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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Discipline Missing As Eagles Fall To Samoa

Heading into their World Cup opener the Eagles knew that if they committed too many errors Samoa had the talent and experience to make them pay. Unfortunately that's exactly what happened as costly errors came back to haunt the U.S. in a 25-16 loss. The defeat will be disappointing for the Eagles as at times they were able to do what they wanted but overall the lacked the execution needed to pick up the win as they faced a Samoa team that now sits an upset win against Scotland or South Africa from potentially making the quarterfinals.

"Our execution let us down and our game management. Pretty disappointed but fair bit to Samoa," captain Chris Wyles said after the match. "Any time you give penalties away or have poor discipline you give them possession. Samoa have good runners and any time you give them possession they execute. Execution let us down. Discipline let us down but we were still there at the end." Head coach Mike Tolkin added similar thoughts saying "we gave up too much possession today through penalties, some bad kicks, and we couldn't get out of first gear out of our line out a lot of times. It was a lot of guys first time out there in the World Cup so we can build off that. There were a lot of positives and we can keep going on the good work we started."

Take the jump to read more.
There was no question that match was going to be a physical affair early when Thretton Palamo put in a monster hit on Rey Lee-Lo knocking him out of the match only a couple of minutes in. However, the physicality wouldn't always favor the Eagles as referee George Clancy called a tight game most of the match and the Eagles weren't always able to respond. Both teams were back and forth early until the first break came in the 7th minute when Eric Fry was penalized for lying on the ball. Tusi Pisi made no mistake with the penalty and Samoa led 3-0.

The U.S. had their best movement of the early match just a couple of minutes later but the final pass out to Ngwenya wasn't solid. The U.S. continued to have the run of play but time after time they were hurt with simple penalties, especially for things like diving in at the breakdown. Still, despite the better run of play Samoa would have the next chance at goal only to have Pisi's kick attempt fall short.

Tim Nanai-Williams, the former New Zealand 7s player who only had one cap for Samoa prior to the match, was the difference maker on the day. He was electric for Samoa throughout the match making run after run and putting the U.S. on the back foot and it was only fitting that he would open his team's scoring in the 20th minute. Samoa took a line out on the 22 and tried the maul but after that didn't work flung the ball out to the backs where Pisi put in a grubber that Nanai-Williams dived on. The conversion missed but Samoa led 8-0.

After the try Samoa kept putting on the pressure. Another U.S. penalty allowed Samoa to increase their lead to 11-0 and they looked fully in control. However, the U.S. began to claw their way back with about 15 minutes to go in the half. AJ MacGinty hit a penalty to put the U.S. on the board and the Chris Wyles scored the try of the match.

On a Samoan line out the U.S. were able to steal the ball. Wyles tried to clear the kick but he muffed it and it went into the pile of players in front of him. Fortunately for the U.S. the ball bounced straight back into their hands where it was worked to Samu Manoa and then MacGinty. The fly-half then made a break thanks to a couple of dummies before passing to Seamus Kelly who passed to the supporting Wyles for the try. Suddenly with the try the U.S. were back in it at 11-8. Unfortunately the half would end on a low note as yet another penalty allowed Samoa to claim a penalty back.

The U.S. came out aggressive in the second half but poor discipline once again cost them. Samoa didn't make nearly as many mistakes and with that possession in the second half had an excellent ten minutes that sealed off the match. It began when straightforward running put the U.S. on the defense and another grubber kick was initial bobbled before Ofisa Treviranus pounced on it for the try. Just a few minutes later a high tackle gave Pisi another shot at goal which he made to push the lead to 22-8.

Although play did improve for the Eagles they were still in a big hole. The substitutions of Phil Thiel, Cam Dolan, and Brett Thompson (who came in for an injured Blaine Scully), helped energize the team and a MacGinty penalty in the 52nd minutes helped bring them to within two scores at 22-11. The U.S. would continue to push and had a couple of dangerous runs from Ngwenya but they could never stay on the right side of the whistle. Michael Stanley would add a final penalty for Samoa to make the difference two converted tries with just then minutes to go.

The Eagles did grab a late try to make things interesting. Working off a five meter line out the Eagles went through several phases with hard runs from Samu Manoa and Andrew Durutalo. Near they line they ran a series of pick and go's that finally saw Chris Baumann score. Unfortunately MacGinty was unable to connect on the conversion and the Eagles trailed 25-16. Samoa did well to wind out the clock and hold on to the win.

Overall the Eagles were simply not good enough on the day. Samoa are an excellent side and executed at key times but it's not as if they weren't there for the taking. The U.S. simply committed too many errors to be successful. Whether it's the pressure of the World Cup, the interpretations of referee Clancy, or the quality of Samoa but the U.S. weren't able to react when they needed to. The team's line out was a source of frustration all day and while the scrum held up at times it also gave away a few penalties. Passing amongst the backs wasn't super strong and most disappointing, kicks continually were put in tough spots or went out on the full.

Still, there were some positive signs from the team and if they can cut down on the mistakes there is no reason whey they shouldn't be able to challenge the likes of Scotland and Japan. As Japan's win over the Springboks showed, Pool B is wide open and with a couple of results the U.S. can still grab an automatic qualifying spot for 2019.

The face Scotland next Sunday in Leeds.


Tries: Wyles, Baumann
Penalties: MacGinty (2)


Tries: Nanai-Williams, Treviranus
Penalties: Pisi (4), Stanley


  1. Dissaoointing effort. They did some good things at times. Palamo was excellent. The majority of penAlties seemed to come with sealing issues on our own ball. That and three line out not straights meant losing on the order of 10 possessions.

    Defense of the maul was good. Scrummaging was good.

    This pool is still wide open. The U.S. has to relax and throw everything at Scotland, who will be coming into the game on short rest.

    A 9 point defeat playing a game that could be generously graded at a C gives hope for better things to come.

    1. Yes, generally agree. If we don't get that Line out fixed, we are beating nobody. But certainly flashes of good rugby was out there. Just need to clean up those mental errors and respond to the referee better. (Hard to when he so inconsistent, but so it goes as low tier 2 team.)

      Hopefully we can give Scotland a run for the their money.

  2. The scary thing is, our "easy" game is against a team that beat South Africa. This could be, if we are lucky, the messiest pool in RWC history.

  3. Clancey consistently allowed Samoa to get away with the same things he pinged the US for.

    The usual pedantic, one sided attention seeking performance he regularly puts in.

  4. It's the things that put the team on the back foot - two kicks straight into touch, missing both try conversions as well as a penalty, poor lineout and diving off the feet in the rucks in promising situations - a combination of hard stuff to get right. But it will come with time.

    I thought the structure of the game was actually good from the US and showed promise. Committing all those errors and losing by only 9 points (plus a ref that didn't always favour the US) I think shows a lot can be taken from the game. Going the full 80 minutes was also heartening.

  5. "Heading into their World Cup opener the Eagles knew that if they committed too many errors Samoa had the talent and experience to make them pay." … So the Eagles went ahead and did it anyway,

  6. I'm not one to complain about the officiating and the Eagles lost due to their own errors but there were numerous calls that even the commentators doing the WC broadcast called pedantic. Two of these penalties were converted into points for Samoa and a third took away possession from the Eagles in Samoan territory when the Eagles were starting to fight back. While the Eagles didn't do enough to earn a win two of the penalties were converted into points and this took bonus points away from the Eagles. I understand that the game needs to flow and a fair contest for the ball has to be ensured; blowing the whistle on uber technical calls that have no impact on the run of play doesn't help the flow of the game at all either. Additionally, the official was very poor applying the advantage law. Twice with the Eagles well within the 22. Most officials will continue advantage well past the original offense in order to encourage teams to score tries. The bottom line is that the official had a direct outcome on the results of this game and the Eagles at least earning bonus points.

    As for the line out - it was crooked throws that killed the Eagles. The Eagles lost one line out but had three not straights. That can be sorted out.