Eagles unable to hold onto lead against Japan

Eagles unable to hold onto lead against Japan

TOKYO, Japan – Eric Fry and Chris Wyles helped the Men’s Eagles get on the front foot in the first half of their final IRB Pacific Nations Cup match against Japan Sunday, but Japan managed to come back and earn a hard-fought 38-20 win at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.

Japan got on the board first in the seventh minute, outnumbering the Eagles wide. Luke Hume made a good tackle but a quick offload to Kenki Fukuoka resulted in the early deficit. Ayumu Goromaru added the conversion, his first of four in the match.

Adam Siddall, starting the match at center, had the hit of the match in the 12th minute and drew a penalty with the tackle.

The Eagles were rewarded with good attacking phases in the 16th minute. Chris Biller turned the ball over with a nice read and tackle on a Japanese attack and Siddall broke a few tackles to move the Eagles up the field. Hume got the ball out wide and made a quick offload to Scott LaValla, who passed to an onrushing Wyles before being pushed into touch 10 meters out of the try zone. Wyles ran around the last defender and dotted down closer to the sticks, giving himself a better angle for the conversion.

The 7-7 tie gave the Eagles a boost and resulted in their second try. Hume, near the touch line again in the 21st minute, passed it to Wyles for a big gain within the 22. Hume found the ball in the middle and Louis Stanfill filled in at scrumhalf to offload to Andrew Suniula. Suniula quickly gave the ball to Fry, who dove over the line to give the Eagles an important 12-7 lead.

A bad lineout by the Eagles in the 25th minute near their own try zone gave Japan great field position, and some poor tackling did not help the cause. Eventually, Japan moved the ball wide to Male Sau, who pulled away from Peter Dahl while his shirt was being tugged and scored a try in the corner. Goromaru missed the touch line conversion to keep the score level at 12-12.

Hume was almost hung out to dry in the following minutes with a long clearance kick by Japan finding the corner of the field. Hume, however, showed his pace to pick up the ball in the face of an oncoming Japanese attacker and run to midfield, ending the danger. After a few good phases by the Eagles, Japan committed a penalty in the breakdown and Wyles made them pay with a 40-meter penalty goal.

Two minutes before the end of the half, Japan’s Hendrick Tui quickly grabbed the ball from the ruck and ran 20 meters untouched to score between the sticks. Goromaru kicked the conversion from in front to send the teams into halftime with Japan up 19-15.

“We felt pretty good going into halftime, but we felt that we gave them a soft try at the end of the half,” captain Todd Clever said after the match. Clever earned his 50th career international cap Sunday.

The first half was arguably the Eagles’ best of 2013, with two tries and the inclusion of the backs in the attack a sign of how the Eagles can punish teams.

James Paterson misread a tackle in the 44th minute to allow Goromaru space just outside the try zone and offload to Japanese captain Toshiaki Hirose for the try and a 24-15 lead.

Japan’s five-foot-five scrumhalf, Fumiaki Tanaka, found space at midfield in the 49th minute and sent a kick and chase deep into Eagles territory, but was knocked down by Clever. Wyles got to the ball amidst a few Japanese players but knocked it on for a scrum. As has been the case in recent games, the Eagles struggled to cleanly win scrums, losing multiple in three minutes to a strong Japanese team. Eventually, a penalty try was awarded and the Eagles found themselves down 15-31 after the conversion.

The third match in 10 days also caught up with the tired Eagles with scrum after scrum being awarded. Fry was sent to the sin bin before the penalty try and Biller made way for Zach Fenoglio, both players a mainstay in the Eagles’ scrum.

The Eagles were hemmed in their own half for the first 25 minutes of the second half and were punished again by Japan in the 63rd minute. Tanaka used his pace to get through the line and his dummy pass allowed him to get in alone and juke Wyles into the try zone from 10 meters. Goromaru kicked his final conversion for the 38-15 lead.

Siddall broke a few more tackles in the 68th minute to set up Hume, who sent a grubber kick into the try zone and collected it for the try. Wyles could not give the Eagles the extra two points and the final score of 20-38 was not what the visitors deserved after the first 40 minutes.

“We played some of our best rugby in the last five games in the first half, but we needed to play like that for 80 minutes and we couldn't do it," Clever said. Japan defeated Wales and Canada in the week leading up the Pacific Nations Cup clash. "Japan’s on their game and playing some great rugby.

“I’m proud of the boys for coming out but we let them off the hook a little bit. We’re disappointed, but we have two big games coming up against our rivals Canada in August.”

Fiji finished atop the Pacific Nations Cup table with three wins and one loss, the same record as Canada, but took home the winners’ medal with 16 points to Canada’s 13. Tonga and Japan finished with 10 points and nine points, respectively, while the Eagles picked up a bonus point in the final match to finish with one point.

Though the 0-4 record in their first Pacific Nations Cup is disappointing, the Eagles are better prepared for their two Rugby World Cup Qualifiers against Canada this August.

“We played good, attacking ball in the first half and showed more patience,” Head Coach Mike Tolkin said. "Letting up a soft try just before the end of the half hurt our momentum for sure. Early in the second half some defensive lapses buried us in our own end and put us under pressure. Ultimately, that territorial disadvantage proved costly.

“The Pacific Nations Cup was our learning experience. Our goal was to win, but we also had a young squad who are getting blooded. We can’t move forward until that happens."

Purchase tickets for the first Qualifier at Charleston’s Blackbaud Stadium August 17 here.

Men's Eagles | vs. Japan
1. Shawn Pittman (Wallace @ 78)
2. Chris Biller (Fenoglio @ 65)
3. Eric Fry (Thiel @ 72)
4. Brian Doyle
5. Louis Stanfill (Murphy @ 75)
6. Scott LaValla
7. Peter Dahl (Dolan @ 39)
8. Todd Clever (C)
9. Mike Petri (Shaw @ 70)
10. Toby L'Estrange
11. James Paterson (Scully @ 40)
12. Andrew Suniula (Kelly @ 70)
13. Adam Siddall
14. Luke Hume
15. Chris Wyles

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Zach Fenoglio
17. Nick Wallace
18. Phil Thiel
19. Cameron Dolan
20. Liam Murphy
21. Robbie Shaw
22. Seamus Kelly
23. Blaine Scully

Japan
1. Masataka Mikami (Nagae @ 72)
2. Shota Horie (Kizu @ 78)
3. Hiroshi Yamashita (Hatakeyama @ 36)
4. Hitoshi Ono (Makabe @ 53)
5. Shoji Ito (Ives @ 60)
6. Hendrik Tui
7. Michael Broadhurst
8. Takashi Kikutani
9. Fumiaki Tanaka (Hiwasa @ 72)
10. Harumichi Tatekawa
11. Kenki Fukuoka (Fujita @ 78)
12. Craig Wing (Tamura @ 26)
13. Male Sau
14. Toskiaki Hirose (C)
15. Ayumu Goromaru

Japan | Reserves
16. Takeshi Kizu
17. Yusuke Nagae
18. Kensuke Hatakeyama
19. Shinya Makabe
20. Justin Ives
21. Atsushi Hiwasa
22. Yu Tamura
23. Yoshikazu Fujita


Men's Eagles | 20
Tries: Wyles, Fry, Hume
Conversions: Wyles
Penalties: Wyles

Japan | 38
Tries: Fukuoka, Sau, Tui, Hirose, Tanaka
Conversions: Goromaru (4)
Penalties:

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Comments (9)

  • Guest (Verne Greene)

    The talent is just not there.

  • Guest (steve)

    They were dismantled by a Japanese team that wanted it more, Fry has been beaten badly in the last 3 games as with most players on the team, why cant Rugby mag and USA Rugby be more honest, that is the only way we will get better.
    Tolkin said after last weeks game that the defense was not bad, what game is he watching certainly not the one that the general rugby public is. Its time to get some skill and flair on the team, big lumbering ex football players are not getting it done. Tackling technique is bad throughout all the USA teams with the u-20's being the worst. Until these deficiencies are addressed with clarity and honesty we will be a sub par country in the rugby world. The Nepotism in USA Rugby is slowly killing the game.

  • Guest (Dan)

    The problem is in the tight 5. Eric Fry is way too small to be an international tight head prop. His college profile refers to him as a lock. Also Louis Stanfill is not a lock, period. He's a blind side flanker. We need Manoa packing down in the tight 5 (like he does for the Saints) to bolster the scrum. Until the USA has multiple props and hookers taking up starting spots on big name club teams in Europe we will continue to struggle. And why James Paterson is not playing in the ITM Cup is beyond me. Fine, the NZRU won't let him play Super Rugby b/c he chose to play for the US. But at least get in the ITM Cup or somewhere in Europe. Going from Super Rugby to the USA's 'Super League' is not progress.

  • Guest (Steve)

    The other problem is the reporting, this reporter writes the article like the US was ahead most of the game. I believe that they were in front for approx. 4 minutes of the 80. Honesty has to come from everywhere, its the only way they will fix the problems.

  • Guest (TomC)

    Tolkin lost control of the squad by throwing caps around like a guy on a fishing trip with an ice cold 30-pack of Bud. By wrapping his pro players in cotton wool when the rest of the pro internationals from the UK, Ireland and France are playing for their country in the June internationals. By accusing the players of not meeting their responsibility to generate passion to play after the Tonga loss while in the same sentence absolved the coaching staff from that role. By relying on the players he knows best from NYAC or Xavier when they aren't the form players in that position or lack playing time. He made his first mistake retaining Clever as the captain with a wink wink that it's his till the 2015 RWC. Clever is trying to coast out the rest of his career looking for sponsorships and glory playing in a soft Japan league that plays fewer games than any other pro league.

    If you want to know how a real international coach approaches the June internationals and building a squad culture in a tier 2 nation, view this video of an Eddie Jones interview last week on why to play his best players against Wales, Canada and USA regardless of the quick turnaround between games and getting 3 wins.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2c5nnPuDhc

  • Guest (Tony)

    Some of the play, especially the tackling, was embarassing for international level rugby. There are maybe 5 or 6 "pro" players on the roster. The USA can't march out guys that are teachers, salesmen, tradesmen, who play US club rugby and expect to do well. There has to be some developmental agreement and some real money put into players willing to commit to a professional career in Europe, where they can fully commit to the game. Fry will never be an international player yet he is almost an automatic on the selection. LaValla, Manoa, Clever, Wyles are legit, Siddall showed some promise but no one else looked promising, although some younger players have potential, Wallace, Dolan, Kelly, but they must be inserted into a real professional setting to develop. Trotting out guys like Dahl, Petri, Biller, Pittman, Fry, etc, who seem to be firmly entrenched in the national pool will do nothing. You can't have basic tackling mistakes, defensive structure lapses, aimless kicking and expect to be competitive. Put the money in developing those players committed to going overseas, not in US clubs.

  • Guest (Tony)

    After watching the Fiji and Japan game I have to add that Luke Hume is a really good player. Seamus Kelly will never be an international center but if could convert to scrum half could play at the international level. He may be a great college center but is too small to play center internationally. Being feisty and a very good athlete he could be a good scrum half. Again, US rugby should put money into supporting a team in Europe. With a big sponsor it could be possible. Until then it will be the same old story..........no chance against the Tier I nations and frustrating losses to the Tier II nations.

  • Guest (Bill)

    Like any other professional sport, when there is consistent lack of performance by the team, it is time to shuffle the management. After five straight losses, four of which are Tier 2 teams it is time for Tolkins coaching staff to get their marching orders. Even their loss to Ireland wasn't a full up Ireland squad as half their starting XV are traveling on the Lions tour. The Eagles are barely hanging on to Tier 2 designation and are now behind the likes of Romania. With the likes of Canada and Maori All-Blacks coming up, the future is not looking much brighter.

    The scrum has been abysmal. The Eagles rolled over like beaten puppies to the technically superior Japanese squad. As the Ref stated, "They have to stay in there and take it." The irony that USA Rugby released a video "USA Rugby Rising: How to Train a Scrum" only adds insult to their performance. First measures are to sack Scrum Coach Derek Dowling and send Forwards Coach Dan Payne back to his university duties. That should serve as the proverbial shot across the bow for Tolkin and the remaining coaching staff.

    Second measure is to relieve Clever of his captaincy. His inability to hold his squad together in the face of adversary is abhorrent. His response to the Ref, "What do want me to do?" only hardened my belief that he can no longer carry this team, let alone all the way through 2015. His lack of integrity in saying "We let them off the hook a little bit" was a shocker.

    If the USA ever hope of reaching Tier 1 status they need to adjust to the state of the professional game. Their tactics are as dated as Tolkin's haircut. No longer can we rely on club, university and high school coaches to take this team into the future. While this may have worked in 1924, it does not hold in today's attacking game. Hire some professional coaches with a pedigree beyond the U.S. club system and we'll show some improvement.

  • Guest (Dan)

    I respect the USARFU's idea that an American coach would be more committed to the Eagles than say an Eddie O'Sullivan who was clearly looking to use it as a stepping stone to coaching a European powerhouse club or even a national team. But I agree with the other commenters that someone who has coached international champion tier I calibre teams needs to be brought in ASAP; somebody like Jake White or Andy Robinson. I also believe that playing a player out of position on the national team makes life more difficult. For example I see Stanfill as a 6 (based on his RWC '07 performance), Vincenza see him as an 8 but for some reason Tolkin puts him at 4. His club plays him at 8 with no better option we should also. Clever should remain at 7, Lavalla at 6 where he gets most of his action for Stade Francais and Manoa at 4 where he gets a lot of action for Northampton and where he can put some strength behind our very weak front row. Yes he's a great ball carrier and tackler but if we never have the ball because our set piece is being torn apart then none of those things really matter. I know I'm repeating myself here but for God's sake I can't be the only one who sees it this way. I also can't be the only one hoping that Hayden Smith gets cut by the Jets and returns to rugby. Same for hoping Threton Palamo doesn't get drafted out of Utah and comes back to rugby minus some lbs. and ready to play in the centers.