LAUDERHILL, Fla. – The USA Eagles stamped their tickets to the Rugby World Cup 2011, following a hard fought 27-6 victory over Uruguay at Central Broward Regional Park on Saturday afternoon.
"I was very happy with our defense. It went very well today. We scrummaged better and stopped their rolling maul, which were the two parts of the game that we needed to improve from last week. I feel happy with the way we finished. Uruguay made us work for it and it should be interesting to see how they fare in repachage," U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan said.
"It’s tough to hit the ground running after not being together since July, and although we qualified, which was our ultimate goal – they were a little rusty early on," he added. "I can’t be too hard on them, though, they got the job done and you can’t forget that we scored eight tries (54 points) in the last two games against Uruguay."
U.S. captain Todd Clever led the way for the Eagles with two tries, even while playing out of position. When an injury sent Swiryn out of the match, with about five minutes left to play, Clever stepped into the backline and made the most of his shift, to clinch a Rugby World Cup berth for the USA, off a true team try.
Off a wheeled scrum, veteran lock Alec Parker flicked to Mike Petri and the ball cycled through the hands of J.J. Gagiano and Nese Malifa, who pitched out wide to Clever. Off the bounce, the skilled team leader charged in to bounce down in the try zone before the whistle.
"We trained at game tempo all week and the team completely bought into it. We knew what determination and grit it would take and it made us mentally tougher going into the game," Clever said following the win. "It was fantastic finishing on a try like that, but it was a whole team effort for the entire 80 minutes. We have our spot in the Rugby World Cup now, which is the important part. It’s nice to finish strong, but hopefully we can pick up where we left off."
In what grew to be a highly contested half at the breakdown, the Eagles got on the board almost immediately after the start, off a penalty in the ruck, with USA flyhalf Mike Hercus effortlessly kicking for posts with only a minute and a half ticked off the clock.
Uruguay got its own shot at the posts inside the 16th minute; however, standout fullback Jerónimo Etcheverry’s attempt to connect from 45 meters pulled right, to hold the tally at 3-0 with 18 minutes gone.
Propelled by the backline, the USA grew its lead to 8-0 at 20 minutes, when Lou Stanfill punched over the line in the corner. An impressive run by Kevin Swiryn got the ball safely into the hands of scrumhalf Tim Usasz before Stanfill finished the superb drive.
With both sides hungry for points in the home-away series aggregate, a physical back and forth battle waged for the goal line.
Inside minute 27, Hercus took a chance at posts on a drop goal just right of the posts, but could not connect. However, less than 10 minutes later, the Eagles found sweet redemption, as Swiryn chipped ahead perfectly to set up his own try. Hercus could not connect for the extras, to hold the game at 13-0.
As the half wound down, Uruguay barreled toward the Eagles’ end, but were held to just a penalty kick before the sides retreated to the lockers at 13-3.
Uruguay was first to strike in the second half, on an excellent kick from Etcheverry, which narrowed the gap to 13-6.
Inside minute 44, a handling error from Clever may have proved costly for the Eagles, but the captain soon recovered, snatching a loose ball from a maul and storming up the field 35 meters to surge the U.S. ahead 20-6 following Hercus’ conversion.
The odds continued in the Eagles’ favor as Uruguay prop Mario Sagario was dealt a red card, leaving los Teros to finish the remaining 25 minutes of the match a man down.
Despite a solid effort from the U.S. backs that took them deep into Uruguay territory, the Eagles were hurt by penalties in the second half. In the end, however, Clever came up huge for his team, sealing the victory at 27-6.
With the win and an aggregate score of 54-28, the Eagles now look ahead to the Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand, where they will meet Australia, Ireland, Italy, and the Europe 2 qualifier in Pool C competition.
USA 27 Tries: Stanfill, Swiryn, Clever (2) Conversions: Hercus, Malifa Penalty kicks: Hercus
1. Mate Moeakiola (Jacob Sprague @ 72 min) 2. Phil Thiel(Brian McClenahan @ 87 min) 3. Will Johnson 4. John Van der Giessen5. Hayden Smith (Alec Parker @ 62 min) 6. Louis Stanfill 7. Todd Clever 8. Nic Johnson 9. Tim Usasz (Mike Petri @ 74 min), 10. Mike Hercus (NeseMalifa @78 min), 11. Kevin Swiryn (Patrick Danahy @ 81)12. Junior Sifa, 13. Paul Emerick (Pate Tuilevuka @ 72 min),14. Takudzwa Ngwenya, 15. Chris Wyles
URUGUAY 6 Penalty Kicks: Jerónimo Etcheverry (2)
1. Rodrigo Sanchez, 2. Martín Espiga, 3. Mario Sagario, 4. Matías Fonseca, 5. Carlos Protasi, 6. Nicolás Brignioni, 7. Alfredo Giuria, 8. Rodrigo Capo, 9. Juan Campomar, 10. Nicolás Morales, 11. Tomás Jolivet, 12. Juan Llovet, 13. Joaquín Pastore, 14. Alejandro Silveira, 15. Jerónimo Etcheverry, 16. Alejo Corral, 17. Carlos Arboleya, 18. Juan Rombys, 19. Juan Horta, 20. Manuel Martinez, 21. Juan De Freitas, 22. Santiago Gibernau
Referee: David Smortchevsky (Canada) Assistant Referee 1: Bryan Arciero (Canada) Assistant Referee 2: Derek Stoltz(Canada)
Attendance: 2237