The USA Men’s Eagles fell to Tonga 13 – 22 in their second match of the 2012 Fall European Tour. After taking the lead just before half, the Eagles struggled to convert and defend in the last 40 minutes, and gave up two tries to the physical and unrelenting Tonga squad.
Tonga put points on the board within minutes of the kickoff, getting the ball around the corner of the Eagle's defense and breaking tackles, but missing the conversion kick.
The Eagle’s defense looked more awake for the remainder of the half, and they succeeded in keeping Tonga out of the try-zone.
“The guys took the field playing to win in the first half. Our hard defense and good rhythm resulted in setting a positive tone early on,” said Head Coach Mike Tolkin.
As the half wore on, the Eagles offense began hitting their stride, resulting in a quicker and more creative pattern. Offloads in contact and broken tackles put Tonga on their heals and allowed center Andrew Suniula the chance to offload near the try zone, sending scrumhalf Robbie Shaw in for the Eagle's first try of the match.
Zachardy Pangelinan converted the kick, and made one of two penalty kicks earlier in the match to give the Eagles a 10-5 lead at half.
The second half began with a Tonga sin bin and should have allowed the Eagles to keep momentum, but instead the squad seemed to lack urgency on offense. Near minute 60, Peter Dahl came in for flanker Mike Quill and gave the Eagles a boost defensively.
The Eagles defensive effort prevented several tries, but broke down after a breakaway by the Tonga scrumhalf who offloaded for the score. With 20 minutes left in the half, Tonga had taken the lead 18-13 over the Eagles.
“We didn’t use the sin bin to our advantage," said Tolkin. "Instead of executing the fundamentals at a critical time, we made simple mistakes with the ball in-hand."
With about 10 minutes left in the half, the Eagles made two substitutions to try and regain momentum. Roland Suniula was sent in for Paul Emerick, and Mike Petri replaced Robbie Shaw at scrumhalf.
Fresh legs couldn’t convert opportunities for the Eagles, however, and Tonga scored their last try with four minutes left in the match.
“We really need to hammer home how important it is to execute the simple things. We got punished in this match for fundamental mistakes, and it cost us the game”, said Tolkin. “Tightening up those errors are what we’ll focus on against Romania.”
Although the loss was a setback after the Eagle's win over Russia, continued improvements in the set piece, open field continuity and defense provide bright spots for the Eagles.
The Eagles take on Romania Nov. 24 in their last match of the tour. Romania sits one spot behind the Eagles in IRB rankings and a win would solidify the squad's movement in the right direction.
Notes: Lock Brian Doyle will not be able to play against Romania due to a shoulder injury early on the match.
Tries: Lilo, Tu’ineau, Piukala
Convs: Apikotoa 2
Pens: Pangelinan 2
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The Barbarians are one of the top invitational rugby sides with a long history and classic rugby jersey.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Lions get ready for their matches with this green training jersey. It's what the players wear. Get in the Gear!
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The Lions are ready to get their Australia tour underway. They arrive in Perth on Monday.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.