USA Rugby Eagles Open ARC With Draw Against Argentina

February 7, 2016

USA Rugby Eagles Open ARC With Draw Against Argentina


Doug Coil

The inaugural Americas Rugby Championship ended in a 35-35 draw for the USA Rugby Men’s Eagles versus Argentina XV. It was packed with an exciting attacking brand of rugby with huge hits that thrilled the crowd, as well as the viewers, at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. The John Mitchell era has arrived and one leaves the match with high hopes for the team and the contributions of its coaches.

The Eagles had only a short time to prepare for this match. They needed to not only integrate new players into the team, but implement the new systems of Mitchell and assistants Phil Greening, Robert Hoadley, and Marty Veale.

The highlight reel certainly had many options of what to include after the outstanding performance by the Eagles. It will certainly include Taku Ngwenya’s hits and his try, James Bird and his kicks, Cam Dolan’s interception for a try, as well as Eric Fry’s try which I thought was going to seal a win for the Eagles.

The Eagles had six new starters when they took the pitch Saturday. They were involved from the start of the match, as the Eagles marched down into Argentina territory. At a breakdown Argentina was penalized for not releasing the ball. Flyhalf James Bird calmly slotted a 25 meter kick through the posts for a USA 3-0 lead after 3 minutes.

The Eagles then found themselves in defense deep in their territory, but were able to clear the ball and in the ensuing chase, Argentina was penalized for leaving their feet. James Bird then increased the Eagle lead to 6-0 with another kick. (8′)

Entering this match, their have have at times been concerns with the scrummaging of the Eagles. This has improved in the last year and in this match proved to be a strength against Argentina, who are well known for their scrum prowess. An Eagles scrum at the Argentina 22 meters resulted in a David Tameilau (#8) pop pass to srumhalf Niku Kruger who offloaded weak to Taku Ngwenya. Taku then slipped inside one defender and escaped another for a try. Bird converted and the Eagles had a 13-0 lead twelve minutes into the match.

The Eagles were playing defense with passion and were a force at the breakdowns. Their defense was finally pierced 16 minutes into the match when Tomás Carrió went over for a try and Domingo Miotti converted narrowing the score to 13-7.

Argentina then appeared to be on the verge of taking the lead when Joaquín Paz broke through the defense and ran for 50 meters. Taku Ngwenya showed his blazing speed in chasing him down and thwarting his try effort. This was temporary as captain Rodrigo Báez soon scored after a 5 meter scrum. Miotti converted and Argentina took a 14-13 lead. (22′)

Ngwenya almost had another try at the 30 minute mark, but was taken into touch 5 meters out. He took issue with Argentina scrumhalf Gonzalo Bertranou and some shoving ensued. Luckily advantage was being played for an Argentina infraction and he was not issued a yellow card. The penalty did allow the Eagles to remain the lead as James Bird slotted his third penalty kick. The USA now led 16-14.

Five minutes later, Joaquín Paz  would take an offload from Juan Cappiello for a try. Domingo Miotti continued to convert and Argentina reclaimed the lead 21-16. This was the score at halftime, as Bird was not successful in a penalty kick just a minute prior.

John Mitchell had these comments at halftime. “It wasn’t pretty.” “That was to be expected, but there was some good stuff, as well. We had a good start. The catching in our exit area was costly and that allowed them back in the match, and then we were slow to set our transitions. We got ourselves back in the fight after halftime.”

Argentina would have the first attempt to add to their score during the second half as the result of the Eagles not rolling away at the breakdown. The kick was short and went in goal and Blaine Scully touched down for a 22 meter drop.

Bird’s drop was tipped backwards and Kruger offloaded to Lemoto Filikitonga who was taken into touch. After the ensuing lineout by Argentina, a Niku Kruger tackle caused the ball to be dropped. Argentina was penalized for being off sides and Bird kicked into touch 5 meters from the try line.

The Eagles then had the opportunity to seemingly practice Lineout into maul attacks. Initially Todd Clever was held up in-goal, another Lineout was taken with the same result and after the third attempt, Eric Fry provided the impetus for Todd Clever to dive over for a try. This evened the match at 21-21 at the 45 minute mark. The conversion was missed.

Soon after, an Eagles clearing kick resulted in a highlight reel tackle by Ngwenya after the defender just caught the ball. He certainly thrilled his hometown crowd with play throughout the match.

A scrum went to the Eagles who then were penalized for an infraction. This started Argentina on the attack who broke through the Eagles defense and a dropped offload prevented a sure try along with Kingsley McGowan defending the recovery.

The Eagles defense continued to stifle an Argentina attack, but Gonzalo Bertranou was able to score a try off a quick tap from a penalty. Juan Leon Noville converted and the Eagles were down 28-21. (65′)

Cam Dolan anticipated a pass and intercepted the ball for a 55 meter try. Bird converted and the score was knotted once again at 28 all.

A minute later Todd Clever was ordered by the referee to leave the pitch and have a blood substitute. Prior to his leaving, he wanted to ensure a substitute would be on the pitch. Alec Gletzer entered as the substitute. This is another example of professional leadership under game conditions.

Mike Te’o who was a scoring force for the USA Falcons during their recent tour of Argentina and Chile for Sevens, entered the match at the 70 minute mark at scrum half. This was the first time he has played 15s for the national team. He impacted immediately with quick ball to his teammates. A combination of players contributed on the attack. David Tameilau advanced the ball to midfield, Chad London to the 22, Mike Sosene-Feagai advance through defenders before Olive Kilifi was stopped at the try line.

At the breakdown, Argentina’s Cappiello went to the bin. Bird kicked into touch for a Lineout and a Maul ensued. This time Eric Fry went in for a try and Bird converted. It appeared that the match might be won as only four minutes remained. This would not be the case as Tomás Carrió weaved in for a try with two minutes remaining. The conversion was good and the score was once again tied at 35-35.
The Eagles continued to go for the win. A scrum infraction has an opportunity for James Bird to be the Man of the Match with a gam e ending penalty kick at the 80 minute mark. It was unsuccessful. Miotti had his own attempt in injury time, but his kick was short. The match ended in a 35-35 draw.
It was a thrilling match for all. The Eagles can take many postives from the match. Their forwards were dominant in the scrums. They executed well in Lineouts and in Mauls. There defense coverage was good for most of the match and they attacked all night.

In the USA Rugby recap of the match by Chad Wise, ‘the four U.S. try-scorers have been mainstays with the team in recent years, with Dolan and Ngwenya scheduled to join their professional clubs overseas following the weekend, Fry to head back to Newcastle Falcons after the Canada match, and Clever staying only through the home matches.”

“We saw, when we were able to get in our systems, how effective it was,” Fry said of the new game plan under Mitchell. “The thing to shore up was between, when we turned the ball over and when we gave away the penalty and allowed a quick tap.

“So we have a lot of faith that this system can work very well. It’s very exciting. A lot of new boys – they brought a lot of energy and physicality, and you can see just how dangerous we’re going to become once we get these systems nailed down, once we get our fitness up.”

John Mitchell indicated “I think we’ve got a lot of work to do fitness-wise – that’s clear and obvious – but they stayed together,” Mitchell said of his team. “Some old things came out under fatigue, as well, but I thought the contribution by the replacements was very good.”

The Eagles will take on Canada next in Austin Feb. 13. The draw at BBVA Compass Stadium will re-air on ESPN2 Sunday, Feb. 7, at 8 p.m. ET.

In other Americas Rugby Championship action, Chile won 25-22 over Brazil and Canada beat Uruguay 33-17. Americas Rugby Championship gives for points for a win, 2 for a draw and 0 for a loss. Bonus points may be obtained by getting 4 or more tries and by a loss with 7 points or less.

After round one, Canada tops the charts with 5 points, Chile has 4, the United States and Argentina have 3, while Brazil has 1 and Uruguay 0. At the end of the five rounds the total points earned will determine the winner.

Prior to Round One matches DJCoil Rugby wrote a preview article of the Americas Rugby Championship.

Men’s Eagles | v. Argentina XV
1. Eric Fry
2. Joseph Taufete’e
3. Chris Baumann
4. Brodie Orth
5. Greg Peterson
6. Cam Dolan
7. Todd Clever
8. David Tameilau
9. Niku Kruger
10. James Bird
11. Kingsley McGowan
12. Lemoto Filikitonga
13. Chad London
14. Takudzwa Ngwenya
15. Blaine Scully (C)

Men’s Eagles | Reserves
16. Mike Sosene-Feagai
17. Olive Kilifi
18. James Hilterbrand
19. Ben Landry
20. Alec Gletzer
21. JP Eloff
22. Mike Te’o
23. Jake Anderson

Argentina XV | v. USA
1. Roberto Tejerizo
2. Santiago Iglesias
3. Felipe Arregui
4. Marcos Kremer
5. Ignacio Larrague
6. Rodrigo Báez (C)
7. Lautaro Bavaro
8. Santiago Montagner
9. Gonzalo Bertranou
10. Domingo Miotti
11. Tomás Carrió
12. Joaquín Paz
13. Juan Cappiello
14. Matías Orlando
15. Ramiro Moyano

Argentina XV | Reserves
16. Franco Brarda
17. Gaspar Baldunciel
18. Cristian Bartolini
19. Pedro Ortega
20. José Deheza
21. Lautaro Bazán Vélez
22. Juan Novillo
23. Juan Pablo Estellés

Men’s Eagles | Americas Rugby Championship Coaching Staff
John Mitchell – Head Coach
Phil Greening – Assistant Coach
Marty Veale – Assistant Coach
Rob Hoadley – Assistant Coach
David Williams – Strength and Conditioning Coach
Paul Goulding – Video Analyst
Sean Lindersmith – Team Manager

Men’s Eagles | 35
Tries: Ngwenya, Clever, Dolan, Fry
Conversions: Bird (3)
Penalties: Bird (3)

Argentina XV | 35
Tries: Carrió (2), Báez, Paz, Bertranou
Conversions: Miotti (4), Novillo (1)
Discipline: Cappiello (Yellow)

Men’s Eagles | Americas Rugby Championship 2016
v. Argentina – D 35-35
v. Canada – Saturday, Feb. 13 @ 7:10 p.m. ET – Dell Diamond (Austin, Texas)
v. Chile – Saturday, Feb. 20 @ 6:10 p.m. ET – Lockhart Stadium (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
v. Brazil – Saturday, Feb. 27 @ 3:10 p.m. ET – Arena Barueri (São Paolo, Brazil)
v. Uruguay – Saturday, March 5 @ 4:10 p.m. ET – Charrua Stadium (Montevideo, Uruguay)

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North American Rugby News With A USA Slant