NEW PLYMOUTH, NZ – There were some startling revelations coming out of this weekend’s Rugby World Cup play, the biggest of which was the fact the USA Eagles are not the bumbling, one-half team that frustrated many of their supporters during their forgettable warmup matches vs Team Canada and Japan’s Brave Blossoms.
Did Ireland play poorly or did the Americans play well? One could argue both sides of this for days, especially if pints and a pub were involved. But in their inspired 22-10 loss to Ireland, the Eagles made an astounding 101 tackles – a number that seems significantly misrepresented (our clicker had it at 142) – in a driving rain with poor footing. Sure, wet weather makes the ball slippery and traction difficult for the offense. But it wreaks havoc on the defense as well. If you’ve ever played defense in these conditions, you know that one slip can result in a huge gain by the opponent.
For 70% of the match, Ireland was in the Eagle zone, one slip away from a huge play. They were within the Eagle 22-meter-line for nearly 12 minutes. Take a moment and think about that. To have only scored 22 points, juxtaposed against that kind of possession time and field position, is not an Irish negative, as Brian O’Driscoll painted it in an understandably frustrated post-game analysis. No. This was something special. It was American positive. These players, led by their inspired leader, heart & soul Captain, Todd Clever, never relented. They sacrificed their bodies, absorbed as much punishment as they gave and never surrendered.
Will they have anything left in their tanks for the absurdly scheduled Thursday match against a fresh and hungry Team Russia? Will the potential return of Chris Wyles give them the extra charge they will need? We don’t know for sure – but we betting on it because these guys have heart and the numbers below back that up.
They won the seasoned broadcasting team over because they fully understood exactly what was transpiring on the pitch. We mentioned Clever above, but really you could name each man that stepped on that pitch – and should. Emerick, Johnson, Van Der Giessen, Patterson, MacDonald, Scully, Petri… They all now have one name – Eagle. They earned their Stars -N-Stripes on a day celebrating the heroes of 9/11. They bled red, white & blue and gave their fellow Americans something to root for, while showing the world that rugby is indeed alive and kicking in the United States.