Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
BOULDER, Colo. – Inspired by the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the USA Eagles produced a massive performance in their Rugby World Cup opener against Ireland on Sunday. The United States lost out 22-10 at Taranaki Stadium, but received tremendous support from the packed crowd, in a match that was closer than the score suggested.
Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, said: “I am extremely proud of the performance the guys delivered today. It was a very emotional occasion and controlling our emotions and channeling them into a positive performance was crucial for the outcome.”
It was a bruising encounter with the Eagles putting in bone-jarring hits on almost every Irish attack. The Eagles trailed 3-0 for most of the first half, and on the last play before the break, Ireland scored. The second period Ireland would put on 12 points, with the USA scoring 10.
“Against a tier one nation like Ireland, we were always going to spend long periods without the ball, so our defense was always going to be the cornerstone of our game plan,” commented O’Sullivan.
Despite rain, Taranaki Stadium saw 20,823 fans cheer on the first match of RWC in New Plymouth. Ireland held most of the possession, but through some ferocious defense from the Eagles, failed to cross the tryline for 39 minutes. The conditions were slippery, but the Eagles were determined to stop the Irish at all costs. Captain Todd Clever was outstanding on the day, leading his country by example.
Ireland’s flyhalf Jonathan Sexton kicked the first points of the match after 16 minutes. The Eagles had their own penalty attempt, but James Paterson’s kick drifted to the right of the poles. Scrumhalf and vice-captain Mike Petri almost sparked a try for the USA, with a well-placed box kick that speedster Takudzwa Ngwenya nearly collected meters from the tryline.
Ireland finally broke through to score, right on half time, thanks to winger Tommy Bowe. Sexton converted as Ireland lead 10-0 at the break.
The Eagles made 65 tackles in the first period, compared to Ireland’s 35. This did not affect the Eagles determination in the second half as they foiled several Irish attacks, then got on the scoreboard through a Paterson penalty. Ireland capitalized off two errors and scored in the 55th and 59th minutes via Rory Best and Bowe.
The Eagles were rewarded with a brilliant Paul Emerick intercept, with the center diving over to the chants of the crowd “USA USA USA!”. Replacement Nese Malifa kicked the conversion leaving the final score at 22-10 to Ireland.
“We now have a very brief 4-day turn around before we face Russia.” said O’Sullivan.
Prop Mike MacDonald made history by winning his 63rd cap for the Eagles, leading out his country against Ireland. MacDonald overtakes the previous record set by Luke Gross.
Earlier on September 11th the Eagles squad attended a 9-11 Memorial Service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. At Taranaki Stadium the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band was part of the pre-match build-up on this historic occasion. Both teams also had a moment of silence to commemorate 9/11.
15 Blaine Scully (Unattached)
14 Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz)
13 Paul Emerick (Life University)
12 Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins)
11 James Paterson (Highlanders)
10 Roland Suniula (Boston Rugby)
9 Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club)
1 Mike MacDonald (Leeds Carnegie)
2 Phil Thiel (Life University)
3 Shawn Pittman (London Welsh)
4 John van der Giessen (Unattached)
5 Hayden Smith (Saracens)
6 Louis Stanfill (Unattached)
7 Todd Clever (Suntory Sungoliath) *Captain
8 Nic Johnson (Unattached)
16 Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate)
17 Mate Moeakiola (Bobigny 93)
18 Scott LaValla (Stade Francais)
19 Pat Danahy (Life University)
20 Tim Usasz (Nottingham RFC)
21 Nese Malifa (Glendale)
22 Colin Hawley (Olympic Club)
USA Tries: Emerick (80’)
USA Conversions: Malifa (81’)
USA Penalties: Paterson (53’)
Malifa on for R.Suniula (58’), Moeakiola on for MacDonald (62’), Usasz on for Petri (66’), Biller on for Thiel (67’)
15 Geordan Murphy
14 Tommy Bowe
13 Brian O’Driscoll *Captain
12 Gordon D’Arcy
11 Keith Earls
10 Jonathan Sexton
9 Conor Murray
1 Tom Court
2 Rory Best
3 Mike Ross
4 Donncha O’Callaghan
5 Paul O’Connell
6 Stephen Ferris
7 Shane Jennings
8 Jamie Heaslip
16 Jerry Flannery
17 Tony Buckley
18 Donnacha Ryan
19 Denis Leamy
20 Eoin Reddan
21 Ronan O’Gara
22 Andrew Trimble
Ireland Tries: Bowe (39’, 59’), Best (55’)
Ireland Conversions: Sexton (40’), O’Gara (60’)
Ireland Penalties: Sexton (16’)
Reddan on for Murray (50’), O’Gara on for Sexton (50’), Leamy on for Jennings (60’), Flannery on for Best (60’), Buckley on for Court (64’), Trimble on for Murphy (66’)