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Rugby World Cup: The Eagles get Clipped 7-45

Photo Credit: Mike Lee-KLC Photos

When these things go down, sometimes it's hard to put words on paper.  This was one of those times.  I'm one of the biggest defenders of referees.  I understand what they do, they're servants to the game.  During the first round I thought they did an ok job, but many folks were calling for heads.  Then World Rugby publicly rebuked their own officials.

You never really understand until it happens to you.  On the kickoff, Will Hooley received the high ball and was in a defenseless position as Piers Francis took his head off.  This was not looked at by the referee or the TMO.  Unlike in the Reese Hodge incident where the Referee and TMO applied the law incorrectly.  Hooley finally got up and it was play-on.  Referees and TMO teams need to be held accountable, I'm starting to see it now.  If you hold the Players accountable for violations of safety, then the person charged with facilitating the game needs to held accountable when they just don't look at something that is obvious.

Gary Gold stated that the Eagles were not credible in their performance.  They were not.  I've written about how prepared the Eagles have been.  This was the longest preparation the Eagles have ever had.  They had a Tier 1 Nation level preparation that this cash strapped nation likely could not afford.  This is the first World Cup where every single Eagle has earned their position through being a professional.  And it wasn't enough.

David Ainu'u went down on a scrum penalty that likely went uncalled committed by Dan Cole.  Dan Cole will be a centurion shortly, so he got the benefit of the doubt.  As it seemed for most of the match from the referee.  As I said above, I'm a defender of officials.  However, the same men I will defend know that I'm also their biggest critic.  Apply the laws fairly and consistently, that is all I ask.

David Ainu'u was folded over and suffered a World Cup ending sprain.  Chance Wenglewski is likely on a plane right now to Japan having been called up a few hours before this article.

Back to the match.  From that first scrum the Eagles went back almost every scrum.  When the Eagles tried to win their exits, the ball didn't bounce.  They did not commit to the attack as the game plan seemed to play territory.  However, I'd contend that is a horrible game plan against England.  The skilled kickers across their backline will make you pay.

Huw Bewan has been a great strength coach for this Eagles team.  He has raised their physical intensity to a level it has never been.  But for some reason, the Eagles that we know can play did not show up.  Was it because of that rose?  England certainly came to play, and where parts of their attack looked suspect against Tonga it looked complete against the Eagles.  They sliced, they diced.  But given all that, only down 19-0 at the halfway mark, the Eagles could come credible.

They did not come out credible, the same issues with the attack continued.  It's important to highlight that there were some individual performances were amazing.  Shaun Davies during the MLR season looked like he had fallen behind Nate Augspurger whose game had accelerated.  Well, this version of Shawn Davies is a top level scrum-half, his balls had zip, his service rapid.  He attacked, was the "Little Magician".  Aj MacGinty proved full of toughness as the outhalf and showed why he's one of the top 10's in the game.

But in the scrum, when the Eagles tried to carry in the open field, in the lineout; it was just a mess.

This squad has pride though.  Down a man following John Quill lowering the boom on Owen Farrell, they fought, they showed that defense that Jaque Fourie had been coaching them through all Summer.  England got greedy, with a move from Ruben De Haas bursting down the pitch, Hanco Germishuys snatching up the wobbling ball, the Eagles ran their attack for the first time with success all game.  Bryce Campbell scored a try.  Aj MacGinty kicked the conversion.

The Eagles have set their own standards, those standards are now quite high.  It is not enough to beat Tonga in this World Cup.  They must be credible.

~Aaron Castro