The USA’s come from behind victory (38-35) over Canada in Sacramento on June 21st saved the squad from the ignominy of setting the record of 8 consecutive losses against the Canadians. Prior to the match the recent Eagles were tied at 7 consecutive losses with the previous record set between June 13, 1992 and June 19, 1999. In large measure the credit for the second half determination to come out on top goes to team captain Todd Clever. His drive and will to win lifted the entire team to a 20 to 7 point second half effort.
The Eagles’ handling and offloading was much improved since I last saw the team play in Montevideo. Articles on the USA’s near loss to Japan the week before indicated that the team is possibly turning a corner in terms of developing an offensive backline threat. The success of sevens’ players Blaine Scully and Brett Thompson on the wings makes one wonder what help Zach Test could bring.
Danny Barrett received some blame in post-match articles for a knock-on that led to a Canada try. Others who should share some blame for allowing Canada back in the match after the USA jumped out to an 18-10 lead are Shalom Suniula (#10) and Mike Petri (#9). Both players kicked away good possession that soon led to Canadian tries. All 3 players had strong matches otherwise and perhaps the blame should go to the coach. Generally the backs and scrum members feeding into the backline were flat and at times appeared very disorganized. It is hard to imagine a player is going to kick away possession if the coach has made it clear we don’t kick from good field position going forward. There was a 3 try margin of victory in these sloppy habits.
When the match began I immediately had some concerns that the ref would call the USA for leaving their feet in loose play, but this was never called. The Canadians soon joined in the flying chaos of ruck pile-ons. (See DeepSouthRugby.net photos of the match.) Hopefully this was a planned strategy based on knowing the ref and not another sloppy habit that will cost the squad next year when World Cup play begins. Accolades should go to Chris Wyles for a great kicking day.
It is still difficult to feel confident that the Eagles will win a match in the World Cup. The best hope of a win was Japan, and they seem to be sprinting toward a possible spot in the quarterfinals. Our World Cup pool consists of Scotland, Samoa, and Japan currently ranked 8th, 9th, and 10th in the world respectively and South Africa (2nd) . The USA ranked 18th is looking at battling Japan in their last pool match on Oct. 11, 2015, in lovely Gloucester (rhymes back water), England, to avoid getting shut out in the 2015 World Cup unless we can find a way to fix the sloppy mistakes. There was a 3 try margin in the sloppy mistakes against Canada in Sacramento. The Eagles only lost 24-6 against Scotland 3 weeks ago (June 7) in Houston. How long does it take a coach to fix sloppy mistakes? If the Eagles can fix the mistakes in a year, they could be facing Japan on a chilly rainy night in a town on the edge of the Cotswold’s for a spot in the quarterfinals.