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Eagles Poor as Portugal Wins

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Eagles Poor as Portugal Wins

Calder Cahill photo for USA Rugby.

Portugal slice up the USA to the tune of 46-20 Saturday in Algarve, and it was a scoreline that could have been even worse had the final try not been called back.

The saying goes that the forwards decide who wins the game and the backs decide by how much. In this case, that wasn’t quite the case. While the Portugal forwards were good, this was most certainly a game won by the Lobos backs, while the Eagles backline executed poorly on both sides of the ball.

The game began with USA No. 8 Luke White dropping a pass, and while things didn’t fall apart immediately, it was a harbinger of things to come.

The Eagles actually took the first points of the game, and perhaps only a pessimistic viewer would have noted that a long period deep inside the Portugal 22 only yielded a Luke Carty penalty goal. Lineouts, mauls, and chances all yielded little.

In response Portugal ran a pretty nifty weak side move. The Eagles weren’t caught completely by surprise by the move but it still got the Lobos close to the USA try line. The USA defense held on for a while, but eventually from a scrum Portugal attacked on the right with scrumhalf Samuel Marques delaying his pass enough to set up debutant flyhalf Joris Moura and he was in. Marques converted and Portugal had a 7-3 lead after 16 minutes.

The Eagles responded with a weird one. Portugal was pressured into a knock-on and referee Paul Williams played a good advantage. Sam Golla wound up with the ball and while he was taken down he wasn’t held and was able to get up. On the flanker charged into the Portugal 22 and then he tried to pass to Cam Dolan in support. A Portuguese hand interfered to knock the ball backward into in-goal, but Dolan kept running and dove on it first.

It was a fairly unconventional way to score a try but it counted nonetheless. Carty converted to make it 10-7 USA.

Lobos Finish Half

Portugal continued to get into penalty trouble but it seemed to work for them as they managed to keep the USA in check. Eventually, though, Williams got sick of it all and issued a yellow card. Carty slotted a fairly straightforward penalty kick, and it was 13-7.

But with the man advantage the Eagles were very poor in this game. In fact, Portugal scored next, running the ball left and then right in such a way that you’d swear it was the USA with fewer players.

The Eagle defense came rushing up so Moura beat them by sending a grubber through and Rodrigo Marta raced through to grab it and score.

When Manuel Pinto caught a kick he sidestepped his way right through the USA chasers, and then when it seemed like he was out of space he laid a perfect grubber through for wing Tomás Appleton to chase down. It was a brilliant try, and when Marques converted from the touchline the Lobos had a 19-13 lead. As the half came to a close Dylan Fawsitt was offside on a box kick—running ahead despite being told to stop by the referee—ad Marques slotted the tough-angled kick to make it 22-13 at the halftime.

So, much to fix for the USA and in the opening moments of the second half it looked like they might have fixed it. They took a lineout in the Portugal half and mauled that ball about 15 meters before sending it wide. The backs couldn’t connect, but there was another penalty and soon after that the USA had numbers and a chance on the left side. Marques stepped in and knocked it on with one hand.

Penalty. Yellow Card. Penalty Try. It was a dumb move by a very smart player and Portugal seemed in trouble.

Getting Grubby

Not so fast. After that score the USA would not score again.

Carty sent a kick that rolled dead, giving Portugal a scrum. From their they attacked and a nice grubber through set up Vincent Pinto for a score. Moura, kicking in place of Marques, got the extras.

The Eagles had another chance but Mitch Wilson wasn’t able to hold onto the pass. This was the story of the match. Far, far too many players lost the ball forward, and in open play with little pressure on them, the Eagle backs fumbled the ball way too much.

Still shorthanded Portugal scored again on a simple line break that saw Marta just torch everyone.

Soon after that another grubber through set up what looked like a sure try. To his credit Chris Mattina, now on at fullback, managed to save a try with a tackle and he tried to hold the ball up. The problem was, the ball wasn’t over the try line—not releasing the tackled player, penalty try, and Mattina got ten minutes in the sin bin.

Flanker Nicolas Martins later scored on a short-range plunge and a conversion from Pinto made it 46-20.

The USA kept playing, of course, and unleashed perhaps their best attacking move of the evening. With some good passing Lauina Futi was down the sideline and before he was shoved into touch he flung the ball back infield. There were plenty of USA players who might have caught that ball, but instead it landed in Portuguese hands. And off they went, working the ball around to the far side and down the opposite sideline. It was a thing of beauty and a coast-to-coast try … except it wasn’t as one Lobo had stepped into touch along the way.

That was the end of the game and Portugal now has a nice boost of confidence going into the Rugby World Cup, Surely they looked the better team and also the more exciting one. Tactically, their grubber kicking was superb, and something the USA had a lot of trouble with.

The USA could not get much of anything going out wide and simple mistakes—kicks out on the full, dropped balls, muffed lineouts (yes … the lineouts had trouble) all made for a 46-20 loss.

USA 20
Tries: Dolan, Penalty Try
Convs: Carty, Penalty Try
Pens: Carty

Portugal 46
Tries: Moura, Marta 2, Pinto, Appleton, Penalty Try, Martins
Convs: Marques 2, Penalty Try, Pinto
Pens: Marques

USA Lineup vs Portugal

1. Jack Iscaro ;2. Dylan Fawsitt; 3. Caleb Geiger; 4. Cam Dolan; 5. Greg Peterson (C); 6. Sam Golla; 7. Paddy Ryan; 8. Luke White; 9. Nick McCarthy; 10. Luke Carty; 11. Nate Augspurger (VC); 12. Tavite Lopeti; 13. Mika Kruse; 14. Christian Dyer; 15. Mitch Wilson

Reserves: 16. Peter Malcolm (on at 72); 17. Jake Turnbull (on at 65); 18. Paul Mullen (on at 50); 19. Thomas Tu'avao (on at 62); 20. Vili Helu; 21. Ruben de Haas (on at 65); 22. Chris Mattina (on at 59); 23. Lauina Futi (on at 58)