- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

BRIGHTON, England (AP) - Fullback Tim Nanai-Williams scored his first try for Samoa as they beat the United States 25-16 in their bruising Rugby World Cup Pool B opener on Sunday.

Nanai-Williams chose to make himself available for Samoa this year rather than New Zealand, which he previously represented in rugby sevens.

After he got Samoa’s first try with a fine finish in the left corner, U.S. captain and winger Chris Wyles dotted down in his third consecutive World Cup after a brilliant 50-meter break from flyhalf AJ MacGinty.

In their match at the Pacific Nations Cup in July, Samoa led 21-3 at halftime, only for the Eagles to claw back to within five points.

But another comeback looked unlikely when Samoa captain Ofisa Treviranus scored just after the restart. It was awarded after the Television Match Official showed Eagles right winger Takudzwa Ngwenya fumbled a grubber kick, rather than Samoa knocking on. Flyhalf Tusi Pisi slotted a penalty moments later to make it 22-8.

Replacement prop Chris Baumann bundled over for a try in the right corner, also awarded after a quick video referral, but it came too late for a game U.S. side which fumbled possession at key times.

Samoa has another bone-crunching encounter against South Africa in Birmingham next Saturday, while the Americans face Scotland in Leeds next Sunday.

This match was always going to be physical, although there were moments of flair.

The U.S. started with intent, keen to prove it was not intimidated by a Samoa side it has never beaten.

With barely a minute gone, inside center Thretton Palamo barged through a gap. Samoa inside center Reynold Lee-Lo stood up to him but simply bounced off. He had to be taken off as a precautionary measure against a head injury, but was back on a few minutes later, by which time Pisi kicked the Samoans 3-0 up.

Pisi missed his next kick - again from about 40 meters - skewing it wide right. On another day, Samoa might have paid for his patchy kicking.

The early exchanges were heavy.

Just ask MacGinty, poleaxed in the midriff by Samoa lock Filo Paulo, who only swiveled his big hips as MacGinty ran past. Who knows what damage he could have done with a full-on challenge?

No. 8 Treviranus, too, needed treatment on the field after being flattened.

But Samoa was getting on top, and Pisi’s clever kick behind the defense was well read by Nanai-Williams, who beat fullback Blaine Scully for pace, scooped up the ball and grounded for an unconverted try. Then, flanker Jack Lam made the kind of tackle-busting break a center would be proud of, and after lock Greg Peterson failed to release the ball on the ground, Pisi made it 11-0.

Nanai-Williams, an electric and slippery runner, was enjoying himself.

A bit too much.

After he knocked on carelessly, Samoa was offside at the breakdown, and MacGinty profited for the Eagles’ first points at 11-3 with 30 minutes gone.

That prompted a few chants of “USA, USA” from pockets of flag-waving American fans inside Brighton Community Stadium - the scene a day earlier of Japan’s astonishing 34-32 win against South Africa in the biggest upset in Cup history.

Those cheers went up significantly as MacGinty made a superb break, showed brilliant composure to sell a dummy, and perfectly delayed his pass to center Seamus Kelly, who then offloaded inside to left winger Wyles.

That was as good as it good for the Eagles.

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