HOUSTON, TX – In the first weekend of the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship, the @EaglesXV and an Argentina XV battled to a 35-35 draw at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. Both sides had chances to take the lead late via penalty goals, but both missed. For a match that went back and forth, it seemed fitting that even the missed penalties were back and forth.
It was James Bird, in his first match as an Eagle, that could have put the USA in the lead at the end of the match. “Could have been a dream come true, that final kick, as well. A bit disappointed it didn’t go over.”
According to USA coach John Mitchell, “We got what we deserved.” The Argentina coach, Pablo Bouza, had similar thoughts. “It was a very tough game. We are happy with the score.”
The start of the match for USA was good. Bird’s first kick from hand as an Eagle was excellent. Unfortunately, the pressure that resulted from that good kick ended when a Takudzwa Ngwenya pass went straight to touch.
The Eagles started confidently at the breakdown, and the initial momentum was with the Eagles as the went up 6-0. Mitchell put emphasis on the breakdown in this first week: “We got early to ball really well, but there is a lot of improvement in terms of moving the ball quicker from the breakdown. There was evidence of that in the second half, from about the 50 minute mark our ball was getting moved a lot quicker.”
Ngwenya scored the first try following an 8-man pick on the weak side. David Tameilau, on debut, did his job from the base of the scrum and Ngwenya finished superbly after getting the ball from Niku Kruger. Tameilau had this to say about his debut: “It’s a lot faster than I’m used to. I loved every bit of it. Fitness is something, definitely, to work on. As far as performance, I felt like I did okay.”
The first Argentina try was scored by Tomas Carrio and started with a quick tap near mid field. The penalty was won when Ngwenya tackled an Argentine player in the air. Argentina looked to keep the pace up and pressure on; it was effective.
After that try, the Argentinians were fully awake and into the match. Near the Argentina 22, Kruger was hung out to dry at the breakdown and the ball was turned over. Argentina made a break, but Ngwenya tracked the ball carrier down and prevented the try. That great effort was followed by a bit of a let down as Argentina captain Rodrigo Baez scored soon after from a resulting scrum. Another Bird penalty was answered with a third Argentina try by Joaquin Paz that came from attacking wide from a lineout.
Argentina led 21-16 at the half.
In the second half, the Eagles opted for the lineout from several penalties. Captain Blaine Scully’s decision making was rewarded. Twice, a maul was held up in goal while the Eagles were playing under a penalty advantage, but the third maul resulted in a Todd Clever try. The PA Announcer missed out by not identifying Clever as the try-scorer because the crowd was ready to cheer for Clever on his return.
Argentina scored another try from a quick tap, this time Gonzalo Bertranou touching down, as the USA was playing with lots of fire, but not a lot of structure. Mitchell commented, “Under fatigue, some old habits come back.” Some of the fire the Eagles had seemed to come with Mike Te’o when he came on with about 22 minutes to go.
In a moment when the USA was well-organized defensively, Cam Dolan took advantage of the pressure applied inside him and shot out to grab an intercept and had the pace to run it in for the try. Less than 10 minutes later the USA scored another forwards’ try. Eric Fry was the finisher from close range on this occasion. Fry played the full 80, and he played well.
After Fry’s try, Argentina weren’t done, and Carrio scored again from a counter attack. With the conversion, the teams were tied, and that is the way it ended.
Argentina only won 2 of their 5 scrums; USA won 5 of their 7 scrums. At the lineout, Argentina won possession from their own lineout from 12 of 13 throws, though one possession did immediately end with a knock on. The USA won possession on all 12 of their throws, though not all of that possession was good possession. Argentina conceded 12 non-scrummaging penalties; USA conceded 5 non-scrummaging penalties.
USA Tries: Ngwenya, Clever, Dolan, Fry
Argentina Tries: Carrio (2), Baez, Paz, Bertranu
Official announced attendance: 10, 241.
Men’s Eagles | v. Argentina XV
1. Eric Fry 2. Joseph Taufete’e 3. Chris Baumann 4. Brodie Orth 5. Greg Peterson 6. Cam Dolan 7. Todd Clever 8. David Tameilau 9. Niku Kruger 10. James Bird 11. Kingsley McGowan 12. Lemoto Filikitonga 13. Chad London 14. Takudzwa Ngwenya 15. Blaine Scully (C)
Men’s Eagles | Reserves
16. Mike Sosene-Feagai 17. Olive Kilifi 18. James Hilterbrand 19. Ben Landry 20. Alec Gletzer 21. JP Eloff 22. Mike Te’o 23. Jake Anderson
Argentina XV | v. USA
1. Roberto Tejerizo 2. Santiago Iglesias 3. Felipe Arregui 4. Marcos Kremer 5. Ignacio Larrague 6. Rodrigo Báez (C) 7. Lautaro Bavaro 8. Santiago Montagner 9. Gonzalo Bertranou 10. Domingo Miotti 11. Tomás Carrió 12. Joaquín Paz 13. Juan Cappiello 14. Matías Orlando 15. Ramiro Moyano
Argentina XV | Reserves
16. Franco Brarda 17. Gaspar Baldunciel 18. Cristian Bartolini 19. Pedro Ortega 20. José Deheza 21. Lautaro Bazán Vélez 22. Juan Novillo 23. Juan Pablo Estellés
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