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Strong Start Powers USA to Win Over Romania

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Strong Start Powers USA to Win Over Romania

Dylan Fawsitt assesses his options. Photo Calder Cahill for USA Rugby.

A torrid first half in which they dominated possession and field position stakes the USA Men’s 15s team to a big lead and set the Eagles up for a 31-17 victory over Romania on a very hot Saturday evening in Bucharest.

In this, the first game of a three-match tour of Europe, the USA saw nine players earn their first caps. The lineup was much changed from last year in part due to overseas professional clubs not having to release their players for international callus. Regardless, some of the debutants showed very well, and the USA set piece, especially in the first three quarters of the match, dominated.

Who Are These Guys? The Eagle Summer Tour

The USA kicked off and quickly showed a very aggressive attacking and defending mindset. It was that aggression that set up their first good scoring chance, with flyhalf Luke Carry kicking wide for Nate Augspurger. The Oaks defended but kind of fumbled the ball into touch, so the Eagles mauled from the ensuing lineout, crashed at the line with the forwards, and finally put (we think) debutant Paddy Ryan over for the opening score (although it might have been Sam Golla) Correction—after a frame-by-fram look at the replay we have determined that it was Cam Dolan who scored. Luke Carty’s conversion attempt was good and it was 7-0 before seven minutes were on the clock.

It took a few minutes but Romania finally did get some possession. They had found the USA defense quite strong and so looked to defeat that with quick picks off the rucks. Still the USA defense, and especially their scrum, were very good.

That pressure led to a lineout and drive (with inside center Tommaso Boni gleefully joining in on the maul) to set up an attack out wide. But the pass to Augspurger didn’t quite find him.

Following that, another attacking lineout resulted in a penalty against the USA for obstruction, and the score remained a somewhat frustrating 7-0.

Finally they did get over. Off another lineout the USA ran a snappy little play. New cap Ryan, who had been making plenty of tackles at flanker, got the chance to run with the ball. He peeled off the back  the maul and then fed Augspurger on his inside. The wing drew his man and passed inside to new cap Nick McCarthy and the scrumhalf did the rest.

It was a very nicely-executed move and the USA led 12-0 at 25 minutes.

That seemed to energize the USA as they found the tryline one more time before halftime. The forwards, led by skipper Greg Peterson, made the hard yards before the backs went right—Boni linking up with Christian Dyer. The Eagles, looking fitter than they did in last year’s tests, were quick to the breakdown and ran a couple of phases nicely as Dyer raced from the right wing out to the left. McCarthy was quick to get the ball out and a quick catch-pass from hooker Dylan Fawsitt set up Mika Kruse to feed Dyer. The wing had some work to do but was over nicely. Carty converted and it was 19-0 USA after 40 minutes.

A Half of Two Halves

The second half started once again with the USA in control. Romania had hardly seen the ball and when they had the USA defense had often driven them back 15 to 20 meters. With the USA lineout functioning nicely, and the Eagles even stealing a throw or two, Romania didn’t have much of a platform. So when Carty’s long kick rolled dead, giving Romania a scrum inside the USA half, it wasn’t much of a problem. Eventually it was the USA that got a penalty, took the lineout, drove the maul, and were rewarded with a penalty try for a deliberate collapsing of that same maul.

Now Romania were in real trouble with a yellow card and a 26-0 deficit.

Just before the yellow card expired, the Eagles got their final try. Once again it came off a penalty, but once again that penalty was the result of the intent and hard work of the USA players. Lineout, maul, and Ryan scored fairly easily. 

That made it 31-0 with about 20 minutes to go, but most of the rest of the game was all Romania. The Oaks figured out some things in the scrum, and veteran scrumhalf Florin Surugiu provided a spark off the bench. 

With Romania moving forward the Eagles ripped the ball free but appeared to do it illegally. Whatever the situation, the ball was rolling untouched and Surugiu scooped it up and raced off to the tryline. We was eventually dragged down by Augspurger, but the Romania forwards had their tails up and the crowd behind them, they consolidated nicely and Surugiu took a little offload and scampered in. Now it was 31-7.

Referee Sam Grove-White tried to look at the TMO to check on a couple of issues, but the language barrier seemed too much and in the end he confirmed the try and moved on.

Moments later Romania was once again on the attack, working the phases and making the gainline a bit more. A long kick into the corner bounced off the ground and then Mitch Wilson’s hands right into the grip of wing Taliauli Sikuea, and he dove over for Romania’s second try.

With 13 minutes to go there was plenty of time for a comeback. After Dyer was called (harshly) for not releasing Romania attacked off the ensuing lineout and kept up the pressure. Finally a wide pass found wing Marius Simionescu and he was in at the corner. Five minutes to go, and it was now a two-try game.

The USA did enough to close it out. They earned a turnover and then a penalty, and with time up tried to score one more. Once again they were called for obstruction in the lineout, and a few seconds later the ball rolled into touch and it was all over.

For Romania, this was a rough game because they had hoped to kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign with a pre-tournament victory. While they played much better in the final 20 minutes, they would have to concede that the USA controlled the game in the first 60.

For the USA, there were actually some really good scoring chances that they didn’t capitalize on, and so one could say they should have won by much more. But we did see a team that was playing rugby, and an aggressive, quick style at that. Games against Romania can become a bit of a slog, but with aggressive clearouts and both McCarthy and later Ruben de Haas willing to get the ball away quickly, the Eagles were dangerous.

New captain Greg Peterson was outstanding, and his second row partner Cam Dolan stole lineout ball and was also very good. The starting front row, with perhaps Jack Iscaro the main man here, were terrific in the scrums.

In the backs no one was poor and it’s worth singling out Kruse as a player who showed real effectiveness on attack, worked with his teammates well, and made his tackles.

Overall a good start for the USA, a USA team with new faces and a new approach.

USA 31
Tries: Dolan, Ryan, McCarthy, Dyer, Penalty Try
Convs: Carty 3

Romania 17
Tries: Surugiu, Sikuea, Simionescu
Convs: Surugiu

1. Jack Iscaro; 2. Dylan Fawsitt; 3. Paul Mullen; 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. Tommaso Boni; 13. Mika Kruse; 14. Christian Dyer; 15. Mitch Wilson

16. Joe Taufete'e (on at 64 min); 17. Jake Turnbull (on at 64 min); 18. Takaji Young Yen (on at 78 min); 19. Nate Brakeley (on at 67 mins); 20. Thomas Tu'avao (on at 67 min); 21. Ruben de Haas (on at 60 min); 22. Chris Mattina (on at 75 min); 23. Tavite Lopeti (on at 67 min)

1. Alexandru Savin; 2. Ovidu Cojocaru; 3. Gheorghe Gajion; 4. Marius Iftimiciuc; 5. Andrei Maho; 6. Mihai Macovei (captain); 7. Cristi Boboc; 8. Cristi Chrica; 9. Alin Conache; 10. Gabriel Pop; 11. Taliauli Sikuea; 12. Tevita Manumua; 13. Jason Tomane; 14. Marius Simionescu; 15. Vadvasa Hinckley

16. Florin Bârdasu; 17. Iulian Hartig; 18. Alexandru Gordas; 19. Stefan Iancu; 20. Vad Necalau; 21. Florin Surugiu; 22. Mihai Muresan; 23. Ionel Melinte