By STEVE MASCORD
AFTER securing a quarter-final tie against Australia, United States officials revealed that World Cup organisers had booked them on flights home before the pool stage of the tournament is even completed.
The Tomahawks further enhanced their reputations a the biggest stories of the Cup by downing woeful Wales 24-16 at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground on Sunday; it was 24-4 with 10 minutes to go.
In doing so, the Americans assured themselves of a November 16 appointment with Tim Sheens’ green and golds at the same venue, which had been locked in in the expectation of Wales progressing.
“Under tournament rules, you are supposed to fly out two days after you are eliminated,” Tomahawks team manager Steve Johnson told Fairfax Media.
“Well, we were booked to leave on November 9 – two days before the last pool game when we could always have still been alive.
“It shows how little was expected of us. We ain’t going nowhere now.”
They may be part timers to no-timers – possible Wests Tigers recruit Les Solaia has merely trained once with a rugby union team in Portland, Oregon, this year – but it didn’t take long for the Tomahawks to adopt a decidedly NRL approach to their first game against Australia since the now-legendary 2004 clash in Philadelphia.
Players were instructed to talk only about this week’s final pool match against Scotland,
But former Parramatta and Gold Coast winger Matt Petersen, a tryscorer on Sunday, says each game so far on the campagn has beaten every previous match in a 216-game NRL career and with the quarter’ Australia, his likely final game will now be his most memorable.
“It was definitely one if the highlights of my career (in 2004),” said Petersen, the only survivor from the game a decade ago which rhe US led 24-6 at halftime before losing 36-24
“We’ve got to play Scotland first but it’s a highlight (to do it again). When we played France and we won, to be honest that’s been the highlight of my career, of 10 years of NRL.
“Then we beat Cook Islands. The we came up here and beat Wales. There were 50 people in the crowd with (US) flags and 8000 Welsh people – definitely the hightlight of my career.
“To be still involved after 10 years is massive. When I came away, I had four weeks left in me and I knew it.”
The Welsh did manage to score first, through centre centre Christian Roets, and his brace comprised probably the tries of the match.
But Iestyn Harris’ side was mostly pedestrian in attack.
Tomahawks captain Clint Newton crashed over to tie the scores in the 22nd minute. The try of Petersen, who played bush football to keep himself fit for the tounament, seven minutes before the break gave the Americans a halftime lead.
When man of the match Joseph Paulo waltzed through retreating defence 14 minutes into the second half, the writing was on the wall.
Paulo finally managed a conversion when Tui Samoa barged over from dummy half just short of the hour and Penrith’s Newton tossed the ball in the air after posting his second soon afterwards.
RLWC officials began contemplating the size of next Sunday’s crowd in Neath for Wales’ final pool game at this point, while restless members of the crowd began contemplating the jeering of their own team.
This, at least, was averted by late scores by Roets and Anthony Walker, which were greeted enthusiastically.
Harris earned himself a rebuke from the Tomahawks when he said afterwards: “Come World Cup time, they come from all over the world. There’s one USA man in the whole squad”.
The AMNRL posted online: “Just to correct uninformed comments by Wales coach Iestyn Harris about the USA team. We had ten USA nationals and residents on field today” and Petersen commented on Facebook: “You can’t help sore losers”
Harris – whose comment would have been more or less accurate if he was referencing players with American accents – continued: “When we sit down to look at that game, we’ll see 25, 30 opportunities to score points. That’s very frustrating.
“It’s a bad result, yeah.”
Harris seemed keen on keep the players on the straight and narrow for the remainder of the tournament wit nothing to play for.
“What you’ve got to show over the next seven days is your professionalism,” he said. “When players look back on this World Cup campaign … they’ll see how they conducted themselves over the seven days.”
UNITED STATES 24 (Clint Newton 2, Matt Petersen, Joseph Paulo, Tui Samoa tries; Paulo 2 goals) beat WALES 16 (Christian Roets 2, Antony Walker tries; Lloyd White 2 goals) at Racecourse Ground, Wrexham. Referee: Ben Cummins (Australia). Crowd: 8019.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD