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USA Eagles Defeat Scotland in Dramatic Fashion, FT 30-29

Photo Credit: USA Rugby

The match against Scotland started ominously as the Eagles executed a box kick after 35 seconds turning the ball to Scotland.  After the first ruck George Horne, the Scottish scrum-half pushed the ball to Adam Hastings and offloaded until it hit the hands of Blair Kinghorn who diced through the US defense.  Kinghorn converted his own try pushing the Scots up 0-7 over the Eagles in Houston.

The ball handling of the Eagles early on could only be described as atrocious and this leads into a comment from Scotland Coach Gregor Townsend that in this humidity the ball was just soaking wet from the moment Blair Kinghorn sent the ball down field on the first kickoff.  For the most part Scotland played a smart game early until Eagles Captain Blaine Scully was taken down by a high tackle.  This allowed the Eagles to reset and settle down.  The Ball would come in and cycled to the backline with Scotland committing an off-side penalty in front of the post, AJ MacGinty lined up and scored his first penalty of the evening bringing the Eagles within four at 3-7.  .

Scotland and the Eagles both played attacking styles of rugby using their kickers. MacGinty and Will Hooley would push the ball deep into their opponents halves with their legs as they would also receive booming kicks from Kinghorn and Scotland Captain Stuart Hogg.   As the Scots pushed the ball down field they would earn the penalty try near the posts following a high tackle on George Horne from Eagle lock Samu Manoa. Shortly following the penalty try, the Eagles picked themselves back up earning a penalty giving MacGinty his second shot on goal to bring the US to 6-14. The tempo began to unravel for the moment on defense, something this side has been working tremendously hard on.  Pockets of time in the middle of the game where they let the opposition through, down a man George Turner would score his fourth try in his last 85 minutes of Rugby tying the records of Ross Ford and Gordon Bullock.

However, the resilience of this team showed as the timing seemed to slow down and playing through their attack.  Getting down close to the try line, what is the turning point of this match, Joe Taufete'e surged on a spin move to touch down.  AJ MacGinty would make his first conversion of the evening bringing the Eagles within 8 at 13-21 Scotland.  The Scots would capitalize shortly off an Eagles miscue and penalty giving Kinghorn his second penalty shot, this time making it extending their lead to eleven before heading into the locker room at 13-24.

In the second half coach Gold and captain Blaine Scully adjusted the Eagles attack continuing to cycle the ball to Taufete'e, Manoa, Paul Lasike, and Bryce Campbell, in order to drive up the Scots tackle count.  Using punishing runners at pace to create gaps.  This worked early when the Eagles within the five-meter line gave the ball to Taufete'e as he surged over the try line.  MacGinty converted the try to bring the Eagles within 4.  Minutes later the Scots committing another infringement MacGinty would score his last penalty of the evening.

When asked about the hits, Blaine Scully, lauded his ball carriers defensive prowess.  Stating that not only do they give you the ability to punish on offense with their carries, but his big centers in Campbell and Lasike laid down hits on the Scots at a high rate making it tougher for their carriers to surge throughout the second half.

AJ MacGinty received the high ball off of a deep kick from Hogg, noticing the gaps and the support to his left.  He kicked deep towards Fagerson, turning on his own jets rushing.  Fagerson fumbled the ball on the reception allowing MacGinty to scoop and run, with Hanco Germishuys on his shoulder, MacGinty offloaded to his left going into a tackle earning a try assist as The Hammer touched down.  AJ lined up and pushed through his third conversion of the match taking the lead 30-24 over Scotland.

With just two minutes to go the pressure was on, the Eagles defense had held, turned the ball over at their own five meter line.  It was expected for the eagles to just 'pick and go,' yet reserve scrum-half Nate Augspurger pulled the ball out of the ruck and boxed kick turning the ball to the Scots.  John Quill coming off the pitch for injury, Germishuys had returned to the pitch when Landry came off for an HIA.  As the conference of officials determined how to clear the US bench and give them fifteen players we saw Landry and Will Magie take the pitch.  The Scots won their line out, pushed the ball on pod after pod unable to go through the middle of the pitch.  Losing ground the Scottish scrum-half pushed the ball out wide to his left, as the ball cycled Dougie Fife received the final offload scoring the Scots final try in extra time as he was tackled by MacGinty in the corner.  With only one chance to secure victory, Blair Kinghorn lined up in front of the shrilling American Crowd, he took his time and missed as the Eagles charged him.  Referee Wayne Barnes blew the whistle.  The Eagles WON, the Eagles WON.

The last victory over a major Rugby Nation had come during the 1924 Olympics in the gold medal match against France.  This night in Houston achieved the first American victory over a World Rugby T1 country.

USA 30
Tries – J. Taufete’e 2 (37’, 43’), H. Germishuys (59’)
Cons – A. MacGinty 3/3 (38’, 44’, 60’)
Pens – A. MacGinty 3/3 (15’, 28’, 47’)
Yellow cards – S. Manoa (25’)
Tries – B. Kinghorn (1’), Penalty try (25’), G. Turner (34’), D. Fife (80’)
Cons – B. Kinghorn 2/3 (2’, 35’)
Pens – B. Kinghorn 1/1 (40’)
~Aaron Castro