25 vs 00
RUSSIA BLANKED AS EAGLES FINISH SUMMER SERIES WITH VICTORY
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Men’s Eagles won their third consecutive international test at Bonney Field Saturday in keeping Russia shut out, 25-0.
AJ MacGinty slotted five penalty goals and converted the U.S.’s lone try in the victory, the seventh in seven matchups between the world superpowers. Todd Clever nearly had two tries of his own in his record-breaking 68th appearance in the Eagles kit, the final match of the Summer Series, but the Eagles overall were not as jubilant after earning a ‘W.’
“We stuck to raising the standard and performance this week and certainly didn’t meet the expectations,” Head Coach John Mitchell said. “We went backwards a bit this week and we’ll have to find out why. The positive was we ‘nilled’ them.
“We’ve made some strides this assembly in terms of identity; just need to improve some components of the game.”
Both teams went into the match coming off of losses, with the Eagles one called penalty away from upsetting Tier One Italy and Russia suffering a heavy-handed defeat to Canada north of the border. If they wanted to start on the front foot, neither found it in the early goings of the first half.
Several knocks and penalties kept either team from pleasing the crowd at Bonney Field with “champagne” rugby, but the Eagles came out with territorial advantage more often than not. Cousins James King and Tony Lamborn proved instrumental in their second caps for the United States by winning ball in breakdowns and giving the team go-forward runs.
As much as penalties stemmed several U.S. attacks from reaching the try line, the calls against Russia were the only infractions punished on the scoreboard. Lamborn played a neat one-two with center Thretton Palamo in the 10th minute to draw a penalty, which was finally awarded after a few phases for MacGinty to slot his first three-point kick.
He doubled the advantage following a successive offside call against Russia four minutes later, and the Eagles pushed for a try. Te’o’s run down the wing in the 16th minute turned into a knock, but Cam Dolan blocked an attempted clearance kick along the try line a minute later, forcing Russia into a shorter kick into touch. The lineout came to nothing, however, after the ball slipped out of James Hilterbrand’s hands as he dove over the try line.
Shown by the score sheet, the Eagles’ defense held Russia to zero points over 80 minutes and recovered from the offensive let downs like that in the 18th minute. MacGinty added penalty goals in the 28th and 36th minutes before one final attack set up his tee along the touch line. The fly half knocked the ball between the uprights with ease to send the teams into the half at 15-0.
Despite turnover ball benefitting both sides in open play, Russia’s attacks were mostly kept to breakouts from captain Vasily Artemyev or kicks behind the rushing U.S. defense. It happened in the first minute of the second half, only for Artemyev’s teammates to throw away possession with a longer kick into the try zone.
The scoring frustration continued through the 48th-minute yellow card to lock Andrei Garbuzov, as the Eagles failed to turn the man-advantage into points. Not long after the forward was released from the bin, Clever sent captain Blaine Scully away along the wing near Russia’s 10. Scully took on substitute Alexey Shcherban with the dive over the try line, with the Russian coming out the victor, holding up the Eagle.
With the summer California heat taking its toll on two rugby teams vying for a win, Mitchell emptied the bench in the second half, with Langilangi Haupeakui, Harry Higgins, and Stephen Tomasin making their debuts. Haupeakui immediately threw his weight around on defense, and helped to set up a try-scoring play in the 65th minute with a brick-wall run through two defenders across the 22. MacGinty continued the attack with a dummy before offloading to Te’o on the inside. The starting wing fended one tackler and kept out of the reach of another to dive over for his third career try and a 23-0 score before MacGinty added the extras.
The Eagles did their best to end the Summer Series with at least a second try, even playing beyond the full-time horn on the grounds of Cal Expo in the California capital. They came up somewhat empty handed, finishing off the match at 25-0.
Though the performance was not up to the standard the coaching staff or players would have wanted, it was a victory in shutout fashion. There will be time to reconvene this fall before the team meets the Maori All Blacks in Chicago.
“I think we have a lot more left in us, and this is a marker of where we are in our trajectory of constantly getting better,” Scully said. “I think we improved in areas and have things to work on in other areas. The challenge is to stay disciplined in our systems and structure.”
USA – 25
Penalties: MacGinty (6)
Russia – 0
USA: 15. Will Holder, 14. Mike Te’o, 13 Thretton Palamo, 12 Shalom Suniula, 11 Blaine Scully (C), 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Nate Augspurger, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 Tony Lamborn, 6 Todd Clever, 5 Nate Brakeley, 4 James King, 3 Chris Baumann, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Titi Lamositele
Replacements: 16 Joe Taufete’e, 17 Ben Tarr, 18 Angus MacLellan, 19 Harry Higgins, 20 Langilangi Haupeakui, 21 Stephen Tomasin, 22 Chad London, 23 Luke Hume
Russia: 15 Ramil Gaisin, 14 Denis Simplikevich, 13 Kirill Golosnitskiy, 12 Dmitry Gerasimov, 11 Vasily Artemyev (C), 10 Yury Kushnarev, 9 Rushan Iagudin, 8 Anton Rudoi, 7 Pavel Butenko, 6 Viktor Gresev, 5 Denis Antonov, 4 Andrei Garbuzov, 3 Evgeny Pronenko, 2 Evgeny Matveev, 1 Alexey Volkov
Replacements: 16 Nazir Gasanov, 17 Azamat Bitiev, 18 Vladimir Podrezov, 19 Evgeny Elgin, 20 Danila Chegodaev, 21 Alexey Shcherban, 22 Evgeny Kolomiitsev, 23 Anton Ryabov
Date: Saturday, June 25
Venue: Bonney Field
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Chris Assmus (Canada)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)