Sunday, 23 March 2014

Roundup: Uruguay vs USA RWC Americas Qualifier


Report on the World Cup qualifying playoff from Montevideo where Uruguay nearly pulled off a gigantic upset in front of their home fans.

Match pic
Uruguay Uruguay (19) 27
United States USA (13) 27

The last time Uruguay defeated a side ranked in the top 18 of world rugby was in April 2005 against Japan, a time back when they were as high as 14 in the IRB rankings. Since then there have been some tough hugely frustrating times. That game against Japan was 9 years and 57 tests ago now, they had never beaten a top 18 side in the world since but they came very close to pulling off a huge and shocking upset at home in Montevideo this weekend and will be gutted they didn't win.

USA came into this game heavy favourites, they have made considerable improvements since the last sides met in 2009 and were at pretty much full strength barring a couple of concussed players. The Eagles however made a complete mess of the game.

The Eagles had plenty of good field position, but struggled to break past the good technique Uruguayan ankle snappers. Still the more amateur make up of los Teros side would be liable to being worn down if made to constantly defend against the physical US ball carriers. The US simply couldn't keep the ball properly for sufficient phases to do so however and leaked an exorbitant amount of penalties. This allowed Uruguay not only to get rest, but more importantly get points on the board as their confidence and energy levels got boostes in front of their home crowd.

Some of the penalties USA dropped were cheap to say the least. After one of the few periods where they did exert some sustained pressure which led to Diego Magno getting sin binned and USA levelling the scores at 6-6, the most experienced player on the pitch Todd Clever needlessly gifted a penalty at the subsequent restart. Before that there was a poor kick that led to an offside penalty by one of the Eagles most reliable players Chris Wyles was a gift.

Incredibly los Teros actually won the sin bin period 10-0, as soon after the USA failed to get players to a ruck and were turned over as Joaquín Prada hurtled away about 50 metres to score a try in the corner against the run of play. It was a controversial try though as replays may have suggested there was a foot in touch, but were deemed inconclusive.

That try eventually kicked the USA into something resembling some form. Eric Fry had a try disallowed for a double movement, then after another of run of phases Phil Thiel went over from close range before half time.

Then despite a poor start to the second half, with another unforced error from Toby L'Estrange which led to a penalty. The US finally were beginning to slice through the defence, with Samu Manoa going barely touched to pace away from 50 metres out. It was a try created in part by a dummy run from behind which left los Teros fly half Berchesi isolated from making the tackle. Not long after that, Chris Wyles ran a superb support line to make another try and the Eagles took the lead, putting themselves in a great position to take the match against a side that wasn't particularly threatening with ball in hand.

However the USA reverted back to the way they started the match. A damning stat of how they played was that in the next 20 minutes following Wyles try, the Eagles failed to make it past 3 phases. The gaps were beginning to appear but USA just couldn't take advantage of them whilst failing to keep the ball.

Uruguay meanwhile had discovered that prop Olive Kilifi, up against fresh Uruguayan props had run out of gas at around the hour mark. Kilifi had held up reasonably up until then (one of the few positives for the USA to take from the game), but couldn't go on the whole 80 which forced Nick Wallace on.

Previously blunt had a huge weapon at the scrum they could make use of, and they did just that. After territory that came about from a dominant scrum, Uruguay unlike the USA, managed to run through a series of phases into double figures in the opponents half. When the eventual penalty came about 10 metres out and 5 points behind, they went for the scrum option and repeatedly shunted the US backwards time and time again.

After Wallace copped an inevitable yellow, scrum half Agustín Ormaechea made use of the space created by the winger joining the scrum and went in at the corner. Whilst it seems very picky to turn down a try, in the circumstances it may have been wiser if the pack had kept the ball in and gone full out for the penalty try for the certain conversion. Felipe Berchesi missed the kick from out wide, his 3rd miss of the day and the chance for Uruguay to take the lead was gone.

From there the USA actually did start to manage to keep the ball and build some phases. Unfortunately for them though they hadn't done nearly enough to tire out and take the game away, with just minutes left it was too late. Following the try Uruguay's ankle snappers regained the defensive energy that had near the start of the match. After working hard for the tied scores, there was no way they were going to let it slip without a fight in they dying minutes.

Uruguay did hold the USA out, but they knew with the missed kicks they had perhaps let the chance for a massive upset slip. In the final play, neither side was satisfied with the draw and both kept playing on to try and win.

Even though los Teros didn't win and will be disappointed to not have, the draw was largely above their expectations and one of their best results for a long while, certainly the best result this current generation have achieved. Uruguay will need to make considerable improvements next week though, they will surely not get away with offering the USA so much attacking field position again. The Eagles performance was undoubtedly the worst under Mike Tolkin's charge, it was even worse than their torrid run in June last year. There will surely be a reaction next week in front of their home crowd.

Uruguay: 15 G Mieres; 14 L Leivas, 13 J Prada, 12 A Vilaseca (J de Freitas 54), 11 J Etcheverry (F Bulanti 62); 10 F Berchesi, 9 A Ormaechea; 1 A Corral (R de Mula 56), 2 A Avalo (c, N Klappenbach 51), 3 O Durán (M Sagario 40); 4 M Palomeque (C Soares 79), 5 S Vilaseca (F Lamanna 55); 6 J Gaminara, 7 D Magno, 8 A Nieto.
Tries (2): Prada (31), Ormaechea (74) Conversion (1): Berchesi (32) Penalties (5): Berchesi (4, 22, 29, 35, 44) Sin Bin: Magno (26)

USA: 15 C Wyles; 14 B Scully, 13 F Niua, 12 A Suniula, 11 T Maupin (L Hume 40); 10 T L'Estrange (S Suniula 74), 9 M Petri; 1 O Kilifi (N Wallace 62), 2 P Thiel (T Coolican 74), 3 E Fry; 4 H Smith (L Stanfill 51), 5 S Manoa; 6 T Clever (c, K Sumsion 58, T Lamositele 73), 7 S LaValla, 8 C Dolan.
Tries (3): Thiel (39), Manoa (48), Wyles (54) Conversions (3): Niua (40, 49, 55) Penalties (2): Niua (2, 27) Sin Bin: Wallace (73)

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France) | Venue: Estadio Charrúa, Montevideo

No comments :

Post a Comment