Happy Thanksgiving and French Toast Day!!!
London, England: The USA Eagles Fall Tour for 2013 is complete. It was a successful tour, winning 2 games against Georgia and Russia and losing once to the AIG Maori All Blacks. The loss to the Maori was encouraging since it was a team that should have crushed the USA. That, aw we know, wasn’t the case.
That loss was followed by victories, however, with the most recent against Russia. With that said the Rugby Rain Man Collective (RRMC) gives you their USA Rugby vs Russia Analysis:
Front Row – This was the first time the USA went into a game expecting to have an advantage in the Tight Five. Yet the front row had mixed results. The first unit of Nick Wallace, Phil Thiel and Titi Lamositele were fantastic in the loose. They showed their athleticism in ball carrying. They showed their mobility when then came out the defensive line and slid out to make tackles. Their primary job of scrummaging was where they could have been more dominate. By that, we expected them to not only to win USA ball but to steal some Russia ball or put the Russia scrum under pressure and that didn’t happen. In the 2nd half replacement props Olive Kilifi and Eric Fry came. Fry is normally a starter who was benched for this match because it was publicized that Lamositele needed a starting cap on resume to secure a contract with Aviva Premeirship side Saracens. Lamositele signed with Saracens on Monday. As for Fry and Kilifi’s performance they struggled and were put under pressure by Russian scrum. Now Fry has always been an ok scrummager at best and Kilifi was getting his first cap after being called in for an injured Blake Burdette. That combination along with Thiel going the distance weakened the scrum. Our point of contention was not the performance but why no Zach Fenoglio. The guy toured and only played a few minutes against the Maori and no game time against Georgia and Russia.
Second Row – Tai Tuisamoa has really come on and showed some real ability. He did well making tackles and rucking, it appeared that he was asked to play tighter to the ruck. Tuisamoa balanced well with Samu Manoa who finally had the barnstorming performance for the USA that he normally only shows at club level. Manoa was all over the pitch ball in hand, making half breaks and supporting breaks. He was just as active in defense. Graham Harriman has had a fine tour but his cameo appearance at the end of the match didn’t allow for proper analysis.
Back Row – Cam Dolan, Captain Todd Clever and Scott LaValla had great balance. The 3 did some great ball carrying, but it was their ability to tackle, then slow/spoil Russia ball that stood out. The really didn’t allow the Russians to play an up-tempo game. In attack the looked a threat with the ball and gained meters from off-loads from teammates as a result of good support. Derek Asbun
came on showed why he is well-suited to the late game frantic pace. With the Ruskies not as physically imposing as the Georgians, Asbun was allowed to be disruptive.
Halfbacks – Adam Siddall has done all that needs to be done to make the USA 10 jersey his own. He kept the offense moving, had good distribution and looked a threat himself. He also made 5 of 6 kicking, which makes him extra valuable. Robbie Shaw parachuting into the starting 9 spot for the match and again showed why he can’t be discounted for 9. He brings so much better decision making at 9. He made the right calls on attack and his box-kick was working. Shaun Davies, is still fighting to be the number 2 scrumhalf with Shaw and Davies showed why he should be. He had a decent kick but his service and pass is fantastic. He got to the breakdown and didn’t muck around. He gets the ball from the ground to Siddall with pace.
Centers – Andrew Suniula showed that he is not just a power runner but also has a little bit of elusive running in him. Suniula was solid in defense and a handful with the ball at inside center. At outside center, Folau Niua may cause a tug of war between USA Rugby 15s and 7s. Niua easily looked like the most electric and elusive player the US has had at 13 in a long time. He supported his wings and fullback on defense but every time he touched the ball, it felt like he could create some magic and he often did.
Back 3 – Tim Maupin did not set the world on fire but was strong on his wing. The RRMC is not sure what he is doing that make him a better option than Luke Hume, since Hume seems the natural game breaker and looked dangerous with his few touches when he came on. Hume came on for an injured Blaine Scully showed that he deserves to at least have one wing spot to himself. He was reliable in the air and did a lot of power running from the wing, plus he went looking for work, which is a good trait for a wing. The importance of Chris Wyles to the USA team can not be understated. He is a rock at the back on defense and such a threat when he joins the attack, his try was proof of that.
Scrums: The lads did a good job winning their own but the reserves props got disrupted a bit and the US didn’t disrupt enough of the Russians.
Lineouts: Thiel maybe fatigued but the throws were slightly better but against a more disruptive team, he would have gotten some not straights. The USA seemed to like to go to the back a bit too much and used the backrow very often, although they did crash it up well after winning some.
Rucks: The USA actually had one of their strongest performances ever at the breakdown. the slowed down Russia’s ball well and didn’t allow their ball to be slowed down.
Mauls: There weren’t a heavy number from the lineout but when they did it, it looked good. They wanted to attack the Russian forwards and they did. Even in open play when US players were held up, a maul was formed and driven forward until it was turned into a ruck. The Russians barely used the maul, figuring it would play into USA hands.
Defense: Defense coach Phil Bailey can take a bow because the USA’s first up defense was sound but what was more impressive was the occasional use of the slide defense on set pieces and when there was a line break, the team showed great scramble defense.
Attack: Another 3 try effort and a couple more were possible if not for Clever choosing to kick for points or just an individual lack of focus. We like the difference Attack coach Billy Millard has mad to the attack. The finishing in the 22 needs to be more clinical but it is better than before he arrived. Discipline: Some may say the ref was lenient on the USA. Either way, the Eagles did a much better job of tacking penalties and they adjusted to the referee.
Leadership: Head Coach Mike Tolkin and Todd Clever of the captains armband seemed to get the guys to stay hungry and the Cam Dolan try at the end signified a team that was still looking to keep working on the system and not rest on its laurels.
In conclusion, this was probably the most complete victory in the Tolkin era. It seems that Tolkin maybe finding his stride and hopefully this performance is a sign of things to come.
That’s it for now. We will be back with a full review of the tour and the positives and negatives for the team and players. In the meantime… feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann and Declan Yeats, respectively.
And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs.