The Runner Sports

Emirates Airlines Summer Series: Agile Irish Backline Proves Too Much For USA Eagles

There were no illusions amongst the American players present at Red Bull Arena on Saturday as to the obstacle facing them as they took on the fourth-ranked rugby team in the world. Reputation, however, does not win games and as the Eagles took to the pitch against their Irish opponents, an air of anticipation and expectancy flooded the crowd as the thought of an American upset proved too attractive to refuse. This idea did not last long. The U.S. made a strong start but a combination of weak defense and absolutely clinical Irish backline play contributed to the Eagles’ dramatic 19-55 loss to the men in green.

The first half began with three unanswered tries going the way of Ireland. The Eagles seemed to have no answer for the elusive winger Keith Earls. Earls demonstrated his danger by scoring 2 tries, early in the match, for a total of 10 points and setting up at least 3 other scores in the rout of the Americans. With the precision of a surgeon, Earls’ smooth running and offloads carved up the American defense and yielded over 200 meters to the man from Limerick.

The Eagles however showed determination in the face of a strong Irish offense. American forwards, led by Ben Tarr, Peter Malcolm, and Chris Baumann, went toe-to-toe with the Irish all day in the New Jersey heat and delivered some punishing runs against their opponents. Likewise, in the 19th minute an Irish flyhalf attempted a relieving kick but was charged down by an onrushing Nic Civetta. The 6′ 8″ American lock had little difficulty swatting down the ill-advised Irish punt and after securing the ball, dotted down for the first American try of the match. Eagle flyhalf, and Dublin native, AJ MacGinty provided the extra points and American fans finally were given something to cheer about.

With feeble defense amounting to 32 missed tackles for the game, the Eagles struggled to contain the prolific offensive talents of their opponent, and two more scores from Irish forward Niall Scannell and scrumhalf Kieran Marmion weakened their grasp on the game with a halftime score of 7-29  in favor of Ireland.

The Irish didn’t delay in lengthening their lead in the second half, when their number 8, Jack Conan, gently guided the ball behind a powerful Irish scrum to eventually find its way to the try line.

The Americans answered back with two scores of their own through flanker John Quill and outside center Ryan Matyas. In almost identical fashion to the score from Civetta in the first half, Quill went complete beast mode in hunting down a relief kick from a hapless Irishman. The kick, attempting to rid the Americans from the Irish red zone, sailed full into Quill’s nose, however the imposing forward seemed not to take notice as he gathered the wayward ball and scored his only try of the match.

Moments later the Eagles were again knocking on the door, and with only 5 meters from the Irish try line it looked like some brilliant defense would prevent the American from scoring. Luckily for the men in white the American gamble paid off when some quick passing between players found Eagle center Ryan Matyas with a one-on-one against an Irish defender. Matyas cut hard and attacked the weak shoulder of the Irishman, achieving just enough momentum to carry him over the top and with a satisfying slam, ball met turf, and the Americans claimed their third score of the match.

These combined scores gave the distracted audience a reason to applaud with the deficit cut to only 17 points. The Irish responded by showing why they’re the team to end the 17-game All Black winning streak and would score 3 additional tries before the merciful whistle from referee Luke Pearce signaled the end of the match. Earls was again never far from the action and continued to threaten the Eagles with some endeavoring runs and valuable assists to his teammates.

By the final whistle signaling the 19-55 U.S. defeat, Irish and Americans fans alike had witness some excellent performances from two teams steeped in youthful rugby talent. With many veterans called up to the British and Irish Lions tour, this match allowed for many Irish debutantes to get their first taste of the international rugby scene. And like an overfed goldfish outgrowing its fishbowl, American rugby continues to expand and evolve bringing in athletes new to the game and demanding a greater, more suitable rugby environment to continue its rapid development.

Next up in the Summer Series, the Eagles will take on their opponents from Georgia on June 17th, before a two-leg, World Cup qualifying matchup with Canada. Stay tuned on The Runner Sports for all your USA Rugby coverage needs including the Emirate Summer Series and the World Cup Qualifying competitions.

June/July Schedule:

June 10, USA v. Ireland (Harrison, NJ)  L 17-55

June 17, USA v. Georgia (Kennesaw, GA) @ 7:00 pm ET

June 24, USA v. Canada (Hamilton, ON) @ 3:00 pm ET

July 1, USA v. Canada (San Diego, CA) @ 6:00 pm ET

Eric Sweigert

Eric Sweigert

Currently a teacher-athlete up in Northern California, I was first introduced to rugby in college (go Aggies) and haven't looked back. Nowadays you can find me teaching American History and writing about a sport that provided many good memories and more than enough stitches.
Eric Sweigert