Scotland left to play waiting game over Cup hopes

Scotland's Matthew Russell breaks free from USA's Eddy Pettybourne to score a try
Scotland's Matthew Russell breaks free from USA's Eddy Pettybourne to score a try
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SO, it is all over to you Tonga.

Scotland held their side of the bargain last night by defeating USA in another fascinating World Cup tie.

But Steve McCormack’s Bravehearts face an agonising wait until Sunday to see if they will follow the Tomahawks into the quarter-finals.

They need to hope that Italy do not beat Tonga at Halifax to deny them top place in Group C.

The prize awaiting them is a quarter-final against holders New Zealand at Headingley in a week’s time and, in fairness, they deserve nothing less.

Scotland looked like they were going to become the latest victim of America’s remarkable World Cup odyssey last night when they trailed 8-0 in the 51st minute.

However, quickfire tries from Brett Phillips and the excellent full-back Matty Russell, with Danny Brough adding the first of his three conversions, turned the tide and ended their opponents’ 100 per cent record.

For all this had already been Scotland’s best tournament so far, with a win over Tonga and draw against Italy, it is America who, of course, have captured the hearts of everyone in their first-ever appearance in the event.

Coach Terry Matterson, the ex-Castleford Tigers manager appointed just a fortnight before the tournament began, only met his side for the first time at Sydney Airport before flying over to Europe for this trip.

With limited resources and preparation, many of his part-time players will even be left out of pocket once this World Cup is over.

But, after beating France in a friendly, they had stunned the Cook Islands and Wales to already confirm a dream quarter-final appearance against Australia.

They looked intent on making it a hat-trick of wins, however, when Kristian Freed and Taylor Welch – both genuine US citizens who play in the American National Rugby League – scored first half tries.

Matterson had said how the New York Post had even given them a couple of lines after that Cook Islands win and they hoped for a few paragraphs following the Wales success; this might even have secured a full story.

However, they tired eventually – understably given their hectic schedule – and Scotland, with Huddersfield Giants captain Brough dictating, came home strongest.

The Bravehearts’ win was all the more impressive given they lost hooker Ben Fisher in the warm-up.

Cruelly, for the ex-Hull KR player, the calf injury sustained has effectively ended his career as he was due to retire once the tournament ended.

It was no way for such an excellent professional to go out but the 32-year-old’s team-mates certainly strived to ensure the quarter-final hope was kept alive for him.

USA took the lead in only the eighth minute though when Freed shot onto a short disguised pass from Joseph Paulo to force his way over.

It was debatable whether the full-back – who plays for Connecticut WIldcats – grounded the ball but video referee Henry Perenara seemed to think he did and duly awarded the score. It would not be the last time he made a strange decision.

Paulo, the rangy stand-off so inspirational in the previous win, can seemingly do no wrong in this World Cup but, thankfully for Scotland, his goalkicking still leaves something to be desired.

He failed to convert Freed’s effort or Chicago Griffins’ centre Welch’s try in the 23rd minute.

That came from scrum-half Craig Preistly’s clever grubber and after Scotland ceded position when second-row Dale Ferguson was put on report for an illegal challenge on Tuisegasega Samoa.

The hooker had been America’s liveliest player with his darting runs from dummy-half but was clearly aggrieved by the tackle, throwing the ball at the Huddersfield forward afterwards and departing clutching his neck.

USA had been clinical with their limited chances and that was where Scotland fell down.

They were continually denied by a combination of spirited line defence, slightly off-cue finishing and another irritating video referee decision.

Brough thought he had got his side back in the game when the Huddersfield half-back angled back infield and straightened up to sprint through two US tacklers.

It was just what his side needed after both Ben Hellwell and Hurst had frustratingly been held up over the line.

However, Perenara ruled out Brough’s score for obstruction after he had run behind two uninvolved American defenders in the build-up, even though they had no chance of enacting a tackle.

Scotland wasted further chances before the break but reappeared more disciplined and with a firmer control

They finally earned their breakthrough when Brough ushered Phillips between two tired defenders, but the captain hit the post with his conversion.

It mattered little. Soon after, Peter Wallace brought Russell – the dazzling young full-back Warrington Wolves have just brought in, back from the NRL – onto his pass and he arrowed over in fine style from 20m out for his fourth try of the tournament.

Brough’s kick put his side in front for the first time and, after Dave Scott had denied USA’s ex-Wakefield Trinity winger Matt Petersen with a fine tackle in the corner, Luke Douglas confirmed victory by barging over direct from a penalty tap.

USA began to lose their cool as Haveatama Luani was put on report for an alleged spear tackle toward the end, London Broncos winger Alex Hurst completing the victory with the last play off a trademark long Brough pass.

Scotland: Russell; Hurst, Hellewell, Addy, Scott; Brough, Wallace; Walker, A Henderson, Douglas, Phillips, Ferguson, Kavanagh. Substitutes (all used): Barlow, Szostak, Stringer, Wilkes.

USA: Freed; Faraimo, Welch, Garvey, Petersen; Paulo, Priestley; Offerdahl, Samoa, Pettybourne, Newton, Shipway, Howard. Substitutes (all used): Marando, Hifo, Luani, Lavulo.

Referee: T Alibert (France).