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Gold, Campbell Talk Momentum and Eagles Task Ahead

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Gold, Campbell Talk Momentum and Eagles Task Ahead

Bruce Campbell, right, and Will Magie watch the scrum take care of business. USA Rugby photo.

The coming weekend is a big one, of course, for the USA Men’s 15s team, and Head Coach Gary Gold says his players need to be tough on themselves in order to come away victorious.

Up by a slim three points in the two-game series with Uruguay, the Eagles know they were in a much better position 50 minutes into the first game of the series. Up 19-3, they saw Uruguay inch back with penalty goal, penalty goal, penalty goal, and then a try to make it 19-16.

“The game last week … we got ourselves in a really good position but it was pretty disappointing with how it finished,” said captain Bryce Campbell.

But, he added, the Eagles rebounded from some difficulties against Canada. “We’ve connected really well as a team and we showed honesty and looked at that game really hard and we were able to turn it around.” 

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It was a long travel to Uruguay. The Eagles did their recovery in the USA before arriving in Montevideo on Wednesday, using their off day to get the travel done. A good session on Thursday has them set up for a big Saturday, but that travel time certainly gave them time to think on last Saturday and what might have been.

For some, perhaps, there was that  50-22-rule kick from Will Magie that was called back because of a late hit. Seemingly set up for another try, the USA was then on defense, and they didn’t really regain the upper hand.

Losing That Upper Hand

Campbell acknowledges that that was a key moment in Game 1.

“That was a tough part of the game for us,” said Campbell. “We, for a few seconds, think we’re in the money here with our own lineout and then we’re back on our own 40 defending again. But that’s what happened in a game. You have to be able to deal with those big swings and get them back in our favor, which unfortunately we weren’t really able to do for the rest of the game. But that’s something we’ve looked at this week because momentum’s going to shift at times.”

So on to Game 2. Head Coach Gary Gold said there may be some new wrinkles. He expects some changes in tactics and strategy from Los Teros, adding that he’s seen them play a more wide open game against Canada.

With the crowd behind them, Uruguay will be fired up.

“We’re ready for it … but it’s going to be a different ballgame this week,” said Gold. “I think they’re going to try and out-muscle us. That’s the big challenge that we’ve got, the physicality that we not only have to manage that but dominate that.”

Scrum Success

Perhaps one sign that they can do that is the scrum, where the Eagles were, perhaps surprisingly, the stronger team last week.

“We were happy about the scrum … [it’s] an area where we want to keep our foot on the pedal,” said Gold, adding that the USA had 100% success in winning their scrum and put Uruguay under pressure (they got a key penalty from a strong shove, for example). “It’s a great platform for us to play off. I think we could have may more of the platform we did create.”

No surprise, then, that the front row of David Ainu’u, Kepeli Pifeleti, and Joe Taufete’e gets to start again.

Can't Give Up Momentum

But, back to that momentum thing. Gold also spoke about too many late turnovers—after Uruguay started to get closer the Eagles got the ball back and then would cough it up.

“We gave them 11 opportunities in the second half to regain momentum. It’s those soft moments where we’re going to have to be particularly tough on ourselves this weekend. I don’t think that we can give penalties away, particularly penalties that are avoidable, like silly penalties of not rolling away or just being lazy on the high tackle.”