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Rugby League World Cup: Junior Paulo stars as United States win
- Always prepared
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- Australia labelled favourites
- World Cup history
- NZ 42 Samoa 24
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- France 9 PNG 8
- World Cup warm-ups
The United States marked their Rugby League World Cup debut with a 32-20 victory over the Cook Islands at the Memorial Stadium in Bristol.
Junior Paulo scored a try and kicked four goals as the Americans came out on top in a see-saw Group D contest thanks to late tries from Mark Offerdahl and Craig Priestly in the final eight minutes.
The game was firmly in the melting pot going into the 15 minutes after Dominique Peyroux's converted score had levelled matters at 20 apiece.
However the United States - who had promised to "shock the world" after their warm-up win over France before the tournament began - came on strong to clinch the two points and go top of a pool that also contains Wales.
They had been forced to recover from the early setback of falling behind inside five minutes, Brad Takairangi getting on the end of an Isaac John kick.
The USA responded impressively to conceding and Priestly's perfectly-executed 40-20 laid the platform for the half-back to put wing Bureta Faraimo over in the corner.
The strong winds made life tricky for the kickers off the tee, though it was the Cook Islands who had the problems with the conditions when they allowed skipper Paulo to grab a loose ball and set up Matt Petersen out wide.
The United States added a penalty to extend their lead, only for the Cook Islands to get on terms just before the break when Drury Low made the most of an earlier burst from Keith Lulia to force his way over.
Yet honours were only even for 55 seconds after the interval, as Takairangi stalled for too long over his clearing kick on the last tackle. Paulo charged his eventual effort down before gathering and cantering over from 30 metres.
The back-and-forth nature of the game continued as Lulia Lulia crossed out wide after sharp work from Low, meaning the sides were all level again, and the two nations traded further tries, Tui Samoa and Peyroux getting them, to remain locked together.
Crucially, the United States got their noses back in front in the 72nd minute when the influential Paulo's beautifully-delayed pass put Offerdahl into a gap.
This time the Cook Islands had no response, conceding again. Priestly gathered a towering bomb to dab down the clinching try, Paulo knocking over the conversion before then rounding out the scoring with a late penalty.