The United States held off World Cup rookie Russia 13—6 on Thursday to register its third win ever at rugby’s marquee event.

Scrumhalf Mike Petri crossed for a first—half try and Chris Wyles kicked a conversion and two penalty goals in a physical match against the Russian Bears, who had to wait until seven days into the tournament to play at their first match ever at the World Cup.

Yury Kushnarev kicked a penalty goal in the third minute to score Russia’s first points, but the Americans rallied to take a 10—3 half time lead. Heavy rain drenched the Taranaki Stadium in the second half, restricting scoring to one penalty goal apiece.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” U.S. captain Todd Clever said. “I’m proud of the boys for sticking through.

“We made it tough for ourselves but the crowd helped get us through that one.”

The Americans started the tournament with an encouraging performance in a 22—10 loss to Ireland here on Sept. 11 and now have a long—awaited win, but the competition gets more intense in the next match, against two—time champion Australia on Sept. 23.

The Eagles beat Japan at the 1987 and 2003 World Cups, their only wins in five previous tournaments, so there was plenty of jubilation.

Clever said he was nervous in the closing stages, desperate to hang on and end a streak of six consecutive losses at the World Cup.

“They’re a tough team and they’re improving. Every time we play them, they’re getting better and better,” he said of the Russians. “I’m just proud of the guys that we were able to finish through that.”

The Americans started on the back foot when Petri had a kick charged down in the opening minute and the Russians went immediately on the attack. But several attacking raids only resulted in three points from the penalty.

Petri made up for his error when he finished off a long—range try in the 18th minute, sliding over beside the posts.

Wyles converted but then there was 45 minutes without a point in the match before Wyles extended the lead with his 13—3 with his penalty in the 64th minute.

Konstantin Rachkov landed a penalty goal in the 77th minute to get the Russians within a converted try after a sustained period of pressure but the Americans held firm for the last three minutes to ensure the win. Russia picked up its first World Cup competition point for losing by a margin of fewer than seven.

“We tried to show our best, it’s our first game,” Russia’s Alexander Voytov said. “We were trying to prepare for this game as much as possible. It was a tough game - it was unlucky with the loss but we will try to show our good game the next games.”

Keywords: Rugby World Cup

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