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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Eagles Fall To Japan, Finish World Cup Journey

Although the Eagles had expectations to win two matches at the World Cup as the lowest ranked side in Pool B there were always going to be underdogs in every match they played in. That was evident once again as the Eagles closed out their World Cup without a win after losing to Japan 28-18 in Gloucester.

Like they have done all World Cup the U.S. played well at times, even holding a lead against Scotland at halftime, but in the end they couldn't hold serve with countries that are all nearly professional or completely professional. More disappointing for the U.S. in the loss to Japan was that the simple mistakes--the knock-ons, forward passes, dumb penalties--that they had mostly eliminated from their play this summer came back to haunt them and gifted Japan opportunities that they didn't waste.

After the match captain Chris Wyles talked about the frustration of playing well but not putting in a full performance. "We played well in patches but that's been the story of our World Cup. It's difficult because we talk about potential all the time but it's about time we fulfill that potential. Hopefully we build for the next for years. At this level you have to be consistent. Hopefully a big four years from us."

Take the jump to read more.
Like they have done in most of their matches the Eagles got out to a bright start and had the majority of the possession in a good place in the first five minutes. That lead to an early three points as AJ MacGinty hit a penalty attempt for the Eagles.

Unfortunately for the Eagles a pattern would emerge throughout the match where they would give up points almost as soon as they scored them. That was the case early as a great counterattack from Japan saw the team make a break, go through a few phases to find Kotaro Matsushima in the corner for the try. With man of the match Ayumu Goromaru's conversion Japan led 7-3 after just seven minutes.

The U.S. slowly allowed Japan to take over the match as time and time again a forward pass or a knock-on cut out any offensive opportunity for the team. However, the Eagles were finally able to put some solid possession together. After stringing together over 20 phases a great skip pass from Chris Wyles found Taku Ngwenya who ran into the corner for the try. It was another example of the Eagles ability to put together strong play just not consistent play. MacGinty missed the conversion but the Eagles led 8-7.

That lead wouldn't last long. The U.S. misplayed the restart allowing Japan to pick up the ball and push for the line. After a few phases wing Yoshikazu Fujita scored off the maul to restore Japan's advantage at 14-8. Goromaru would add a penalty a few minutes later to give Japan a 17-8 lead at halftime. The U.S. did have an opportunity at the end of the half thanks to a great kick chase and defense but it was once again a small mistake, this time Peterson being held up, that killed the opportunity.

Needing a score quickly in the second half to get back in the match the Eagles instead gave up a penalty that Goromaru connected on to increase the lead to 20-8. Still, the U.S. refused to go away and after squandering a few opportunities over the next ten minutes earned a penalty from MacGinty to make it 11-20. The U.S. then had a few more opportunities, including a near breakthrough from Ngwenya but couldn't pull out the score.

The match took it's deciding turn around the 60th minute. As Japan pressured the Eagles Eric Fry kicked the ball away from the scrumhalf resulting in him being sent to the bin. With their numerical advantage Japan wasted no time scoring through substitute Amanaki Mafi to increase the lead to 25-11.

The U.S. made a number of substitutes and finally began to find their legs with about ten minutes left. Good runs from Danny Barrett and Thretton Palamo put the Eagles in a good position. After more phase work the ball came out where MacGinty flung a beautiful pass out to Wyles for a try. Suddenly with less than ten minutes to go the Eagles were down a try and back to full strength.

Still, no matter how hard they tried they couldn't get past the Japanese defense and when Goromaru hit a final penalty with five minutes to go that sealed the match for Japan.

The positive notes for the Eagles on the day were that they were solid on set pieces, in particular the lineout where they had been struggling. They also were able to put together some attacking play. The negatives were that there were far too many errors and they still have yet to put together a full 80 minute performance.

After the match head coach Mike Tolkin said, "We wanted to go out strong. We'd like to have had the win but a few too many mistakes and Japan capitalized after scoring ourselves. We let ourselves down with skills and mistakes. We need to play a full 80 minutes."

With this World Cup attention will now turn to 2019 where the Eagles will look to make improvements. "We made a lot of progress," said Tolkin. "We saw a lot of young players emerge and they'll be better for it coming out of this World Cup."


Tries: Matsushima, Fujita, Mafi
Conversions: Goromaru (2)
Penalties: Goromaru (3)


Tries: Ngwenya, Wyles
Conversions: MacGinty
Penalties: MacGinty (2)

1 comment:

  1. Embarassing. USA Rugby should be ashamed. There has to be a cleaning of the house, a new organization chart established, this time with USA Rugby accountable to a constituency.