In an incredible come from behind victory the Eagles have claimed the 2017 Americas Rugby Championship title over Argentina XV. Finding themselves down by two tries with less than ten minutes to play two well worked teams tries from Cam Dolan and David Tameilau earned a 27-27 tie. However, thanks to Tameilau's try after the 80th minute the Eagles claimed a bonus point which was enough to propel them over Argentina in the standings for the tournament win. Not only does it give them their first tournament win as a 15s team (outside of the Olympics) but it also gives them their first five match unbeaten streak.
Full credit should go to John Mitchell and his coaching staff as well as the players. Throughout the tournament Mitchell tinkered with his team giving veterans a shot early on but also mixing in a number of newcomers. Players like Peter Malcolm, Ben Cima, Will Magie, and Nate Augspurger all stepped up in big way and will be a part of the Eagles picture heading into World Cup qualifying. For us Chris Baumann, Tony Lamborn, and Magie were our standout players for the Eagles but overall every player stepped up and justifiably came away with the big win.
Take the jump to read more.
The Argentina XV were always going to be the Eagles most difficult opponent of the tournament. They have a number of players that either are or will be capped Pumas or play for the Jaguares. Physically they were the most difficult team the U.S. had to face and tactically they did a number of things that challenged the Eagles. Still, the U.S. didn't let that impact them early. Argentina had the bulk of the play in the first ten minutes and even earned a penalty from fly-half Domingo Miotti in the seventh minute. However, the U.S. soon were able to exploit holes in the Argentinian defense.
The Eagles first chance came as Magie put in a nice chip to Mike Te'o. From the sequence the U.S. got a penalty advantage. However, rather than elected to go for the points with the strong wind at their back they went for the lineout. It didn't work and the U.S. came up empty but it wouldn't last for long. Just a few minutes later after another Argentina penalty the U.S. elected to have Cima attempt a 60+ meter penalty from a slight angle. Cima was bang on with the kick to even it up at 3-3.
After the penalty the U.S. kept up the attack. Their passing was crisp throughout the match and they turned that into meters gained. Then the breakthrough came. Baumann did well to pop the ball loose from the Argentinian attack deep in Eagles territory. The ball came out to Nate Augspurger who zig-zagged through before being caught agonizingly close to the line. He sent a hopeful offload out that was skillfully handled by Magie who then crawled over the line for the score. The conversion missed but through 30 minutes the Eagles led 8-3.
Argentina had plenty of chance in the first half and had more possession but each time the U.S. defense seemed to come up big. That translated into points for the Eagles. From an attacking maul the U.S. found David Tameilau at the back of the maul who peeled away for the try. With only minutes left in the half the U.S. found themselves up 15-3.
Still, the Argentinian pressure was eventually going to result in a try. With no time left in the half Argentina found themselves attempting five meter scrum after five meter scrum thanks to multiple U.S. penalties. When Argentina did swing it out wide Mike Te'o went for the intercept but knocked it on into touch. The referee ruled that he did that intentionally and not only awarded the penalty try but Te'o would be sentenced to the bin for the first ten minutes of the second half. At the break the U.S. led 15-10.
Despite the try the Eagles had played a fantastic half and under the gun they mostly held out during the first ten minutes of the second half. The first part of the second half was hampered with feistiness from both teams. Argentina once again forced the U.S. into penalty after penalty meters short. It then got worse for the Eagles as Tameilau was sent to the bin for what was called a stamp. However, it was evened out not a minute later when scrumhalf Sebastian Cancelliere, who was arguably Argentina's best player on the day, was also shown yellow for a similar infraction. In the end the U.S. defense couldn't hold and Argentina were awarded their second penalty try. That put them in the lead at 17-15. Miotti would add a second penalty to push the lead to 20-15.
The penalty try seemed to light a fire under Argentina and they began to make connections. Their passing picked up and they found more holes in the U.S. defense. Soon they found a gap that would lead to a Gabriel Ascarate try to extend the lead to 27-15.
Rather than put their heads down the U.S. rebounded and began to once again find their first half form. A number of substitutions also seemed to energize the team and they returned the favor with finding several gaps. Still, with time winding down and a 12 point deficit the U.S. couldn't find a way through.
That all changed with five minutes to go. It started with a Ryan Matyas break on the outside. The ball was then quickly worked to the other side of the pitch to Cam Dolan who ran into the corner. The conversion missed but the Eagles were only down a try. What was most impressive about the try was the fitness level the Eagles showed to run in support of Matyas's break. That wouldn't have happen in the past and being able to turn it on in the last ten minutes rather than fall apart is what is going to give them wins in the future.
With time winding down the Eagles found themselves only meters from the line. They were thwarted on their first several attempts but did earn a couple of penalties on Argentina. After one penalty and after the hooter had sounded the Eagles elected to go for the set play from the tap. The first push put them close to the line and then Tameilau ran an excellent support line to crash under the posts. Cima hit the easy conversion and the bonus point try gave the Eagles the win.
This is a win that the Eagles and fans will remember a long time. It may have come during a development tournament but it was still over a good side. Also, the Eagles showed improvement every week. They went into the tournament looking for depth and to work on key skills and it appears that they have found that. Plus, it gives them momentum heading into a big match against Ireland this summer and World Cup qualifying.
Tries: Magie, Tameilau (2), Dolan
Conversions: Cima (2)
Tries: Penalty (2), Ascarate
Conversions: Penalty (2), Miotti
Penalties: Miotti (2)