just minutes from the half-time whistle, Bryce Campbell and MacGinty combined to defend a well-placed cross-field kick at the US 22, stopping the attacker short of the try-line.
The Eagles caused the ball to be knocked forward for a scrum, but Chris Baumann was shown a yellow card in the set-piece. Match official Federico Anselmi blew a successive set-piece dead for an infraction against the Eagles and awarded Georgia a penalty try on the last play of the half.
The Eagles defended the 3-18 half-time deficit well to open the second period of play, conceding only a penalty goal in the first two minutes of the second half. Kvirikashvili missed another opportunity at points from the 10 metre line before momentum swung in the direction of the Eagles.
Forcing Georgia to defend with pace, the US won the favour of the match official for several penalties inside the 22. A quick tap in the 57th minute found Nate Augspurger in space on the wing for the Eagles' first try of the game, which MacGinty converted to make it 21-10.
It was Georgia's turn to defend a sin-bin session in the 65th minute after Mike Te'o drew a tackle in the air. The lineout from the infraction saw a US maul push forward inside the 22, but MacGinty lost the ball forward when it came out in front of the posts.
A penalty against the Eagles at midfield as Georgia sought an own-zone escape set up a defensive stand for the home side, which it completed without conceding points after a missed drop-goal attempt.
Replying immediately with intent downfield, MacGinty broke through the gain line with a dummy inside the attacking 10. Keeping the ball out of contact, offload after offload led to Te'o finding substitute Matt Jensen, who raced through a gap in the defense for his second career try.
MacGinty converted for a four-point deficit at 21-17.
With two minutes remaining in the clash, the Eagles found a late stunner just out of grasp with Ryan Matyas being taken into touch at the Georgian 22 for the final whistle.
Tries: Augspurger, Jensen
Cons: MacGinty 2
Tries: Kvirikashvili, Penalty try (conversion is automatically awarded)
Pens: Kvirikashvili 3
USA: 15 Mike Te'o, 14 Matai Leuta, 13 Bryce Campbell, 12 AJ MacGinty, 11 Nate Augspurger, 10 Will Magie, 9 Shaun Davies, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 Tony Lamborn, 6 Todd Clever (captain), 5 Ben Landry, 4 Nate Brakeley, 3 Chris Baumann, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Tony Purpura.
Replacements: 16 Peter Malcolm, 17 Ben Tarr, 18 Dino Waldren, 19 Matthew Jensen, 20 Andrew Durutalo, 21 Ben Cima, 22 Marcel Brache, 23 Ryan Matyas.
Georgia: 15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Giorgi Koshadze, 13 Davit Katcharava, 12 Merab Sharkadze (captain), 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Bitsadze, 7 Vito Kolelishvili, 6 Lasha Lomidze, 5 Kote Mikautadze, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacmeents: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Tornike Mataradze, 18 Soso Bekoshvili, 19 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 20 Otar Giorgadze, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Lasha Malaghuradze, 23 Giorgi Tsutskiridze.
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Chris Assmus (Canada)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)