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Eagles Survive Mistakes in Round Rock, FT 33-28 over Os Tupis

I mentioned on Twitter that I hadn't been able to gather my thoughts on this match due to the disappointment I was facing.  I heard the same disappointment from Gary Gold during press availability.  First as an Eagles' Fan, I've seen the highs and lows following our surge after the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

In 2016, we sank a bit lower at first under John Mitchell as a new High Performance staff had no time to scout the talent that they inherited, capping many new players with the retirement of several Eagles as follows many World Cup campaigns.  In 2017 the Eagles began their rise winning the ARC and qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World by winning the CANAM Series.

Gary Gold took the reigns in January of 2018, and the Eagles took flight.  Our scrummaging improved and the Eagles went undefeated in the Americas Rugby Championship.  That is to say over the last 18 months as an Eagles' Writer I've been on the high.  The Eagles crashed down a bit during the match against Argentina XV with some discipline issues within the match.  Some of those issues reared their head in this one and at the wrong time.  

Photo Cred: USA Rugby

The way this match began, numerous great individual performances occurred.  You know why Paul Lasike has been fast tracked into the Eagles. It's important to note, that he's been the starting inside-center for every Test match that's he's been available.  His game has returned in a sense, Paul's game has been pretty complete from having grown up playing the game in New Zealand before moving to Utah where he played Rugby and Football at BYU.  He's a freight train with the ball in hand, makes careful and swift passes with the occasional perfect offload.  Attacking rugby is something that has shifted significantly in the make up of this squad, Paul's ability to put the ball in play with his foot has been an additional weapon.  

The reappearance of Mikey Te'O was a sight to behold, although it's important to note that San Diego fans saw that same dynamic play from him only a week before.  Te'O has always had the ability to make something happen from the wing or at full-back.  The difference here, following injury last season, Te'O rebuilt himself.  He mentioned that he had some dark times during that period.  But he's the most fit I've ever seen him in either an Eagle 7s or XVs Jersey.  The thing to know about Mikey, one of the reason's he is a fan favorite but many don't know him, was that's he's a FREAK.  He was an all CIF-SS selection at Long Beach Poly as a Defensive Lineman, and he's been a back three player in Rugby his whole career.   The motor Te'O has is one of the best in the game.  Against Brazil he earned a two try-assists and scored a try.

I've highlighted two individual performers, and there were more great individual performances against Brazil.  Hanco Germishuys scored a try and broke the gainline numerous times while also combating rucks on defense.  Will Magie displayed his distribution skills, attacking rugby putting the ball in play and a sure foot at the Fly-Half position. 

But it's important to talk about what went wrong and how it went wrong.  Defensively there were several lapses.  The Eagles committed a lot of penalties.  Knowing that Brazil had a strong set piece from the scrum. The Eagles attempted to drive up Os Tupis tackle-rate taking the penalty to kick to the corner and take the Lineout into a Maul then use the ball carriers with powerful running.  After some time off the clock this worked almost brilliantly and earned to shots at goal which were converted by Will Magie.  Then with some powerful running by Lasike and Te'O the Eagles scored three tries going into the half...but it was Os Tupis whom scored the final try of the half.  This shifted momentum significantly in the scrum.

Whatever it was, The Eagles tight five process was off.  Looking at how the scrum got diver straight back you have to examine the strength of the engine room lock pairing.  It wasn't getting it done.  Sloppy footwork from the props can also create issues.  Two players unavailable for this match, Joe Taufete'e who should be available this week against Uruguay, and Greg Peterson who returned to Bordeaux provide significant strength and experience to that process.  I mentioned to several people last night about the locks being an issue, but I'd be remiss if that was the only focus.  When you get driven back like that.  It is one of the first things that comes to my mind, but overall their process as a unit was not in-sync as that combination has never been on the pitch together.

There's a lot of things to clean up this week once the Eagles land in Seattle before they play what will be a hungry Los Teros de Uruguay side.

Attendance: 4785

~Aaron Castro