Fellow Rugby Rain Man, Mike Holzman is back. He made the short drive out to Glendale to watch the USA Eagles scrimmage the Glendale Raptors and filed this report.
GLENDALE, CO – On a lovely Colorado afternoon, the USA Eagles came from behind to beat a spirited combined Glendale Raptors/Denver Barbarians side in a scrimmage played over 3 thirty minute periods with rolling subs. The Eagles dominated possession and territory but Glendale/Denver tackled hard, competed strongly at the breakdown and generally took their chances well, leading 28-5 at one point early on. With a number of USA regulars unavailable due to club and college duty, the main exercise appeared to be testing combinations and players.
Uncapped Garrett Brewer, who played all 90 minutes at flyhalf, struggled early on but settled in nicely as the match went on. Scrumhalf Mike Petri looked much improved from poor performances against Uruguay, with much quicker and better decisions at the ruck as well as quicker and more accurate passing. Uncapped Nate Augspurger also played well at scrumhalf, adding a dynamic running game. However, as you might expect of a less experienced scrumhalf, he did not look as assured as Petri when making decisions. In the midfield, Thretton Palamo was dangerous and looks to be making the transition back to rugby quite well.
Up front, the Eagle scrum was dominant, winning tightheads and pushing Glendale/Denver back at nearly every scrum. This was true no matter the combination of props. The lineout was not quite as accurate, with a number of wayward throws. At ruck time, the forwards played right on the edge of the law winning quite a few turnovers.
For all of the positives, there were some negatives. The Eagles spent a lot of time in the Glendale/Denver 22 but made a number of mistakes early on that were reminiscent of the Uruguay series. Defense from turnover ball also was substandard, with Glendale/Denver scoring multiple tries against the run of play. Similarly, the Eagles’ counterattack was not particularly clinical, particularly when compared with Glendale/Denver’s.
Ultimately, it was a good hit out for the Eagles facing an opposition that featured a number of players who may have felt slighted by their non-selection to the Eagles. Among those, Maximo de Achaval stood out, displaying good kicking and huge commitment in the tackle.
One pet peeve however, was the complete lack of promotion of the match by USA Rugby, with the scrimmage not even mentioned on USA Rugby’s website, nor on Infinity Park’s website. I suspect this was deliberate, which I find extremely misguided. On a day when Rugby Canada held a similar match, the contrast was striking. Rugby Canada not only publicized their match but they streamed it while USA Rugby chose to hold it on Infinity Park’s turf field rather than its pristine grass field in the stadium and didn’t bother even letting most of its constituents know it was being played. On a beautiful Saturday with little other rugby being played in the state, this could have been an opportunity to engage the Colorado rugby community by having the Eagles face off against a Colorado representative side. Given the crowd for the PRP final, it probably would have even made USA Rugby some money. Instead, it gets my write-up and a positive PR opportunity for USA Rugby is missed.
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