Men’s National Team Soars To First Victory Of June Test Series
DENVER, CO. – It wasn’t easy at first, that much we know. In fact, after the Russians drew first blood, fans at Dick’s Sporting Good’s Park were unsure of what they were about to see. But, a few minutes into the first half, the U.S. Men’s National Team found their rhythm to meet physicality with accuracy and convert nine tries for a 62-13 victory in the Emirates Airline Summer Series. Beginning their summer schedule as intended — by earning their eighth consecutive win over Russia — the United States will now ride into their second match of the series with No. 6 World Ranked Scotland at BBVA Compass Stadium next weekend.
“The boys made some really good decisions and obviously followed up with some really good execution and going in at halftime with five tries under the belt — all of them coming from the strategy and the plan that we put into place — was good,” said Head Coach Gary Gold, speaking on the various turning points of the game.
Within the first three minutes, Russia’s Mikhail Babaev had already put his side up, 7-0. With an attack deep in U.S. territory, the Bears took advantage of early Eagle penalties and kept the ball moving past the gain line. It wasn’t until the 8th minute where the United States tightened gaps in their own defensive line to keep the Russians from advancing into dangerous territory.
A critical turnover one minute later proved to be one of many notable turning points in the game. A high kick allowed the Eagles to win the ball mere meters from the line where the entire squad combined to help Joe Taufete’e seize the first U.S. try, 7-5.
Russia displayed dominance in the set piece throughout the next several minutes of play, earning a penalty goal by Lurii Kushnarev to bring themselves up 10-5. The brief momentum wouldn’t last long however, as John Quill notched another over the line (10-12) in the 19th minute. A running maul lead Paul Lasike to follow suit after and the United States had built a 10-19 lead.
It was a good offensive push for the U.S. but the squad still had their work cut out for them. Lurii Kushnarev converted a penalty goal in the 29th minute (13-19) and the Russians were only one score away of taking control of the match.
Both teams spent the next several minutes in a series of lineouts, each hoping to employ the same strategic positioning that could exploit defensive mistakes. But, the Eagles held strong and spent the reminder of the half racking up points on the scoreboard.
A penalty goal by AJ MacGinty and a combined breakaway from Shaun Davies and Joe Taufete’e on opposite sides of the pitch gave way for the U.S. to move up 27-13. Marcel Brache employed fancy footwork to break wide open on the next possession, running the length of the pitch to increase the lead 34-13 at the half.
When play resumed, Brache was at it again, dotting down for an untouchable second consecutive try for the United States to grip hold of their powerful momentum, 39-13.
Some injuries and substitutions forced the dynamic of the U.S. strategy to fall out of rhythm for a bit but the Eagles succeeded at keeping Russia out of the try zone. In fact, the Russian edge would never increase past 13 points whereas the Eagles would would put another three tries over the line.
Precise offloads, good pitch positioning and agile running allowed Nate Augspurger to pickup a sneaky breakaway, Cam Dolan to exploit the left flank and Captain Blaine Scully to push one in during the 80th minute to capture the 62-13 victory.
The United States undoubtedly improved as the match went own, taking control of a game that didn’t start quite as they had hoped.
“I thought it got better as the game went on,” said Captain Scully, describing his assessment of the Eagles’ set pieces through the night. “I think its a real target area for us to grow and develop in, we’re feeling pretty comfortable about the depth were growing in the front row and we feel pretty comfortable that it can hopefully be used as a weapon for us.”
With another week of rest and preparation, the competitive chemistry between each position of the squad will only improve as the Men’s National Team looks ahead to a battle with No. 6 Scotland next week.
Author: Aalina Tabani.