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What the Eagles Did Right

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What the Eagles Did Right

Cam Dolan watches Ruben de Haas launch a box kick. The USA kicking game was on-song on Saturday. David Barpal photo.

The improvement of the USA Men's 15s team from one week to the next was actually not that much of a surprise.

We were at the game and talking to fans going into the game they all seemed to be confident that the USA would win and win by a sufficient margin to win the World Cup Qualifier series. Even, if you look at what Canada Head Coach Kingsley Jones said, the opposition expected the Eagles to be better.

But how? Well, we outlined the things we wanted to see and by and large we saw a better performance. We saw fewer silly penalties. We saw a lot more adventurous play, much of that fueled by very quick ball out of the ruck. That certainly was crucial in helping the Eagles get the ball wider and find gaps.

But there were other factors, too, factors that we didn't discuss.in our previews. First was the handling of the new laws. The Eagles didn't do a terrific job with the 50-22 rule, but the rule still worked well for them because Canada had to keep players back to guard against the kicks. So we didn't see Marcel Brache kick much, but that was in part because that's not what was on offer. Instead he countered on the run, and that worked.

(Another quick note on Brache. He hurt his shoulder about seven minutes into the game and battled through until about 60 minutes in. He left the field with his arm in a sling, but had really gutted it out. The arm-slap he used to force Cooper Coates to lose the ball when Coates had an open run to the line actually had to hurt a lot, but it saved a try.)

The other aspect of the kicking game was the kick-chase and the security of some of the players under the high ball. Head Coach Gary Gold pointed out that his team hadn't secured any kick in the first game—not the USA kicks, not the Canadian kicks—and that really hurt them. Their kick-chase, highlighted by the superb play of Ryan Matyas and Christian Dyer on the wing, forced turnovers, and kept the USA momentum going.

Some Player Notes

Mike Dabulas earned his first cap in the game against Canada, becoming the first Eagle from the Union County Mudturtles high school program.

Cam Dolan earned his 55th cap, putting him in sole possession of 7th all-time for USA MNT players.

Joe Taufete'e's try put him at 21 for his career, now within five of the record by Vaea Anitoni. He has extended his record for most test tries by a tight-five forward.

Hanco Germishuys, by scoring three tries, jumped past Takudzwa Ngwenya to 9th all-time by a Men's 15s Eagle. 

AJ MacGinty, who didn't have his best day kicking, still managed to get to 300 test points, only the second player (Mike Hercus is the other) to make that milestone for the Eagles. 

This was Gary Gold's 17th win as the USA Head Coach, which makes him the winningest Eagle Coach ever. He was tied with Jack Clark on 16 wins. Gold's winning percentage of .586 is the best of any coach who has led the team more than twice (Charlie Austin coached the team in 1924 when it went 2-0 in the Olympics).

 The USA now faces Uruguay October 2 in Glendale, Colo., and then against a week later in Montevideo. The winner of that series is Americas 1 in the 2023 Rugby World Cup. The loser players the winner of Canada vs Chile for America 2. The loser of that Americas 2 series then goes on to the final qualifier tournament.