VANCOUVER, B.C. – After the post USA vs Canada smoke cleared, Jake Frechette put together a comprehensive look at the PNC by the numbers and we reached out to USA Rugby Eagle’s Head Coach Mike Tolkin, 6’8″ lock Greg Peterson and emerging flyhalf AJ MacGinty. Here are their answers to our questions.
Coach Mike Tolkin:
RWU: Congrats on the dramatic win. If [Jeff] Hassler of Canada was the Man of the Match, who gets title for your guys?
TOLKIN: AJ [MacGinty] and [Andrew] Durutalo share the honors. And Seamus Kelly was a top player.
RWU: Is there any such thing as an ugly win or is a win a win?
TOLKIN: A test win is hard to come by and we got one [Monday]. Plenty to work on from but plenty of positives, too. Set piece, pace and possession in the 1st half… playing the full match – especially being short-handed for 30 minutes.
RWU: Are you concerned about the lack of discipline in the opponent’s end that not only wasted scoring chances but also led to a yellow card?
TOLKIN: Yes. We had them on the ropes first half with a lot of pressure. We got points from penalties but [I] thought we could have gotten more with better discipline. We’re still a group meshing together.
RWU: AJ MacGinty seems to be solidifying the #10 position, a problem spot for the Eagles for a long time now. How do you minimize his mistakes and growing pains as he gains much-needed experience?
TOLKIN: AJ will learn with time. Only his 3rd international. But not afraid to lead.
RWU: The emergence of Titi Lamositele has been a pleasant surprise and he’s only 20. What is his pro contract situation?
TOLKIN: Titi is with Saracens.
RWU: Thanks and good luck in Ottawa.
TOLKIN: Thank you.
Lock Greg Peterson:
RWU: Being from Sydney, does the heat effect you and would you choose between too hot or too cold to play in… if there was a choice?
PETERSON: The heat wasn’t too bad; it was almost typical Sydney weather. So I was very comfortable playing at that temp.
RWU: You got a yellow card for obviously letting a Canadian know you weren’t happy with what he was doing to your lower half. But at 6’8″ you are visible to say the least. What was going on there that led to the punch?
PETERSON: Yeah, [that] wasn’t the greatest move on my part. Obviously the USA vs Canada game is a very big grudge match between the two nations and everybody came out pretty fired-up. The Canadian player was on the ground, out of the play and illegally holding onto my leg, preventing me from being part of the breakdown that was just outside of me. After a couple attempts to free myself from his grip, I had a small ‘brain fart‘ and gently pushed him with a semi-closed fist to the shoulder/back area. Wasn’t the best decision I’ve made on the field, but live and learn.
RWU: Were you thinking it was going to be red or yellow when you and Captain Wyles were summoned by the ref?
PETERSON: In my head I never thought it was going to be a red. When I saw the refs discussing it, I thought it was going to be either a yellow or a penalty against the Eagles. I’m the end I thought the ref came to the right decision on awarding a yellow card.
RWU: What was going through your head once you were in the Sin Bin? Relief it wasn’t a red? Worry about the boys being down a man?
PETERSON: Not so much relief. A bit of disappointment that I let my emotions get the better of me and I put my teammates in a difficult position. But the boys did well, they dug in and defended extremely well during the period we had 14 players on the field.
RWU: Enough of the boxing questions… Team Canada threw one wasted opportunity after the next away, but their lineouts were a big part of their poor first half? Why were you guys so successful at disrupting their lineouts – other than you being 6’8″?
PETERSON: Both Scott [LaValla] and Hayden [Smith] did a lot of video work coming into the match against the Canadians. We knew what to expect from them and implemented a good defensive strategy to prevent them from getting good ball from their lineout. Being 6’8 helped the strategy, but also everybody sticking to the same game plan helped us pull off a good defensive effort against a good lineout.
Flyhalf AJ MacGinty:
RWU: What were you thinking when you got the Yellow Card – your first in test rugby?
MACGINTY: I knew immediately I was in the wrong – although it was completely accidental! I kept my eyes on the ball and unfortunately as it came down, I was in position I could not get out of! The Canadian player [Man of the Match Hassler] was already in mid-air and collided with me. Fortunately, he didn’t land on his head and was okay… It was poor [execution] by me and put us under a lot of pressure late in the game.
RWU: Was the drop-goal discussed or did you just wing it? What was going through your mind just prior?
MACGINTY: We were in a great position with the scrum just outside their 22. I said it to Lommy [Shalom Suniula] just before the set piece, so he knew to look for me. We had a line break which brought us closer and I thought we might have scored. The next two phases just happened very quickly… Lommy did a great job keeping us in the centre of the pitch and we carried hard. Thankfully, the kick went between the sticks.
RWU: Did you know it was good when you hit it and where would you have hidden if you missed? You have large teammates that would likely want to “chat” about it.
MACGINTY: Ha ha… There would have been nowhere to hide! We would have been bitterly disappointed, of course. I didn’t have time to think about it. Was better off for it.
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P.s… Thanks go once again to Paul Rudman for the use of his top-notch photos.