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Too Close For Comfort: USA Edges Uruguay

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Too Close For Comfort: USA Edges Uruguay

Joe Taufete'e was a big part of a solid front row effort, especially in the scrum. Photo USA Rugby.

The USA beat Uruguay Saturday in Glendale, Colo. but really not by nearly enough to feel comfortable going into the second leg of the two-game Rugby World Cup qualifier series.

Despite appearing to be in control of the game, the Eagles found that momentum is a fickle mistress, and spurned that momentum repeatedly in the second half to turn a comfortable 19-3 lead into a19-16 nailbiter.

The Eagles took a while to get going on the scoreboard simply because penalties and little errors would hurt them. Under pressure themselves they gave up a kickable penalty that flyhalf Felipe Berchesi put over without any trouble. 

In the end, in the early going the best USA sequence was on defense. Uruguay went through a long series of phases and failed to gain any ground—in fact they lost ground as the USA defense was patient and physical. Eventually the Eagles got a holding-on penalty thanks to Andrew Guerra and Hanco Germishuys, and the USA could get on the offensive again.

The Eagles then pulled a try out of nowhere. A long kick to touch became a quick lineout to himself for Mika Kruse. The USA recycled, and Germishuys broke through and popped to Ruben de Haas.  The scrumhald had hooker Kapeli Pifeleti on his inside but instead unleashed a bit of a dipsy-doodle sidestep move that looked dodgy but worked out. He offloaded to Pifeleti who was dirven into touch, but not before he unloaded to No. 8 Camp Dolan, who was in for his 18th USA try, That put him past Paul Emerick for sole posession of 3rd all-time in tries for the USA.

Will Magie was good on the conversion and the USA led 7-3.

Moments later Christian Dyer was over. A snappy backline move was highlighted by a superb catch-and-pass from Tavite Lopeti to set up the wing. Dyer still had plenty of work to do, and he did it, beating two defenders and dragging a third as he raced over for the USA's second and, with Magie's conversion, a 14-3 lead.

That's how the half ended, and in the second half the USA added to that lead. Ten minutes into the second period some good pressure gave a tiny bit of space on the outside and Marcel Brache cut through and passed out to Kruse, who was in. That made it 19-3 and the Eagles were in control.

But then a big play. Germishuys got the ball in his 22 and hoofed it downfield. An impressive kick was made impressive by the flanker's chase. He was there to almost charge down Felipe Etcheverry's clearance. The ball sailed downfield to flyhalf Will Magie, who launched a perfect 50-22 kick that rolled into touch to give the USA a lineout five meters out.

But hold on, the assistant referee called Germishuys for a late hit on Etcheverry. The call seemed quite harsh because Germishuys was trying to block the kick and the two just seemed to bump into each other, with the Uruguayan adding some sparkle to his fall to the ground.

Nevertheless, the call was made. Instead of a lineout deep in Uruguay territory, the Eagles were defending a penalty. They managed to just hold out the maul, but eventually cooler Teros heads previled and Berchesi kicked another penalty goal.

Another silly penalty inside the Uruguay half halted another promising USA attack, and soon Berchesi was lining up another kick. Now it was 19-9.

As time wound down, The USA looked to push to score one more, but again errors and penalties gave Uruguay a chance. They worked off a lineout and after a long series of crashes at the line, prop Guillermo Pujadas was over. Berchesi was money from the touchline, and that was it.

The USA had one more shot with no time left and took a lineout, but they lost that throw-in and Los Teros kicked to touch.

It almost felt like a loss for the USA. They needed a cushion before going into Montevideo, and instead leave Colorado with a virtual tie. The final 30 minutes or so were not their best, as they shot themselves in the foot multiple times. A late break by Nate Augspurger, for example, was called back because Paul Mulle had pulled the jersey of a Uruguayan defender. It was that sort of night.

On the plus side, the USA scrum looked very good and they even shoved Uruguay off the ball while defending their line. The USA lineout was excellent until Cam Dolan left. The backline, with Will Magie marshaling things from flyhalf, went well. They just didn't get enough possession in the second period.

For Uruguay, this battle of attrition and goalkicking will suit them just fine. They were able to slow down USA ball and will keep doing that. They might have been a bit lucky, but you make your own luck.

"I'm just really proud of the guys' effort that we put in today," said USA captain Bryce Campbell, who had a big game. "We came out ready to play and we stuck it to 'em, especially in the first half. A bit of our discipline let us down in the second half letting them into it, but, at the end of the day a win's a win and we'll go down to Uruguay and get another one."


USA 19
Tries: Dolan, Dyer, Kruse
Convs: Magie

Uruguay 16
Tries: Pujadas
Convs: Berchesi
Pens: Berchesi 3


USA: 1. David Ainu'u, 2. Kapeli Pifeleti, 3. Joe Taufete'e, 4. Nate Brakeley, 5. Nick Civetta, 6. Hanco Germishuys, 7. Andrew Guerra, 8. Cam Dolan, 9. Ruben de Haas, 10. Will Magie, 11. Mika Kruse, 12. Bryce Campbell (c), 13. Tavite Lopeti, 14. Christian Dyer, 15. Marcel Brache.

Reserves: 16. Dylan Fawsitt, 17. Matt Harmon, 18. Paul Mullen, 19. Greg Peterson, 20. Moni Tonga'uiha, 21. Nate Augspurger, 22. Luke Carty, 23. Will Hooley.

Uruguay: 1. Mateo Sanguinetti, 2. Facundo Gattas, 3. Diego Arbelo, 4. Ignacio Dotti, 5. Manuel Leindekar, 6. Manuel Ardao, 7. Santiago Civetta, 8. Manuel Diana, 9. Santiago Arata, 10. Felipe Berchesi, 11. Gastón Mieres, 12. Andrés Vilaseca, 13. Nicolás Freitas, 14. Rodrigo Silva, 15. Felipe Etcheverry.

Reserves: 16. Guillermo Pujadas, 17. Juan Echeverría, 18 Matías Benítez, 19. Diego Magno, 20. Eric Dosantos, 21. Tomás Inciarte, 22. Federico Favaro, 23. Felipe Arcos Pérez.