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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Scotland Beat Eagles On Second Half Surge

The positive for the Eagles from Sunday's match against Scotland was that the Eagles held a lead for the first time at halftime against a Tier I nation when they led 13-6 at the break. The negative was that they completely fell apart in the second half giving up three quick tries to Scotland in an eventual 39-16 loss. It was a frustrating result for the Eagles once again having played very well at times but committing a number of errors that led to easy scores for their opponents. In particular the U.S. struggled mightily in the line out and with errant kicks from hand. That neutralized what had been a good defense and an excellent scrum.

The U.S. will now face a ten day layoff before they take on South Africa at the Olympic Stadium in London. Realistically the Eagles would have to rely on a miracle to make the quarterfinals and are barely holding on the the chance of third place in the pool. They would need help and to keep the score close against South Africa and beat Japan. They would also need to improve on point differential with unfortunately blossomed in the second half against Scotland.

Take the jump to read more.
Playing with controlled energy and feeding on mistakes and penalties from Scotland the Eagles took a 3-0 lead just a couple minutes into the match when MacGinty hit a long shot at goal. Scotland did have their chances after the penalty and after six minutes were able to level the score when Stuart Hogg hit a long penalty of his own.

The U.S. had plenty of opportunities in the first half but throughout the first 20 minutes the U.S. line out was either not straight or overthrown killing opportunities and allowing Scotland to apply pressure. Fortunately for the Eagles their defense came up firm and Scotland's backs, who were dangerous, weren't able to sync up. Another positive for the Eagles early was the play of their scrum with easily had the better of Scotland.

Scotland took a 6-3 lead when Finn Russell hit an easy penalty and almost added three more but Hogg's penalty was off. The first try of the match went to the Eagles on another highlight play. Off their best line out of the  match the ball was worked quickly to Samu Manoa who made a break. Andrew Durutalo got the offload who then played a cheeky ball to Phil Thiel who made it inches from the line. The U.S. used their forwards after that and saw Titi Lamositele cross over. With MacGinty's conversion they held a 10-6 lead with 20 minutes gone.

The U.S. continued to have the better of the play in the second half. Seamus Kelly had a big break but the Eagles weren't able to convert. They continued to maintain good possession but weren't able to punch in for more. Defensively they gave up a penalty opportunity that Hogg missed and Taku Ngwenya had a monster tackle on Peter Horne. The Eagles then finished off the half with a penalty from MacGinty.

Unfortunately for the Eagles all the momentum they gained the first half disappeared almost immediately in the second half. Quick play and better connection from the backs saw Tim Visser score first for Scotland and then just a few minutes later Sean Maitland joined in. With the tries Scotland suddenly went from being down 13-6 to being up 18-13. The backs for Scotland certainly connected but they dominated the second half thanks to work from their forwards who did well to keep possession and put the Eagles defense out of sorts. Scotland would score their third try of the second half with WP Nel scoring in the 53rd minute.

Now down 25-16 the Eagles faced a big gap and began to make changes. Some of those changes helped but some didn't work out as well. The U.S. scrum wasn't able to hold up as well and they began to commit more penalties. They also continually did themselves in with very poor kicks from hand. That allowed Scotland to camp out in the 22 and eventually piled in a fourth try, this time from Matt Scott.

The Eagles did have a couple of opportunities to grab a late try but knock-ons and simple errors cost them. Scotland scored a final try through Duncan Weir with only seconds left on the clock to make the final score 39-16.

Overall the Eagles will have to be disappointed. The game was there for the taking but they let their concentration lapse and they made the small mistakes that good teams punish. Once again there were positive elements to take away from the match but at some point the Eagles can't be happy with moral victories. They've played well at the World Cup but they are going to need a victory at some point.

After the match captain Chris Wyles said: "Again, our discipline let us down. You can't give away easy points and easy penalties to a team like Scotland. We're upset with our discipline. We came into halftime and we were happy where we were. I thought we put a good foot forward. We were being physical, we were being direct, keeping the ball. But in the second half discipline let us down. We need some time to regroup. We'll take a look at the reasons why we let ourselves down in that second half but the first half was a big positive for us and we'll take that looking forward."

Head coach Mike Tolkin said: "We struggled to get out of our end. We kept finding ourselves in the 22 against a driving maul and three quick tries from Scotland did us in. Their experience off the bench helped but we got ourselves into trouble with some decision making, some errant kicks where we should have kept it in hand."


Tries: Visser, Maitland, Nel, Scott, Weir
Conversions: Russell, Laidlaw (3)
Penalties: Hogg, Russell


Tries: Lamositele
Conversions: MacGinty
Penalties: MacGinty (3)


  1. "They have played well at the World Cup …"

    Um … No, they have not. This is a team that had a full summer together. Scotland took a half to get themselves organized after fielding what could be considered a second choice team. They came out in the second half and ended the game about 10 minutes in and just to make sure brought in a couple steady hands to guide the ship into the harbor.

    That the Eagles conceded the game so easily after going into the break with a flattering lead tells anyone watching all they needed to know. Scotland had them figured out, was completely composed and put 33 points on the board.

    Manoa played a great game. Ngweyna has tried to make a difference. Beyond that I didn't see a lot to get excited about today other than the scrummaging in the first half.

    Bad decision making and errors were supposed to be eliminated through a long summer of being together. The defensive line structure has been a little better but while the Eagles find very little ability to cross the gain line they are conceding the gain line again and again.

    It's very difficult to see where the South Africa game will be anything much more than an opposed training run for the Springboks and the Japan game holds little hope given the precision with which the Japanese are playing and given that the Eagles are going to be playing on short rest (unless they simply leave the whole of the starting XV out of the Springbok game).

    On the positive side … there is next to no coverage of the WC in the mainstream press so at least nobody is aware of the gulf that exists between the Eagles and the nations that are able to compete at the top class of rugby.

    1. Is it controversial to suggest looking at the management. We talk about Japan as though they have moved up into a tier 1 rank, but all they have got is a highly experienced coaching staff and head coach. Japan's lineout works and their team barely averages 6ft 2. The US lineout was still not working.

      There is a case for saying that playing and beating Tier 1 nations requires Tier 1 coaching experience. Given Mike Tolkin is known for his defensive efforts, the second half against Scotland appeared to be met with no game plan from the US.

  2. what an emotionally disappointing game. we were stuck in for the first 50 mins before it all went to hell.

    the moment it all went wrong was that suniola box kick. they had already come down and gotten on the front foot and we answered with a penalty. we had more or less stopped the bleeding. that kick never should have been made.

    i am not so disappointed in the player, but rather the strategy. we were kicking way too much with not much to show for it. i blame the coaching staff. they were not able to adapt and it was rather sad to watch. i think it underlines the need for us to go out and get a top international coach with our next hire. look at the impact that friday has had with the 7s. we need the same thing with our next 15s coach.

    as for individual performers, i actually think that we have played well across the board: our prop play has been strong, the hooker position has struggled but nothing we havent overcome. locks have been solid. the back rowers have all had an impact. mcfarland has been gritty and i honestly believe that with lavalla in there there wouldnt be too much of a change in performance.

    as for the backline, petri has been off his game. for the life of me i can not figure out why hughes wasnt called in to camp this summer. he is the closest thing that we have to an experienced understudy at scrumhalf. i think we have exceeded expectations in the backs. we still commit silly penalties (ie palamo knocking the ball out of the hands of the scrumhalf and kelly tackling a guy without the ball) but i like that they are going for it.

    i have to really ask though about who isnt here. is nick wallace really that much further behind kilifi? two knock ons and a scrumaging penalty in his first five mins killed any type of bonus point hopes we may have had. also, i have to ask if clever wouldnt have made this team better. there is too much bs that surrounds that situation. and i know he pulled himself, but siddall would have made an impact on this team.

    we have ten days off, go for broke and throw your best line up at the boks. our last 23 can play japan for pride. but i want to see us go head to head against the saffas. still proud to be an eagle supporter. the growth is there.

  3. Japan has a better coaching staff and their players are competing in a professional league. Japan's player pool is better than the US. The US clubs are not producing the same quality players (or coaches) as clubs in other countries. Blame the US clubs for the poor quality of the Eagles player pool.

    1. Japan's league isn't fully pro. Each club has a few full-time rugby players (many imported from overseas) while the rest work day jobs for the corporation they play for. True about the coaching staff, however. That's the major difference between the US and Japan.

  4. One of the key elements missing from the Eagles is a core identity. When you look at any of the great rugby playing nations and even some of the second tier nations you know what their national team is going to represent. For the All Blacks it is about precision and creativity built upon a foundation of players with all around skills. For the Australians you know you will face tough forewords and back lines that can execute slick back line moves. The Springboks will punch you in the face with their forward play and then launch a skilled back line. The Irish love the forward exchanges (it is no coincidence they came up with the choke tackle) and want every player to have a run. The English are all about the giant forwards and positional play, the Welsh play with a chip on their shoulders and are always mindful of how they measure up against England.

    These are foundations upon which teams are built. The teams stand for something and the coaches build teams around those identities.

    When I watch the Eagles I just don't get the sense that there is a core identity. I truly believe this is having an impact on the performance of the team. All teams are going to face adversity over the course of a game and when that adversity comes they are able to look to who they are as a collective whole. Scotland had a core identity to fall back upon when they found themselves down. The Eagles built a lead more by happenstance than by design. When the second half came the good fortune of Scottish mistakes had run it's course and the Eagles were lost. No rallying point to rebalance things. No method for weathering the storm.

    From what I DO see the Eagles seem most at ease on the field when they are making the ball move and allowing players to put to use their natural athletic skills. The field position game clearly does not suit the Eagles. I'd love to see the Eagles pin their ears back and move the ball with a bit more abandon - counter attack with abandon, get more creative in back line movements, look to create turnover situations - something the Eagles seem to relish.

    At any rate, until the Eagles find out who they are the struggle for success will continue. For my money that identity is hidden somewhere in an effective use of ball IN HAND, a willingness to take risks and a defense built around strong tackling and aggressive counter rucking more than a by the numbers positional game.