ARC Report: Meltdown in Marabunta for USA Rugby Eagles

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Stephen Lewis, Rugby_Wrap_UpRIO NEGRO, ARGENTINA – It had been a heady 12 months for the USA Eagles, climbing to a historic highest-ever #12 ranking, while dominating the hemisphere and of course, nailing that historic victory over Tier 1 Scotland. All that however, came to a crashing halt as they were comprehensively outplayed by an Argentina XV 45-14 in Rio Negro, and those 14 points all came very, very late.

Right from the offset of this much-anticipated Americas Rugby Championship match, the Argentines, with only 3 fully-capped Pumas in their ranks, played with pace and precision, racing out to a 21-0 lead with dangerous outside backs Julian Dominguez and Santiago Carreras released early, and often, by the impressive Felipe Ezcurra at 9, and a slick lineout move allowing tight-head prop Lucas Favra to crash over under the posts.

Worse was to come for the embattled Eagles when Harlequins center Paul Lasike saw red literally and figuratively, stamping on the upper back/neck of an opponent, and sufficiently close to the head to warrant the ultimate sanction. No question he was provoked and no question the Argentine also deserved a card, probably of a yellow hue, but playing 50 minutes a man down was going to be a massive challenge for Gary Gold’s men, and so it proved.

The second half saw a couple more yellow cards, one each for feisty Rugby United NY flanker John Quill and Argentine center Lucas Mensa as the hosts cruised to a 45-0 lead. Even well-beaten players have pride though, and the Americans showed some character and late fight to earn a penalty try and a Dylan Fawsitt effort, after a sublime one-handed flick out the back from his skipper Marcel Brache.

So, 45-14 is a chastening result for the Eagles but what were the lessons? It’s an old coaching axiom but sometimes you learn more from adversity than from a thumping win, and Gold will have seen who responded best under pressure, who kept playing when the proverbial chips were down.  He will also be looking forward to the arrival of coaching help in the form of former Springbok Jaque Fourie (photo right) for the American home-stand. There is clearly plenty of work to be done on the defensive side of the ball, both in tackle technique and in defensive patterns. The Eagles right flank. in particular, yielded huge chunks of yardage anytime it was challenged. Throw in some set-piece misfires and an average kicking game, both in accuracy and subsequent kick-chase, and the coaching staff have their brief.

The good news is that Gold has been around the block before, and has both the time and the games to sort it out. Next up though Round 3 in Austin, where the Eagles will face a fired-up Brazil, who will come to scrum and kick and not much else.

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About Steve Lewis 8 Articles
Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, Steve is one of the top coaches in America, a 2-time USA Rugby Coach of the Year. He is also well-versed in all things rugby, having played for West of Scotland and Glasgow, as well as founding the elite Northeast Academy 7's program. He currently coaches the USA Rugby Collegiate All-American 7's, West Point Women and national championship winners Bulldog Rugby, as well as appearing regularly as a commentator in broadcasts and as a pundit/personality on Rugby Wrap Up.