INFINITY PARK, CO – The relief may have not been evident during the on-camera interview immediately following Team USA’s exciting 36-20 win over Georgia – the first in the Mike Tolkin Era – but one needn’t need be a nuclear physicist to understand the importance of getting that initial victory out of the way.
“If it was a 1 or a 2-point game it would have been more dramatic but still, a great feeling and now we want more,” said Tolkin.
Coach Tolkin’s first win wasn’t the only noteworthy achievement, though. Paul “Cactus” Emerick earned his 50th cap as an Eagle, which is remarkable considering his battering-ram style of rugby and his years doubling up as a USA Sevens player. That makes Paul about 102 in rugby years, but you’d never know it. Granted, he couldn’t go in the second half yesterday but we doubt his ribcage injury will keep him off the active roster for the next one.
“The injury situation is very good at this point,” answered Coach Tolkin when asked about anyone that might be dinged up. That’s NHL-speak for everyone is probable.
Personal milestones aside, however, the big story was the match itself – an exciting, if sometimes sloppy romp that including hard hits, exciting plays and lots of points. Georgia’s Lelos hit hard and play 80 minutes, but the Eagles were up to the challenge and the backline made the pack’s hard work pay off with some nifty plays. Mike Petri, Andrew Suniula (who is a moose) and James Paterson all scored and Chris Wyles and Luke Hume continued to sparkle.
“I liked the hard and aggressive attitude our players came out with and the scrum worked hard and performed well. I was surprised at the space we had early and I liked how we attacked it. We need to execute more efficiently [though] for more points,” continued Tolkin.
Scott LaValla, Taylor Mokate (who also scored) and Todd Clever were extremely active defensively, with Captain Clever living up to his name with a Larry Bird, one movement, over-the-shoulder-no-look pass to spring Patterson. We had to see the replay to be convinced Clever had actually touched the ball – it was that fast.
Anyway, a 36-20 win is certainly a step in the right direction and provides solid footing on Team USA’s journey, which continues next week in Houston versus Italy. The Italians will be no easy task, especially after their come from behind 26-15 win over Canada at BMO Stadium.