Saturday, February 4, 2017
Bench Play Pushes Eagles Past Uruguay
The Eagles have come away with a win to open their Americas Rugby Championship campaign following their 29-23 defeat of Uruguay. The result wasn't always certain for the Eagles as Uruguay proved to be a tough side but a strong second half led by the play of impact subs helped push the Eagles to the victory. Will Magie, Tony Lamborn, and Matt Jensen in particular were effective and getting the U.S. offense moving to score a couple of highlight reel tries.
"Fair play to Uruguay they gave us a heck of contest," captain Blaine Scully said after the match. "We knew it would be tight and physical...it was a heck of an effort. We'll take a lot of lessons out of this game and apply it to next week." The U.S. will close out their home portion of the ARC with a match against Brazil in Austin, Texas next weekend.
Head coach John Mitchell went into the match against Uruguay experimenting with a couple of players and combinations. The most watched of those moves was sliding AJ MacGinty to inside center and starting Ben Cima at fly-half. By and large that move seemed to give the Eagles more aggression on attack at times and Cima did well in his first full cap but there is still improvement to be had.
Take the jump to read more.
Penalties were arguably the story of the match with the new high tackle laws impacting both teams at times. By the end of the match, however, it would be the U.S. that were on the right side of the whistle allowing Cima and MacGinty to pick up enough points for the win.
Uruguay were the first team o the board when fly-half German Albanell, who was excellent from the tee on the day, hit a penalty to put Uruguay up 3-0. That was matches just two minutes later by Cima off a high tackle penalty.
The Eagles were able to find some space and the scrum surprisingly ddid well for the Eagles but they still couldn't find the breakthrough. Uruguay then had the advantage starting in the 12th minute when Todd Clever made a reckless high tackle earning ten minutes in the sin bin. Clever was probably lucky not to have seen red as his arm was high and not really under control.
With the man advantage Uruguay soon made the Eagles pay. Off a well worked set play on a five meter line out Uruguay got the match's first try as hooker Facundo Gattas crossed over. The conversion was good and Uruguay led 10-3.
Cima soon had a chance to reply with a penalty but it was off. He made amends a few minutes later with a good kick. That put the deficit at 10-6 and the Eagles soon had their full compliment of players with Clever back from the bin. Around the 30th minute mark Cima kicked another penalty to make it 10-9.
The first lead for the Eagles came just a few minutes before the halftime break. From a line out MacGinty made the initial break before passing to his center partner Bryce Campbell who lumbered over for the try. Cima would hit the conversion and the Eagles would lead 16-10. Uruguay would hit a penalty to make it 16-13 at the break.
Uruguay got off to a strong start in the second half as they used their maul to perfection to see captain and No. 8 Alejandro Nieto score. The also hit their conversion to retake the lead at 20-16.
After the try the U.S. made a number of substitutions that immediately had an impact. The biggest sub was probably Will Magie coming on for Cima. Cima had a good day but Magie was able to bring a bit more experience to the position and the U.S. attack soon began to click. Tony Lamborn would also come on soon for Todd Clever and the U.S. immediately began to be better at the breakdown.
Uruguay would kick a penalty to extend their lead but that would be all they could get for the rest of the match. Instead it was the Eagles that would claw back. MacGinty would hit a penalty after a high tackle on Uruguay to cut the lead to 23-19. Uruguay would have a chance of their own but Albanell missed for the first time all day.
The moment of the match came with roughly twenty minutes to play. The Eagles were deep in the Uruguayan end and had a penalty advantage after some good work from the forwards. Being able to take more of a risk Magie put in a perfect cross field kick that Scully collected for the try! It was an early candidate for try of the year even if the replay did appear to show that Scully dropped the ball before touching down. The conversion was good and the Eagles were now up 26-23.
The U.S had several chances to extend their lead by MacGinty was off on a couple of penalty attempts. However, he did make one to push the lead to 29-23 with 15 minutes to play. From there the Eagle veterans did a good job to slow down the match and limit Uruguay's chance. The Teros did have a chance at the very end as they had a five meter line out but the U.S. earned a big penalty on the subsequent maul to seal off the match.
The U.S. will now take their focus to Brazil next week. They'll be without Scully and MacGinty as they return to their clubs and will also be without Zack Test who was injured.
Tries: Campbell, Scully
Conversions: Cima, MacGinty
Penalties: Cima (3), MacGinty
Tries: Gattas, Nieto
Conversions: Albanell (2)
Penalties: Albanell (3)