Chris Wyles collected 16 points goalkicking as the United States built a 20-point halftime lead in moving past Georgia 36-20 in Denver.
Though Wyles made just 6 of 11 shots at goal, nervously misfiring at least 2 uncomplicated chances, 3 times in the past 5 games he has accounted for over half the USA's scoring. Underscoring the fullback's pivotal role, much of the evening's tactical kicking also went through the 28-year-old, who Saturday surpassed Ray Nelson and Kurt Shuman for most caps in America's 15 jersey.
Having chosen sometime midfielder Roland Suniula over the once-capped, specialist flyhalf Will Holder, the US sought to run the ball so as to move the setpiece-oriented visitors around the high-altitude Glendale Infinity Park. The plan succeeded most in the first 25 minutes as the US moved smartly to an 18-5 edge.
Andrew Suniula, debut starter Taylor Mokate, and Mike Petri all scored in the first half, the latter two through effective support running.
The US failed to make much of a pair of Georgian yellow cards, however, and as the game's pace degraded the Lelos pulled to within 31-20. If the good news is the Eagles won comfortably, the bad tidings are that a XV close to America's first choice was imprecise against an understrength Georgia.
Midfielder Merab Sharikadze, whose try opened the second-half scoring, is in fact heading for the Lelos Under 20 team in the Junior World Trophy competition, which begins today in Salt Lake City, Utah. In its opening game at Murray Rugby Park, the USA faces Tonga.
The 16-point win earned the US nearly 2 points in the International Rugby Board standings, effectively securing 17th rank for the summer. A victory over Italy this Saturday in Houston could vault the US past Japan, which earlier this spring dropped ground during the Pacific Nations tournament. Georgia, meanwhile, falls one place to 15th, and heads to face Canada, 25-16 losers to the Azzurri.
United States 36 Georgia 20 (halftime: USA 28-8)
Tries: Andrew Suniula, Taylor Mokate, Mike Petri, James Paterson
Conversions: Chris Wyles (2)
Penalties: Chris Wyles (4)
Chris Wyles; Luke Hume, Paul Emerick (Colin Hawley), Andrew Suniula, James Paterson; Roland Suniula (Will Holder), Mike Petri (Shaun Davies); Shawn Pittman, Chris Biller (Derek Asbun), Eric Fry (Tolifili Liufau), Louis Stanfill, Bryan Doyle, Taylor Mokate (Andrew Durutalo), Scott Lavalla, Todd Clever (captain)
Tries: Merab Kvirikashvili, Merab Sharikadze, Davit Kacharava
Penalties: Merab Kvirikashvili, Lasha Malaguradze
Lasha Khmaladze; Irakli Machkhaneli, Davit Kacharava, Merab Sharikadze, Alexander Todua (Irakli Kiasashvili); Merab Kvirikashvili (Lasha Malaguradze), Irakli Abuseridze (captain, Giorgi Begadze); Mikheil Nariashvili, Revaz Belkania (Shalva Mamukashvili), Davit Zirakashvili, Beka Bitsadze, Vakhtang Maisuradze (Zviad Maisuradze), Gregori Labadze, Givi Berishvili (Giorgi Gkhilaishvili), Giorgi Chkhaidze
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)