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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Recap: Eagles Struggle Against Romania


Heading into the November tests the Eagles best chance at the victory was going to come against Romania. Unfortunately for them a dreadful first half doomed any chance of victory as they fell 23-10 in Bucharest. The Eagles had a decent second half and had they had the same energy, effort at the breakdown, and impetus on attack they may have come away with the result. Instead, Romania jumped out to a quick start taking advantage of American mistakes and the U.S. were never able to get back in it. The team will now have to turn their attention to Tonga next week in Spain.

The match started with the Eagles immediately on the back foot. Full credit to Romania for coming out with a smart game plan and taking advantage of American mistakes but it was the U.S. that allowed themselves to fall behind but not coming out prepared. Questions will have to be asked about some of head coach John Mitchell's selections with the likes of Samu Manoa, Cam Dolan, and Marcel Brache not getting the start. We don't know if there are injuries but given the sluggish start for the Eagles those omissions, especially Manoa who was strong in the second half, appear to be part of the difference.

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It took about seven minutes of Romanian pressure but with the Eagles pinned in deep, thanks to some great kicking from Romania, they used their forwards to push Johan van Heerden across the line. Just a couple of minutes later they added their second score as scrumhalf Florin Surugiu made a great kick over the top that was collected by Catalin Fercu for the score. Florin Vlaicu would add a penalty a few minutes later and Romania would lead 15-0 through 15 minutes. It could have been more if Vlaicu's kicking had been on.

The Eagles barely touched the ball the first 20 minutes of the match and when they did have possession small errors like knock-ons ruled again. Still, they were eventually able to find their footing and for the next ten minutes or so had some decent effort. However, the momentum was obviously with Romania in the first half. They continued to pile on pressure and were soon given another try when Viorel Lucaci scored in the corner. Replays looked like Blaine Scully may have pushed him into touch before the ball was down but it was awarded anyways and Romania went into the half up 20-0.

In the second half the Eagles came out much stronger. Again, had they played like they did in the second half they almost certainly would have come away with a win but a near three try gap was too much to overcome. Passing was improved in the second half and the U.S. looked to be close to a score several times, including an effort from Manoa. Nate Augspurger also improved in the second half, in particular in catching Romania not back 10 after a penalty. It was from that pressure that the Eagles were finally able to find Will Holder for the try. The conversion was good and the Eagles were back in it at 20-7.

With Manoa and Langilangi Haupeakui on the pitch the Eagles were able to get more drive from their forwards and were able to push Romania back. Soon that pressure resulted in Romanian hooker Eugen Capatana picking up a yellow card for tackling a player without the ball. Romania did well to eat time off the clock and even though the U.S. had several chances they were able to push through. Their biggest chance came around the 65th minute mark as both Manoa and Andrew Durutalo had drives for the line. However, knock-ons and a poor scrum allowed Romania to clear.

The Eagles were able to grab another score in the 68th minute. After Al McFarland won a turnover the Eagles were looking to drive for the corner. However, there was some confusion and instead Will Holder kicked a penalty to make it 20-10. In retrospect it wasn't the best decision as just a few minutes later Vlaicu would hit a penalty to extend the lead back to 13.

With the clock winding down the Eagles continued to search for a score. Romania were playing desperate defense at times and committed a number of penalties. However, the referee for some reason choose not to award any more cards. Further, the match took it's final turn when the assistant referee reported Al McFarland for a weak late tackle. That allowed Vlaicu to kick his penalty and essentially seal the game.

Still, even with some interesting calls from the referee at the end it was the Eagles first half that killed their chance at winning the match. They were simply too sloppy and they allowed Romania to make smart rugby plays that put the Eagles out of the match. It appears that even though the Eagles have a new coach and many of the players are on professional contracts the same mistakes that have plagued the Eagles for years--handling, mindless penalties, etc.--reared their head once again. If the Eagles are not only going to have success in the short-term but in the long-term they need to find a way to fix these mistakes.

Romania

Tries: van Heerden, Fercu, Lucaci
Conversions: Vlaicu
Penalties: Vlaicu (2)

U.S.A.

Tries: Holder
Conversions: Holder
Penalties: Holder

4 comments:

  1. Horrible start.....the kickoff misplayed by Brakely had the Eagles on the backfoot the first 20 minutes. There was no physicality in the first half, things changed when Manoa and Langilangi came in, but it was too late by then. No Cam Dolan either, who at least has high lever professional experience. Is this another 4 year cycle of "here we go again"?

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  2. You have a 10 that can't kick or attack, then you try to switch 10 and 15 in middle of phases or sometimes 1st phase to be creative. Doing that you took Madison ability to break the line out wide away with his explosive running (He at a shocker today and Teo is way better anyway). 9 is to slow and tap and go all the time when you can go for post (12 points gone begging there if not more). Forwards got out played until Manoa came on. Campbell is the same type of player that Sheamus Kelly use to be, steady hard working but nothing special. Last it's time to let go of Captain America Todd or use him as an impact when team is in trouble to settle them down

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    1. Hughes had a few issues with the high ball, but it seems like nearly everyone did on account of the wind. He had some great runs, solid defensive work, and skillful passing. Perhaps he would be better utilized somewhere else in the backline than at 15, but he had a bigger impact on the game than I'd ever seen Teo make. Given that Hughes isn't much smaller than George Ford, I wonder if he could fill in at 10.

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    2. I would like to see Hughes at 9. He has a good build for the position and is very cheeky. I think he could be a Greg Laidlaw type of 9.

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