USA RUGBY Release by AALINA TABANI – Photo Neil Kennedy
Nearly two years since last taking the pitch, the USA Men’s XVs National Team met No. 3 world-ranked England in their home at Twickenham. After a disappointing first half where the English dominated at nearly every outset, the United States came back with an incredible energy to win the second half at 26-17, despite losing the match at 43-29.
It stands, without question, that the second half performance against England is a testament to the growth of Major League Rugby. Where years ago the USA men would struggle to keep players in competitive, full-time training environments, every athlete is exposed to a high performance environment day-in and day-out. That, leveraged against the long absence of international rugby, allowed the Eagles to make a statement.
“Before the game, we were going to be judged on intent and clarity of roles,” said Captain Bryce Campbell. “It’s been a short, short turnaround and the boys really brought it. Especially with the challenge that we had at halftime to go out and win the second half, and we did that. Just really proud of the effort. We know we have a really talented group of players and when we get enough time together we can do something really special.”
England had some scrummaging trouble in the first half which led to flyhalf Luke Carty slotting a penalty for an early U.S. lead. The opposition dominated possession for the majority of the first half, reading the USA very well on both sides of the ball to win space on the edge and slide through open pockets elsewhere.
England’s kicking strategy was also impressive. The young side managed territory, reacted quickly and used support players to move the ball consistently through short and sharp phases. They led 26-3 at halftime.
The first half’s victory became the second half’s nightmare as the Eagles came back to the field with a chilling confidence. When England slapped the ball away from Ruben de Haas at the scrum, the USA rolled its maul like magic for Jamason Fanana-Schultz to dot down.
A number of small mistakes allowed England to stay competitive, however. Even though it was clear that both sides were worn after an hour of play — the vibrant energy of the Americans put on a show that put the crowd on its feet through the last 40 minutes.
In all, the United States scored another three tries — each more brilliant than the one before. In the 57th minute, Cam Dolan blocked an English box kick to reclaim the ball in the try zone for a serendipitous feat after England’s Joe Blamire did the exact same thing to Ruben de Haas moments earlier.
Hanco Germishuys proved the maul to be the Eagles biggest asset when he dove over the tryline in the 74th minute to nearly cut the deficit in half. Germishuys try was followed by an incredible team effort that saw Mikey Te’o feed the ball to Mika Kruse on the wing, after which Kruse tossed to Michael Baska who found Christian Dyer for an incredible run mid-posts.
Dyer’s try comes on the same day he makes his national team debut from the bench, having left the USA Sevens Residency program just last week after Quest for Gold Sevens.
The United States will next face No. 4 world-ranked Ireland on Saturday, July 10 at Aviva Stadium. KO is set for 2 PM Eastern Time with a live stream on florugby.com.
TRIES | Jamason Fanana-Schultz, Cam Dolan, Hanco Germishuys, Christian Dyer
PENS | Luke Carty
CONS | Luke Carty (3)
USA Men’s XVs National Team Roster
1. David Ainu’u
2. Mikey Sosene-Feagai
3. Paul Mullen
4. Gregory Peterson
5. Nick Civetta
6. Jamason Fanana-Schultz
7. Riekert Hattingh
8. Cam Dolan
9. Ruben De Haas
10. Luke Carty
11. Mika Kruse
12. Calvin Whiting
13. Bryce Campbell (C)
14. Mike Te’o
15. Marcel Brache
16. Joe Taufete’e (in for Mike Sosene-Feagai)
17. Matt Harmon (in for David Ainu’u)
18. Dino Waldren (in for Paul Mullen)
19. Nate Brakeley (in for Nick Civetta)
20. Psalm Wooching (in for Jamason Fanana-Schultz)
21. Hanco Germishuys (in for Riekert Hattingh)
22. Mike Baska (in for Ruben de Haas)
23. Christian Dyer (in for Marcel Brache)