Saturday, February 13, 2016

Clever Hat-Trick Helps Eagles Beat Canada

After a lackluster first half the Eagles turned it on big time as Todd Clever scored three quick tries to propel them over Canada 30-22 in Austin on Saturday night. It's the fourth straight win over Canada and it will help the Eagles push toward their goal of finishing at the top of the ARC table. Overall, it wasn't a perfect match as the Eagles committed a number of handling errors and penalties. Still, in the end the Eagles showed a lot of fight and rugby-knowledge to play to their strengths in the second half and emerge from the win. Their attention will now turn to Chile next week in Ft. Lauderdale before heading to South America. The Eagles will be heavy favorites in each of their next three matches.

Despite the eventual result it was Canada that were on the attack early and playing smart. Thanks to the kicking of Gordon McRorie and solid ball retention Canada camped out in the U.S. end for minutes on end. Fortunately for the Eagles it didn't result in a try but it did give McRorie the opportunity to bury two penalties to put Canada up 6-0 with 12 minutes played.

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The Eagles were finally able to put some decent attack together. Luke Hume and Jake Anderson in particular were influential as the Eagles make a couple of breaks and it was a break from Hume that would set up the first points for the Eagles as Canada were penalized just in front of the posts. James Bird, who was solid in the half he played, hit the penalty to put the score at 6-3.

Canada responded right away with another penalty on the Eagles. It was the penalties and the problems at the scrum that continually caught up with the U.S. and gave McRorie opportunities at goal. He hit this one to extend Canada's lead to 9-3.

It took a few minutes but the U.S. were finally able to find their groove and preview what would come in the second half. A great break from the backs put the U.S. just meters from the line. The forwards went to work but when that wasn't on the U.S. quickly moved the ball out where Bird found Moto Filikitonga who then threw an overhead offload to Chad London for the try. Just like that the U.S. were in front at 10-9.

However, just like when the U.S. picked up their first points they allowed Canada to instantly score. Yet another penalty saw McRorie hit his fourth penalty of the half to give Canada a 12-10 lead. The Eagles tried attacking for the next ten minutes but James Bird saw his drop kick attempt charged down and errors kill opportunities. The U.S. also lost Filikitonga to an injury.

In the second half the U.S. came out renewed and ready to play. However, it didn't look that way early as McRorie hit his fifth penalty just four minutes in. After the U.S. the U.S. continued to commit errors as the substitutes came on.

The momentum in the match firmly shifted around the 50th minute mark. A big break from Anderson put the Eagles down the pitch. Anderson found Hume who was eventually caught by the defense but not before a penalty gave the U.S. a chance at an attacking line out. From that line out the U.S. used their maul to punch Todd Clever over for the try.

Just a few minutes later it was Hume with the break off the restart to once again put the U.S. in deep. Worse for Canada, they had a man sent to the bin for cynically killing the attacking. The U.S. once again went to the line out and the maul and once again it was Clever to pile over. Just four minutes after that it was the maul for a third time for Clever's hat-trick. In a span of eight minutes the match went from 15-10 in favor of Canada to 27-15 for the Eagles.

Canada did make it interesting with about 10 minutes remaining when Duncan Maguire put in a fantastic piece of individual running to score. He did even better to hit the difficult conversion to cut the lead to five at 27-22.

Over the last 10 minutes Canada had one or two strong phases but it was the U.S. that went on the attack and nearly scored on a couple of occasions. The match was finally iced when Niku Kruger hit a penalty just minutes before the end of the match.

"We had a chat at halftime and we felt like we were fitter and could put pressure on them," said Todd Clever after the match. "We wanted to play the whole 80 minutes. We wanted to play cautious but expansive rugby. We're teaching the new guys to play what's in front of us. There were ten guys in the starting line-up getting their first caps, against Canada, that's something they'll remember for the rest of their lives. "

Head coach John Mitchell has to be happy with the way his team rebounded in the second half. If the U.S. had committed the same number of errors against a higher ranked opponent than today they would have been blown off the pitch. This will be a big learning experience for the team, which is the point of the ARC. Plus, they get to enjoy a win.


Tries: London, Clever (3)
Conversion: Bird, Kruger
Penalties: Bird, Kruger


Tries: Maguire
Conversion: Maguire
Penalties: McRorie (5)


  1. Pretty solid play by the engine room again. The rolling maul was a dynamite weapon. Glad to see so many different guys gelling together. It bodes well for the future. Backline still has some work to do. But when they have had the ball the do look dangerous. Defense and tacking need to continue to be worked on, but overall, this was another good game of rugby. We haven't gotten many of those in the past 8 years...

  2. Great game overall.

    I liked them playing in a Baseball Stadium it looked really cool. Any idea on attendance? It looked pretty good.