Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
It wasn’t the prettiest and it certainly wasn’t overwhelming, but it was a victory. A Test victory at that and on the road to boot. Most will say that a Test match win is exactly that… a Test match win and not to be taken for granted. This is exactly one of those occasions.
While USA Eagle fans will, no doubt, be a bit disappointed by the final result… it’s still a Test win.
Did I mention it was on the road?
Winning on the road is just plain hard. Especially for the Eagles as road wins have been hard to come by and even more so if you overlook their road wins over Uruguay in RWC qualifying.
The Eagles leave Lisbon tomorrow with a win as they defeated Portugal 22-17 in the first IRB ranking test of their November Tour. American flyhalf, Nese Malifa, had his kicking boots on today and tries from Takudzwa Ngwenya, Andrew Suniula, and Paul Emerick handed the USA a win.
In the first half the Eagle attack was strong and the USA back three Takudzwa Ngwenya, Chris Wyles and Kevin Swiryn looked to be in devastating form. The American forwards were tenacious and the scrums and line outs were solid, allowing the backs time and space to attack from set piece.
Lock John van der Giessen was replaced by Inaki Basauri in a blood substitution, but van der Giessen would not return to the match. Louis Stanfill moved to second row and Basauri took over at blindside flanker.
Usually known for his blistering pace but not necessarily for his power, Ngwenya’s fend was very effective and earned him a five pointer for the Eagles in the 28th minute. After a nice break through the defense, a Portuguese defender stood straight in Ngwenya’s path and would soon regret it. The defender was likely expecting an ankle-breaking side step, but Ngwenya put it in overdrive and ran over the would-be tackler.
Malifa kicked the tricky conversion from near the sideline to tack on the extra two. Malifa cashed in with the boot one more time in the first half, bringing the USA tally to ten. Portugal only managed to kick two penalties compliments of their flyhalf, Joseph Gardener, in the first half giving the home team six points.
The USA’s second half scoring opened when Eagle inside center, Andrew Suniula, sliced through the Portuguese defense and slid in for a try. Malifa converted, giving the USA 17 points to Portugal’s nine (Portugal slotted a penalty early in the second half).
Four minutes after Suniula’s score, Eagle veteran Paul Emerick busted through Portuguese tackles in an explosive run to the line and touched down with what ended up as the game sealing try. The Americans had most of the second half possession and played much of the game, aside from a late-game surge from Portugal, in the opposition’s half.
The late Portuguese jolt forced the Eagles to defend the try line for several minutes, and JJ Gaganio was sent to the bin for cynical play shortly after he took over for Nic Johnson. Portugal capitalized on the man advantage and their blindside flanker, Vasco Uva, scored a try.
As in the Tour opener against Saracens earlier in the week, the American defense was strong and the set piece was effective. Those strengths, paired with a precise kicking game and aggressive kick chase, kept Portugal pinned down and the Eagles pressured them in nearly every phase. The American loose forwards led the charge and kept Portugal scrambling for possession.
Long time Eagle, Mike MacDonald inched closer to a milestone as he got his 59th cap for the USA, bringing him closer to the American record of 62, currently held by Luke Gross.
The Eagles will face Scotland ‘A’ on November 19 and will finish their tour with another IRB ranking test against Georgia in Tblisi on November 27.
For match results and updates, visit http://www.usarugby.org and follow USA Rugby on Facebook and Twitter (@usaeaglesrugby).
USA Eagles: 22 – Tries: Ngwenya (28’), Suniula (56’), Emerick (60’) Conversions: Malifa (28’), (56’) Penalties: Malifa (34’)
1 Mate Moeakiola (Bobigny 93), 2 Phil Thiel (Life University), 3 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh), 4 Scott Lavalla (Dublin University), 5 John van der Giessen (Bath), 6 Louis Stanfill (Mogliano), 7 Todd Clever (Suntory)*, Nic Johnson (Denver Barbarians), 9 Tim Usasz (Nottingham), 10 Nese Malifa (Glendale), 11 Kevin Swiryn (Agen), 12 Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins), 13 Setareki Tuilevuka (Montpellier), 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz), 15 Chris Wyles (Saracens)
Reserves: 16 Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate), 17 Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie), 18 Jonathon Gaganio (Eastern Province), 19 Inaki Basauri (L’aquila), 20 Mike Petri (Sale), 21 Tai Enosa (Belmont Shore), 22 Paul Emerick (Ulster)
Substitutions: Basauri on for van der Giessen (28’), Emerick on for Seta Tuilevuka (50’), MacDonald on for Moeakiola (60’), Gaganio on for Johnson (60’), Petri on for Usasz (72’), Biller on for Thiel (72’)
Portugal: 17 – Tries: V. Uva (73’) Penalties: Gardner (X4)
1 Cristian Spachuk (Colomiers Rugby) 2 João Correia (G.D. Direito)* 3 Anthony Alves (Montauban) 4 Gonçalo Uva (Montpellier) 5 Juan Severino (AEIS Agronomia) 6 Vasco Uva (G.D. Direito) 7 Julien Bardy (Clermont Auvergne) 8 Tiago Girão (CDUL) 9 José Pinto (G.D. Direito)** 10 Joseph Gardner (Aubenas) 11 Antonio Aguilar (G.D. Direito) 12 Pedro Silva (CF Belenenses) 13 Frederico Oliveira (CDUL) 14 José Lima (AEIS Agronomia) 15 Pedro Leal (G.D. Direito)
16 Lionel Campergne (Section Paloise) 17 Ivo Morais (Chateurenard) 18 Rui D’orey (G.D. Direito) 19 Laurent Balangué (Colomiers Rugby) 20 Pedro Cabral (CDUL) 21 Francisco Mira (AEIS Agronomia) 22 Gonçalo Foro (CDUL)