Sonatane Takulua’s penalty proved to the crucial score as Tonga defeated the USA 20-17 at the Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian.
Tonga (15th in the world) and the USA (17th) couldn’t be separated at the start of the second half, with Takulua’s second three-pointer eventually proving decisive.
Full-back Telusa Veainu opened the scoring for Tonga, with Takulua converting, with USA fly-half Will Holder responding with three points off the kicking tee.
Fetu’u Vainikolo then grabbed Tonga’s second score, once again converted by Takulua, but wing Martin Iosefo’s converted try helped the USA to close the gap shortly before half-time.
However a Takulua penalty meant that Tonga held a seven-point lead going into the break up 17-10.
USA prop Joe Taufete’e went over in the 52nd minute and thanks to Holder’s conversion the American were then level at 17-17, before Takulua’s second penalty handed the lead back to Tonga.
With ten minutes remaining the Pacific Island side were reduced to ten men when prop Sila Puafisi was yellow carded, but Tonga held on for the win.
Tries: Veainu, Vainikolo
Cons: Takulua 2
Pens: Takulua 2
Yellow Card: Puafisi
Tries: Taufete’e, Iosefo
Cons: Holder 2
Tonga: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Nafi Tu’itavake, 13 Siale Piutau (c), 12 Latiume Fosita, 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 10 Kali Hala, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Tevita Koloamatangi, 7 Jack Ram, 6 Dan Faleafa, 5 Joe Tu’ineau, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Siua Halanukonuka, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Tevita Mailau
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Paea Fa’anunu, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Valentino Mapapalangi, 20 Kotoni Ale, 21 Tomasi Palu, 22 Tevita Taufui, 23 David Halaifonua
USA: 15 Madison Hughes, 14 Blaine Scully (c), 13 Thretton Palamo, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Martin Iosefo, 10 Will Holder, 9 Nate Augspurger, 8 Andrew Durutalo, 7 Tony Lamborn, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Nick Civetta, 4 Cameron Dolan, 3 Chris Baumann, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Joe Taufete’e
Replacements: 16 Pat Blair, 17 Angus MacLellan, 18 Dino Waldren, 19 Al McFarland, 20 Langilangi Haupeakui, 21 Mike Te’o, 22 JP Eloff, 23 Bryce Campbell
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Alhambra Nievas (Spain), Iñigo Atorrasagasti (Spain)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)