By STEVE MASCORD
CAPTAIN Joseph Paulo says the United States just scoring against Australia in the World Cup quarter-finals next Saturday might be as good as victory in another game.
The Tomahawks completed the pool stage of the tournament with their first defeat, 22-8 to a Scotland side inspired by a man injured in the warm-up and aided by a 12-0 second half penalty count in their favour.
That led Paulo to say French referee Theirry Alibert – controlling his final match in the UK after several years in Super League – may have been trying to “get back” at the Americans for beating France.
But it is the November 16 quarter-final against Tim Sheens’ Australians that is now the focus of the plucky Tomahawks, who were no expected to win a game here.
“We’re going in there expecting to win,” said Parramatta’s Paulo of Saturday’s appointment with the green and golds.
“If that means scoring a try or getting points on the board, then that feels like we’ve won against them.”
Coach Terry Matterson added: “I don’t think we’re going to sit down and go through their (Australia’s) last three games. I don’t think we’re going to bother with that.
“I’ve got a fair idea of what Cameron Smith can do. Greg Inglis? I think I’d rather him play centre than fullback.
“But our guys, they’re not going to be star struck. They’re going to go out there and give a good account of themselves.”
Thursday’s result ended Tonga’s tournament and left Scotland needing Tonga to beat Italy at the New Shay in Halifax on Sunday to stay alive.
The 15-5 penalty count, including 12-0 after halftime, infuriated the Americans with Paulo saying: “The ref was going to get his way. I don’t know if it’s because he reffed us in France, he tried to get back at us.
“When I approached the ref, we couldn’t take to him and we tried to take it out on Scotland and that just made it worse for us.”
Scotland had to overcome setbacks of there own. There were serious doubts over the first American try but more significantly hooker Ben Fisher suffered a torn calf in the warm-up for what was shaping as the last game of his career.
He was carried from the field and the team reshuffled to replace him. Australian Fisher, 32, told BBC: “It’s absolutely devastating to finish on that note.
“Words can’t describe how hard it is. It’s a pretty tough realisation. That’s life.”
Prop Luke Douglas, a tryscorer on Thursday, said: “Ben was standing opposite us during the anthem and he was sheding a tear. It was pretty emotional.”
Fisher raised both crutches in the air on the sideline when man of the match Matty Russell scored in the 52nd minute to put the Bravehearts ahead for the first time.
The US defence on the way to an 8-0 halftime lead was nothing short of heroic as Scotland got over the line five times without scoring.
But the penalty count – and having played three games in nine days – took its toll on Terry Matterson’s side in the second half. Former Gold Coast import Russell, current Titan Douglas and winger Alex Hurst and second rower Brett Phillips were the tryscorers
It wasn’t a good night for hookers; America’s Joel Luani was booked for a spear tackle late in the contest.
SCOTLAND 22 (Brett Phillips, Matthew Russell, Luke Douglas, Alex Hurst tries; Danny Brough 3 goals) beat UNITED STATES 8 ( Kristian Freed, Taylor Welch tries) at Salford City Stadium. Referee: Thierry Alibert (France). Crowd: 6041.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD