June 20, 2016
USA Men’s Eagles vs Italy Goes Down to the Wire
The USA Men’s Eagles battled Italy toe to toe for eighty minutes with Italy emerging with a 24-20 win. This was the first of two June Test matches with this one at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California.
Although the Eagles would take the early lead, for much of the match, only one point separated the teams. This match provided one of the best opportunities for the Eagles to gain their first win against a Tier One nation. Although it did not occur this time, the Eagles appear to be making giant strides on the international front.
John Mitchell, Eagles Head Coach, indicated that he was pleased how the team contested play for the entire match. He said “I thought we played excellent test match rugby and stayed on task in the defensive end. That was the plan. We stayed in the contest a long time. It was a good performance even though it wasn’t a winning performance. The guys presented themselves the opportunity to win the test match, which is really pleasing.”
This match represented the fifth test match and the sixth match since Mitchell took the helm. It also was the first time that he was able to select the team composition.
USA v Italy
The Eagles went on the attack from the start. Four minutes into the match there was a pause in the match that resulted from a kick by Nate Augspurger and a chase by Taku Ngwenya. In flying down the pitch after the kick, Ngwenya collided with Leonardo Sato. Both players were down for some time and were then substituted for by Mikey Te’o and Giovanbattista Venditto for the USA and Italy, respectively.
The Eagles delighted the crowd when they took the early lead after Italy was penalized with a scrum infraction. AJ MacGinty calmly slotted a 42 meter penalty kick for a 3-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Thretton Palamo was called for hitting an Italian player without the ball. Carlo Canna then tied the match at 3 all with a 30 meter penalty kick.
The Eagles then countered with another attack as Will Holder broke deep into Azzurri territory supported with tow teammates. Carlo Canna intentionally hit the ball away and was sent to the bin. The Eagles were then awarded a penalty try and MacGinty converted for a 10-3 lead.
The Eagles needed to make a substitution soon after, as Tony Lamborn came on for Greg Peterson.
Italy would narrow the lead to 10-8 after Andrew Durutalo was penalized for entering from the side. This led to a set play of kicking to touch, winning the lineout and then Ornel Gega touching down in the corner from the ensuing maul. Luke McLean would miss the conversion.
It seemed like the Eagles would take the lead into halftime. That was not to be as Todd Clever was pinged for entering the breakdown from the side and Canna made the Eagles pay with a penalty kick for a 11-10 lead at halftime.
The second half began with Italy exerting early pressure. A few picks and goes in the red zone by the forwards set up a pass to Carlo Canna for a drop goal to increase Italy’s lead to 14-10.
The Eagles did not wilt by this and struck back with MacGinty and Holder finding gaps. Italy was then penalized and MacGinty added a penalty kick to close within one point of Italy’s lead.
At the 52nd minute, Italy’s Venditto crossed in goal, but was unable to ground the ball. Chris Baumann gained possession, but the referee did not observe his bringing the ball in-goal and called for a US 22 meter drop. He then called for a TMO which showed Baumann taking the ball back in and a 5 meter scrum went to Italy.
Prior to the scrum Joe Taufete’e was substituted for James Hilterbrand. A couple of penalties later, Cam Dolan was sent to the bin for pulling down a player during the lineout. Italy then executed a lineout into a maul that resulted in Ornel Gega gaining a second try. Canna converted and Italy had their largest lead of the match 21-13.
With twelve minutes remaining in the match, the Eagles made another substitution bringing in fresh legs as Ben Tarr entered for Chris Baumann at tight head prop. A minute later, the Eagles unleashed an attack that sent Palamo into contact. MacGinty then offloaded to Mikey Te’o whose quick hands to Tony Lamborn resulted in a try. With only 10 minutes left in the match, Italy clung to a 21-20 lead.
With five minutes left, Angus MacLellan would be the last substitution for the Eagles coming is for Titi Lamositele. MacLellan along with Tony Lamborne and Nate Augspurger earned their first Eagles VXs cap.
The final USA scoring opportunity came in the last minute of the match. Nate Augsburger blacked a kick and the Eagles appeared to poach the ball at the breakdown. The referee disagreed and indicated an infraction. Canna then slotted a penalty kick for a 24-20 win for Italy.
When assessing the match, the Eagles battled Italy for the entire match. They were relentless on both the attack and on defense. At times, they gave up their attack with kicks that might have been better served by trying to keep possession. The match is a positive barometer for the Eagles and their future is bright.
On June 25th the Eagles will play Russia in their second and final match of the June tests at Bonny Field in Sacramento., California. Tickets are still available for the match. It will also be broadcast on The Rugby Channel and on CBS Sports Network at 7pm PT.
USA Men’s Eagles: 1 Titi Lamositele 2 James Hilterbrand 3 Chris Baumann 4 Nate Brakeley 5 Greg Peterson 6 Andrew Durutalo 7 Todd Clever (C) 8 Cam Dolan 9 Nate Augspurger 10 AJ MacGinty 11 Taku Ngwenya 12 Shalom Suniula 13 Thretton Palamo 14 Blaine Scully 15 Will Holder 16 Joe Taufete’e 17 Ben Tarr 18 Angus MacLellan 19 Stephen Tomasin 20 Harry Higgins 21 Tony Lamborn 22 Chad London 23 Mikey Te’o Head Coach: John Mitchell Defense: Phil Greening Attack: Mike Friday Backs: Rob Hoadley Forwards: Marty Veale Strength & Conditioning: Chris Brown & Alex Ross Physiotherapists: Brian Finn & Rob Wassilak Mental Skill: Simon Hurry Manager: Sean Lindersmith
Italy: 1 Andrea Lovotti 2 Ornel Gega 3 Lorenzo Cittadini 4 Quintin Geldenhuys 5 Marco Fuser 6 Robert Barbieri 7 Simone Favaro 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk 9 Edoardo Gori (C) 10 Carlo Canna 11 David Odiete 12 Tommaso Castello 13 Michele Campagnaro 14 Leonardo Sarto 15 Luke McLean 16 Oliviero Fabiani 17 Sami Panico 18 Pietro Ceccarelli 19 Valerio Bernabo 20 Maxime Mbanda 21 Guglielmo Palazzani 22 Tommaso Allan 23 Giovanbattista Venditti Head Coach: Conor O’Shea
Men’s Eagles Summer Series 2016
20-24 v. Italy – Saturday, June 18 @ Avaya Stadium
v. Russia – Saturday, June 25 @ Bonney Field