Saturday, June 18, 2016

Eagles Narrowly Fall To Italy

By Derek Sagehorn

The United States Eagles came the closest in recent history to knocking off a Tier 1 side Saturday evening in San Jose, but ultimately fell 24-20 to Italy. While the Americans had flashes of brilliance, the Italian forwards exerted tremendous pressure at the set-piece and proved the difference between the sides.

The match started off on a scary note. Off an early USA box kick Take Ngwenya delivered a flesh hit on Leonard Sarto. Both immediately went to ground and the game halted for ten minutes while they were evaluated by medical staff. After a long period, Sarto and Ngwenya stepped off the field under their own power to be replaced by Giovanbattista Venditti and Mikey Te’o, respectively.

Take the jump to read more.

After a period of sniffing each other with stop/start play at the set-piece, AJ Macginty opened scoring with a 40 meter penalty at the 11th minute. Carlo Canna responded four minutes later with penalty of his own.

After a brief kicking duel, Will Holder took a volley in stride. He made an Italian defender miss and found open space with support. Carlo Canna, playing sweeper, deliberately knocked the two-on-one pass to the ground. He was yellow carded and the Eagles were awarded a penalty try.

After the carding, Italy played tight, territorial rugby in USA’s corner. They were rewarded for their efforts after a drive and maul saw Ornel Gega go over in the corner. The tough conversion missed and USA led 10-8.

USA had a chance to strike back after a messy Italian lineout as they collected and strung several promising phases together; but hard work by the Italian backrow forced a holding-on penalty.

The Italians started to exert more dominance in both the lineout and scrum. At the 38th minuteAndrea Lovotti turned the screws on Chris Baumann and earned a penalty. Canna made the kick with ease and Italy took their first lead 11-10 at the end of the first half.

Just after the start of the second, the Italians found themselves with a lineout in USA’s corner. A surging drive was stopped short inches from the line. On the ensuing half dozen phases, Canna slotted an easy drop goal to extend Italy’s lead 14-10.

A few minutes later, Italy’s aggressive defense off the lineout saw a tailgunner overpursue. AJ Macginty took his gap and got in behind the visitors. Will Holder’s daring run in the next phase produced a penalty for the Eagles in front of the post that Macginty duly kicked, Eagles down 14-13. Off the kickoff, Italy attacked the American blind and Venditti almost scored but miffed the touch down. After consulting assistant officials, the referee ordered a 5 meter scrum to Italy. Italy ratcheted up more pressure and earned a penalty. They elected for the corner but were pulled down illegally by Cam Dolan before forming a maul. Dolan received a yellow card for his efforts and Italy scored quickly off the ensuing drive. Canna converted a difficult kick and Italy extended their lead 21-13.

After several minutes of playing desperate defense, the Americans came to life after several half breaks. They forayed into the Italian 22 but the ball became unplayable. Off the resulting scrum, the Americans went right to a hard-charging Thretton Palamo. Nate Augspurger passed left to Macginty, who found another half gap. His pass out of contact magically passed through Te’o’s hands to find Tony Lamborn in the corner. Macginty converted and brought the Eagles within one point, 21-20.

Off the restart, Italy looked to play tight and milk the remaining ten but AJ Macginty produced a stellar turnover. After a couple stop/start set-pieces, Augspurger charged down a kick. The resulting ruck looked like it might end up in the Eagles’ hands but they were penalized for leaving their feet.

As the clock wound down, Italy displayed composure to keep the game tight. The Eagles tackled but couldn’t not produce a turnover. An American hand in the ruck gave Italy a final penalty at the death, which Carlo Canna slotted as Italy won 24-20.

The Americans will wonder what with this near-miss, but must prepare for the clash next week against Russia in Sacramento.


Tries: Gega (2)
Conversions: Canna
Penalties: Canna (3)
Drop Goal: Canna


Tries: Penalty try, Lamborn
Conversions: MacGinty (2)
Penalties: MacGinty (2)


  1. Same old frustrations watching the Eagles but hopefully Mitchell's stamp will eventually take and the Eagles improve. But again, areas of concern: the set pieces, scrum was dominated, 3 overthrows on our lineouts....scrumhalf position, Augspurger delivered really slow ball, and what was with all the box kicks??? Decision making, especially on 50/50 plays is still poor. On the positive side Lamborn looks like a legit loose forward, the wide channels were attacked well when they got the ball spun, defensive structure was usually good. Still a glass half full guy but want to see a big improvement next week.

  2. I did not know the Eagles played a test yesterday. I saw a whole lot of rugby on tv yesterday, but had no idea they played. Oh well if they had been on TV maybe me and my friends may have watched, but they where not.

  3. Finally watched the match last night. It's up on youtube. I get kicking for territory but for godsake kick smart and get it out. It seemed like the entire match the Eagles were determined to kick away possession instead of playing running rugby. This aerial ping pong is not going to launch rugby to the proverbial moon in the US. Pretty boring stuff.

  4. You missed the moment when the US threw away the match. After winning an Italian lineout in the final minutes, the forwards (for some reason) thought to maul it. The Italians disrupted, leading to a scrum that they easily one a scrum penalty from. Who ever is calling the shots for the pack (Clever?) should have known better than to have played to the Italian's strength. Our dominance was clearly in the backline. That ball should have been quickly recycled and sent to the backs.