Something very strange is happening to the world of rugby league, with Wales crashing out of the World Cup and the United States eying a quarter-final place. A late surge could not prevent the Welsh, twice semi-finalists in recent years, bowing out in Wrexham with two defeats in their first two matches.
The Americans need only beat Scotland at Salford on Thursday and they will claim their place in the last eight, no matter what anyone else does. However, the Wales coach, Iestyn Harris, does not believe that the game should rub its eyes in disbelief at this: “This World Cup has shown that you can’t tag anyone as a bad team. They’ve got some very good players who are playing at a very high level.” The former Castleford coach, Terry Matterson, a late and controversial appointment to lead the States side, admitted: “Two weeks ago I didn’t know any of these guys. What they are doing is defying belief.”
The two sides matched each other, mistake for mistake, for the first 15 minutes, until a move of real quality put the Welsh ahead. Neil Budworth made the initial break and Christian Roets looped outside Rhys Williams to take the scoring pass.
The Americans would have been level quickly, but for Rhys Evans’ tackle on Taylor Welch after Joseph Paulo’s pass had put him away. Paulo’s use of the ball was soon to pay off, however, as another perfectly-judged pass put Clint Newton over.
Paulo, the Australian-raised stand-off, fashioned another try, seven minutes before half-time, sending Matthew Petersen over. Wales piled on the pressure at the start of the second half, but almost inevitably, they were hit with a sucker punch. Paulo launched a high kick, Rhys Evans spilled it and, on the next play, Paulo was there to plant it down and double the American lead.
Tui Samoa barged over for a fourth American try and Newton added his second. Roets then scored a second try, followed by one from Anthony Walker, but it was too late to salvage any pride for the Old World.