Like a bowl of weak borsch that once you scoop the few bits of cabbage and meat out there is nothing tasty left for the second part of the soup, the USA men went scoreless in the second half while Georgia scored 2 tries (one converted). Fortunately the men led 26-7 at the end of the first half. Matt Hawkins (Eagles’ captain) started the match orchestrating a new style … passing before contact, switching and looping and finding space. Colin Hawley scored the first try under the post 40 seconds into the match. The Eagles’ second try was truly brilliant. Multiple players handled the ball before Zach Test scored and no Eagle player even came close to being touched. But then the magic disappeared. It was like the players decided, ‘ OK, we can play like this. Now let’s go back to how we used to do it … run the ball into contact and dig it out. ‘ Refs were very good all day at calling players for off their feet in rucks, and strong Eagle advances several times resulted in a penalty to Georgia. New Zealand dissected Canada 31-12 in the other match between teams in the USA pool. With probably only one team going through to the cup quarterfinals from this pool, the Eagles seem to have little chance against New Zealand and unless they can find the first 4 minute magic against Canada they’ll be battling for the bowl on Sunday.
Day one saw a few other surprises. In the opening match Zimbabwe lost by only a try and were winning 14-7 at half against perennial power Samoa. England defeated Portugal fairly easily 21-7 which was not a surprise. The surprise was how long they took between scoring a try and restarting. After England’s first try they took so long that I began to time them. Over a minute on each of the 3 next tries. It was like they had no idea that from the 6 pools of 4 teams, if you don’t win the pool, only 2 other teams will go through to the cup quarterfinals and those 2 teams will be decided on point differentials. The other power in England’s pool (Argentina) understands this. They beat Hong Kong 47-7 and after one try they kicked the conversion and would have restarted in 15 seconds if the ref hadn’t made the Pumas wait for Hong Kong to get ready.
After Day 1 New Zealand, Fiji, and South Africa look very strong. Kenya , Argentina, Australia, & Wales look like they could pull off an upset in the knock-out stages, and Samoa can never be ignored.