United States drop RWC finale to Tonga, 31-19

United States drop RWC finale to Tonga, 31-19

The Unites States entered Sunday night’s finale hungry for a win before departing Japan with a similarly eager Tonga on the other end. Looking to leave on a high note, the Men’s Eagles displayed some defensive resiliency but weren’t able to hold a late Tongan surge and eventually fall 31-19. The USA will close the books on their Rugby World Cup 2019 campaign 0-4, but in a positive light return to their clubs with quality experience.

“We spoke before the game about taking advantage of opportunities,” commented Head Coach Gary Gold, “We had a fantastic passage of play for 18 phases, but we lose the ball and they run the length of the field, so that was the game gone.

“Disappointed from that point of view, but from another point of view I’m incredibly proud of this group. You can really see how hard they have worked in trying to make a statement.”

Tonga kicked off into the strong wind to start the game where a series of turnovers ensued from each side. While the USA spent a majority of time in their own end, the story for Tonga was costly errors that kept them off the board on a number of occasions. One or two sure breakaways resulted in fumbles and knock ons where the US remained encouraged to keep the pressure.

Spending time within their own 22-meter line, The United States defense however was noticeably resilient with earned turnovers on their own try line. The first break for Tonga came in the 17th minute when Viliami Lolohea laid down a number of fends up the middle to gain ground. Out of the ruck Tonga was able to fall over the line for the first seven points.

Soon after Blaine Scully walked off the field with injury where Mike Te’o subbed on in the 20th minute. Making an immediate impact, Te’o found himself with space on the wing, quickly cut back towards the middle to avoid a tackle and find the pay dirt. Not five minutes later the Eagles were back on the Tonga 5-meter line and began phases with drives on the gain line. A fumbled ball backwards conveniently allowed Will Hooley to spin around and collect it, only to find Te’o again out wide, this time undefended and free to pace in for another try.

Looking to take momentum into halftime, Tonga raced up the wing where Fisiihoi carried the ball clear into the endzone but Ruben De Haas in chase wrapped for a tackle from behind and was able to get a hand on the ball – forcing a knock on before he could fall on the ball for points.

Heading into halftime, the United States had their first lead of the tournament, 12-7.

As the second half kicked off, the aerial game started with almost a dozen kick and returns. Tonga again found themselves on the attack, but again committed the error with a miss pass over the head of their open wing.

Tonga’s errors came as the United States continued to capitalize on the miscues and hold pressure, no matter field location. More times than not when Tonga would find themselves knocking on the door of the USA line, resilient defense earned turnovers and kept points off the board. That resilience showed in the 51’ when Tonga elected to kick for posts over the 5-meter scrum.

Heading into the homestretch, USA held a slim 12-10 lead.

Tonga began to gain control off a USA miscue where quality phasing from the Eagles resulted in a turnover and Tonga noticed the undefended backfield. A kick into space turned foot race for the ball swung in the oppositions favor and Tonga earned back the lead. In short order, they would earn their own pair of back-to-back tries four minutes later. Just like that, the United States find themselves in a 24-12 hole.

Gold noted, “You know that’s what Tonga bring, they’re able to work magic, are good steppers and can ask some good questions of our defense.”

Following a flurry of subs with Nate Augspurger now on at scrumhalf directing traffic, Tony Lamborn was able to pick and go under the posts with a minute left, giving the USA hope but desperate for possession with time expiring.

Tonga earned yardage to the USA line where a penalty earned them a set piece. Surprisingly opting out of the dagger penalty goal, both teams went to scrum and Tonga was able to capitalize on the left and dive in for the last try of the game. Sealing the 31-19 victory. Regardless of result, this well contested match was a cracker for fans to watch.

Captain Blaine Scully reflected on the tournament as a whole, “I think if anything it demonstrates how hard it is to win a game at the Rugby World Cup. We demonstrated that we are a competitive team, but the margin is very small between being competitive here and getting a result.

But that the game of rugby, that’s life in the area. For us it’s about squeezing every bit we can out of this experience where hopefully it can catapult this team into the next four-year cycle.”

Gold continued, “There was a tremendous amount of learnings that we have taken and will continue to take when we reflect on this World Cup campaign. None more so than our ability to take opportunities.

There are aspects of our game that we have seen now through this tournament, that we now need to put a lot of time and energy into. We’re disappointed to come away now, but we’re a better team because of it.”

When it’s all said and done, a winless stretch is not what the Eagles had hoped for when they first gathered for this assembly back in June, but quality experience and proud representation of their country was wholeheartedly earned. With the squad returning home to MLR and their respective clubs, a sense of unity can be visibly seen between each man. Looking ahead to France 2023, the team and union remain encouraged.

United States improve in 47-17 loss to Argentina

United States improve in 47-17 loss to Argentina

The Men’s Eagles arrived in Kumagaya on longer rest than their opponent Argentina who faced a strong England squad only four days prior. Despite the imbalance, Los Pumas showed their endurance against a hungry United States team looking to upset here in Japan. Moreover, this match marked the third-place position in Pool C and automatic qualification for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France. The Eagles showed improvement from the early rounds with offensive strides starting to click, but eventually fell in the end, 47-17.

“Disappointed in the outcome, but really proud of the effort.” Head Coach Gary Gold noted post-match, “I think you can see how hard the guys played and how hard they worked. We fought back really well at the end of the first half, which makes me very very proud. Similar situation in the second half where we lost our way a bit but carried on the fight.”

In reflection, it will be a very profitable exercise. This is what we want to do, we want to play three teams who are top ten in the world.”

In a special match for #8 Cam Dolan earning his 50th cap and becoming only the 11th Men’s Eagle to do so, the crowd was able to salute the athlete as he ran on to the field pre-anthems by himself. A worthy recognition for the NOLA Gold stand out.

The USA hunger for an upset became apparent early when Hanco Germishuys reeled in the opening kickoff and plowed right into Argentina tackles, breaking through for meters gained. A small shuffle early saw Martin Iosefo sub in for Paul Lasike after a needed blood sub where Iosefo made an immediate impact with a sprint down the line. Back and forth line outs would follow and soon after so did a wrapped up Lasike. From the looks of it, the United States were able to set pace early.

First points looked to come from Argentina attempting to dot down under the posts, but a TMO review showed Tony Lamborn was able to hold Felippe Ezcurra up in goal. No try called. The USA soon followed with a drive of their own where Bryce Campbell broke tackles on the wing and moved the ball back across field. AJ MacGinty looked to use his quick feet for space and pass out wide but it fell just short of Marcel Brache and conceded the knock on. The Eagles however seemed to find a better offensive rhythm in game three here.

Captain Blaine Scully commented on his team’s progression, “I think early we were able to find our foothold. We were able to have a pretty good amount of possession inside the 22 although we weren’t able to convert. We were able to weather some storms and create some pressure, ended up getting that try at the end of the first half.”

The opening try would eventually fall to Argentina in the 19th minute. The Pumas found themselves in space quite often in the first half sprinting away to crowd roars. Despite a valiant chase from Mike Te’o, Nicolas Sanchez found the corner and added five for Argentina. Not long after, the kick and chase into the endzone worked in their favor and the USA were suddenly down 0-19 with Joaquin Tuclet earning back-to-back tries.

USA would carry momentum into halftime however, after a brilliant grubber kick from AJ MacGinty into the try zone. Captain Blaine Scully then outpaced his defender to reach the ball and dot down. Noticeably amped up after the score, Scully threw his hands in the air and saluted the USA fans in the stands ahead. With time expired the teams went into break.

The second half spelled more of the same for Argentina as Juan Cruz Mallia came out trucking and burned the USA for a pair of tries, earning him man of the match. Much coming off the USA line out where the Eagles struggled. Throughout the match, the United States would lose five of their own lineouts.

Gold then went to the bench early on in the second half to bring fresh legs and pace into the game. That showed immediately with Olive Kilifi pressing hard on the gain line and moving the ball. USA was given advantage from the line out and looked to have a try under posts, but a held-up call brought it back. Given advantage, the Eagles had another go at it, only this time rolling into touch and allowing Argentina to turn the tables for another breakaway try. Argentina found themselves on the run quite a bit over the full 80 minutes.

“I think we started the second half really well,” added Scully, “We won a kick off and had a scrum, ended up getting very deep inside their territory, but turned the ball over with a really elusive runner where we’re all of a sudden back inside our own 22 and that’s when momentum kicks back. That happened two or three times in pretty quick succession.”

With time closing in, the last gasp emerged from the United States. Off the boot of MacGinty, the Eagles were able to collect space quickly quite a few times with the kick to touch. Finally, in the 60th minute, Lasike capitalized with a TMO awarded try. USA chipping away late, down 12-40.

The game progressed a bit chaotic in the end with fast turnovers at midfield and a few dashing attempts. Clearly exhausted on both sides, the scrambles looked to work in the Eagle favor as most possession was held on the USA side for the final few minutes.

Later resulting in an 83’ try from Scully as he was found undefended on the wing and collecting a rainbow pass for points. The gong sounds, Argentina win and earn Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification. The final try supported better stats for the United States here in game three in terms of offense. As possession, territory and carries were split evenly with the Pumas, marking the Eagles have started to build their attacking threat more noticeably.

The final match for the United States will come in Hanazono against Tonga on Sunday Oct. 13th. Both teams enter without a win here in Japan, setting the stage for a battle on NBC Sports Network at 1:45AM ET.

Men’s Eagles hold their own against France, fall late 33-9.

Men’s Eagles hold their own against France, fall late 33-9.

Despite being one of the leading teams in this 2019 tournament, France took the field and seemed a fair pairing early with the United States. The Eagles showed, for a majority of the match, they can in fact pose a threat to any of the Tier One nations they are set to face here in Japan. Off the boot of AJ MacGinty, the USA was able to keep the score close through 66 minutes, before the French offense began to click and runaway with the 33-9 victory.

Head Coach Gary Gold commented post-match, “I’m incredibly proud of this group, we went toe to toe but when you play against a team of the French caliber, where they’ve got so many great play makers who can hurt you when you make mistakes, they punish you.”

The night began with a brief period of heavy rain during the national anthems and into the first few minutes of the match. Despite the down pour only lasting a few moments, the damp conditions we’re visibly a challenge as both teams struggled to hold possession of the ball and concede a series of knock-ons. Despite the opportunities, France was able to keep in the driver’s seat with play remaining in the Eagles end for the majority of the early going.

France drew first blood with a try up the middle from Yoann Huget in the 5th minute. With ball movement a challenge in the wet conditions, the ball seemed to bounce in French favor to give early points.

In the flurry of turnovers, the United States did well to earn penalties in the first half where France gave the ball over a total of eight times.

This series of penalties would play in the United States favor during the first half, where most yardage was gained through the air as MacGinty did well kicking to touch. Before the half, MacGinty was able to bring the tee out and slot two penalty goals for 6 points. Knowing a close game would keep the French scattered, Coach Gold looked to always put points on the board.

When asked if he could see the French playing nervous, Captain Blaine Scully replied, “It was always part of the game plan. If we were able to effectively put on pressure, there would be that seed of doubt that could sink in. By and large, I think we were able to do that through the first 70 minutes, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do.”

Going into the break, the USA found themselves in a manageable 6-point deficit.

The second half would spell a different story for the French. Despite first points going to the US on another penalty kick from MacGinty, France was able to find their rhythm offensively with well executed phases carrying the ball downfield. Fumbled passes and knock ons that plagued the team early seemed to dissipate, resulting in back-to-back tries from Gael Fickou and Baptiste Serin in the 67th and 69th minute. In an instant, ending the USA’s shot at an upset.

Visibly different play in the final minutes ended up being the difference, add on a final try from Jefferson Poirot, and the final whistle blew on a 33-9 French win in Fukuoka.

“I think we were in the game the whole way,” noted Scully, “The score just got away from us in the end.”

In the post-match press conference, Gold very proudly reiterated his views on this team’s position against the toughest pool in Japan, “We planned and prepared ourselves against these four teams, we came in wanting to give ourselves a chance against all of them. We genuinely did.

I’m really confident going into the Argentina game. I’m even more confident after seeing the courage the guys showed after a severe loss against England, despite the travel and 6-day turnaround. There was an incredible amount of enthusiasm shown as they came out to play against France and have no reason to believe they won’t do the same in a few days time.”

The United States now goes into break where they travel north for Kumagaya and a match with Argentina. Catch that match and more, LIVE on NBC Sports.

United States overwhelmed by England in 45-7 loss to open RWC2019

United States overwhelmed by England in 45-7 loss to open RWC2019

The Men’s Eagles came into Thursday night’s match up ranked 10 positions lower than their English opponents, but you wouldn’t have known it given the overwhelming patriotic support from fans at home and in Japan. The party came to a stop at Kobe Misaki Stadium as England took ownership of the match early and never let up on their way to a 45-7 victory. Knowing the opening match would be the hardest test, the United States heads off to Fukuoka for their next fixture with France, October 2 on NBC Sports Network.

England dominated at scrum time and caught the USA on their heels on the wings to display a textbook performance. Missed tackles plagued the Eagles in open space and the score line reflected. England’s lopsided possession resulted in 157 carries vs 58 for England and the USA respectively.

Despite the overwhelming score, the American offense was able to click after time expired and allow Bryce Campbell a try off the bench. When asked post-match if he was happy with any facet of his team’s game, Head Coach Gary Gold simply answered, “No.”

Likely the most physical 80 minutes this team has played in some time, the hard-nosed England Red Roses came out swinging where George Ford opened scoring up the middle. Billy Vunipola and Luke Cowan-Dicke followed suite and only 32 minutes in, the United States was down 19 points.

In the early going, it seemed the United States would hold their own against the World Ranked #3 team. Possession would go back and fourth from the opening kick off, but an early injury exit from David Ainu’u slowed the US momentum. Going into halftime however, the lead was however a manageable 19-0.

The second half resulted in a shoot out for England as four separate players earned tries, bringing the total to seven when it was all said and done. The United States faced with an uphill battle, not knowing where the threat would come from at each corner of the pitch.

Troubles would pile up for the United States in the later half of the final 40 minutes where a no-arm tackle from John Quill earned a red card and scuffle on the pitch. Similarly, Will Hooley took a high hit and was carted off the field. In noticeable pain, Hooley was however mobile and waived to the crowd when exiting.

The one glimmer of light came after time had expired where Ruben De Haas and Martin Iosefo found open space and sprinted the ball toward the English line. Despite a turnover to, Ben Landry was able to counter ruck and find Bryce Campbell up the middle. USA chants emerged from the crowd and the USA had their first try of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

When asked about the final try, Captain Blaine Scully commented, “It was probably indicative of our effort, I guess it was fortunate to get one on the scoreboard.”

Scully continued, “England is a really good rugby team, we didn’t have much possession but proud of the effort and we have a few areas for us to clean up.”

The United States now moves on to Fukuoka where France awaits following a victory over Argentina. That match along with each Pool C fixture can be seen LIVE on NBC Sports Network and NBC Sports Gold.

PHOTO CREDIT – MIKE LEE

USA Rugby names 31-player squad for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan

USA Rugby names 31-player squad for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan

The No. 13 USA Men’s National Team XVs officially announce the 31-player squad for Rugby World Cup Japan 2019.

Head Coach Gary Gold has named 18 forwards and 13 backs with 10 players having previously competed in a Rugby World Cup (RWC). Three will look ahead to their third World Cup event including Captain Blaine Scully, Eric Fry and Thretton Palamo. Scully and Fry both competed in 2011 and 2015 while Palamo competed in 2007 as the youngest player in history to appear in a RWC event and 2015.

The group features three Rio 2016 Olympians including Nate Augspurger, Martin Iosefo and Ben Pinkelman. Pinkelman and Iosefo were both recently instrumental in leading the USA Men’s Sevens program to their most successful season in history.

More than half of the named squad began playing rugby at the youth level (middle school and earlier) with another 12 picking up the sport in high school and three doing so in college. A total of 29 players can be considered multi-sport athletes, having played in an official program for a sport other than rugby at one point in their athletic career.

The full squad features 677 cumulative test caps.

USA FORWARDS

NamePositionClubCaps
David Ainu’uPropToulouse8
Malon Al-JibooriFlankerUnattached5
Nate BrakeleyLockRugby United New York21
Nick CivettaLockUnattached23
Cam DolanNo. 8NOLA Gold47
Dylan FawsittHookerRugby United New York12
Eric FryPropVannes45
Hanco GermishuysFlankerGlendale Raptors17
James HilterbrandHookerManly Marlins19
Olive KilifiPropSeattle Seawolves27
Tony LambornFlankerHawke’s Bay Magpies (NZL)19
Titi LamositelePropSaracens28
Ben LandryLockEaling Trailfinders22
Paul MullenPropUnattached14
Gregory PetersonLockNewcastle Falcons26
Ben PinkelmanFlankerUSA Sevens1
John QuillFlankerRugby United New York36
Joseph Taufete’eHookerWorcester Warriors23

USA BACKS

NAMEPOSITIONCLUBCAPS
Blaine Scully (C)WingUnattached50
Nate AugspurgerScrumhalf / WingSan Diego Legion24
Marcel BracheCenter/WingWestern Force19
Bryce CampbellCenterLondon Irish28
Shaun DaviesScrumhalfGlendale Raptors25
Ruben De HaasScrumhalfFree State Cheetahs13
Will HooleyFullbackBedford Blues12
Martin IosefoWingUSA Sevens6
Paul LasikeCenterHarlequins16
AJ MacGintyFlyhalfSale Sharks24
Will MagieFlyhalfUnattached25
Thretton PalamoCenterHouston SaberCats18
Mike Te’oWingSan Diego Legion24

Head Coach Gary Gold said: “We’ve picked a pretty balanced team, we’ve gone with 18 forwards and 13 backs. We think that the attrition for this Rugby World Cup, especially our pool, is going to take it out of our forwards, so we’ve gone with an extra forward. We’ve got good depth in almost every position, I think we’re well covered. Where I think we are very lucky is that we’ve got quite a few guys who can play in multiple positions. From that point of view, we thought long and hard about those combinations and how we can best make up the combinations for the squad and what’s going to be a rather attritious pool.”

VIEW FULL COMMENTS BY HEAD COACH GARY GOLD
As the ninth edition of the quadrennial event, the World Cup will run from September 20 – November 2 with the Eagles drawn in Pool C against England (No. 3), France (No. 8), Argentina (No. 11) and Tonga (No. 15).

The United States men have appeared in all but one Rugby World Cup event (1995) with three total wins in the group stages including Japan in 1987 and 2003, as well as Russia in 2011.

In the four years since the last World Cup in England, the Eagles have improved from a 3-5 test match record in 2016 to a 9-1 test match record in 2018. The team will go into Japan 6-2 in test matches this year.

All media inquiries should be forwarded to Aalina Tabani at atabani@usa.rugby.

BROADCAST INFORMATION
Rugby World Cup Japan 2019 will be broadcast LIVE across NBC Sports properties in the United States. A total 26 matches will be aired on NBCSN linear television network including all USA pool games and the Final on November 2nd. Fans can watch every game LIVE and on demand through the NBC Sports Gold package available for purchase here.

Live updates, match reports and other content will be available by following @USARugby on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Fans are encouraged to use the hashtags #EaglesUnited and #USMNTXVs across the tournament.

RUGBY WORLD CUP JAPAN 2019 POOL C SCHEDULE
vs England
September 26 | 6:45 AM ET
Kobe Misaki Stadium
WATCH | NBCSN + NBC Sports Gold

vs France
October 2 | 3:45 AM ET
Fukuoka Hakatanomori Stadium
WATCH | NBCSN + NBC Sports Gold

vs Argentina
October 9 | 12:45 AM ET
Kumagaya Rugby Stadium
WATCH | NBCSN + NBC Sports Gold

vs Tonga
October 13 | 1:45 AM ET
Hanazono Rugby Stadium
WATCH | NBCSN + NBC Sports Gold