Photo Courtesy: www.erugbynews.com - USA Rugby Players
The USA Eagles showed tremendous heart to defeat Russia 13-6 at Stadium Taranaki and record their first win at the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC). It was a huge team performance from the Eagles in very wet conditions which saw a fantastic Mike Petri try, and the boot of Chris Wyles giving the United States their third win in RWC history.
“Delighted with the win and the performance of the team. We retained our intensity and work rate from the Ireland game. We knew Russia would play to the very end, and we prepared for that eventuality. We had Russian under pressure on numerous occasions, but they defended really well and made us work for every score we got,” said Eagles Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan.
Russia started the match off fiercely resulting in a successful third minute penalty from flyhalf Yury Kushnarev. The Eagles came straight back strongly, using dangerous wings James Paterson and Taku Ngwenya in sweeping attacking movements.
It was off a great platform setup by the forwards that created space out wide for Roland Suniula to bust through near the halfway line. The flyhalf found his brother, Andrew, who broke through the defense and sent Mike Petri into open space. The scrumhalf did superbly carrying a tackler over the line to score a fantastic team try for the Eagles. Wyles converted putting the USA up 10-3 after 20 minutes.
The intensity at the contact point was as intense as ever, with so much riding on this battle. The Eagles had two more penalties in the Russian half, but were unable to add to their lead as the first half ended. The Russians had to make 83 tackles compared to the Eagles 33 in the first period.
Despite the conditions, the packed crowd witnessed some beautiful rugby during the evening. The Eagles dominated possession, using width on attack, and the constant pressure led to another penalty from Chris Wyles.
Russia fought back strongly near fulltime, kicking three points through center Konstantin Rachkov. They got very close to the Eagles tryline, but two magnificent lineout steals from John van der Giessen haulted the attack. The Eagles defended bravely for the remaining minutes, until victory arrived at Stadium Taranaki.
Todd Clever had another massive game leading the Eagles. The tight forwards were excellent at the set pieces, and the backline moved the ball around during difficult conditions. The try by Petri was brilliant backline support, and Wyles produced an outstanding performance returning from injury. The Man of the Match was veteran prop Mike MacDonald who had another barn stormer. MacDonald also equaled the record for the most RWC appearances of 10 matches, set by Alec Parker.
“We now have some time to rest a lot of tired bodies and get ready for the Australia game,” said O'Sullivan.
The Eagles will face the Australia on September 23 in Wellington.