Scotland survives Houston heat, defeats Eagles at BBVA Compass Stadium

Scotland survives Houston heat, defeats Eagles at BBVA Compass Stadium

HOUSTON, Texas – The Men’s Eagles lost two players to injury in the first 20 minutes of Saturday’s match against Scotland at BBVA Compass Stadium, a 24-6 loss in front of 20,001 fans.

Shalom Suniula, starting his first match for the Eagles, got the game started with the kickoff and Blaine Scully nearly won it cleanly in the air. The Eagles’ penalty troubles began in that first minute, allowing Scotland to advance up the field with kicks to touch.

The lineout just meters from the Eagles’ try line in the third minute was stolen by the home team, but they were penalized before they could break midfield. Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw lined up the 40-meter kick and struck it well, but it caught the inside of the left upright and bounced back into play. The Eagles could not control the ball and a scrum was awarded for a knock.

In the sixth minute, before the Eagles could get the ball out of their end, Laidlaw had a second opportunity to open the scoring with another penalty goal attempt. He did not miss, giving Scotland a 3-0 lead.

The Eagles worked their way into the match with multiple phases in their attack and earned a penalty of their own in the 11th minute. It was still early, so the Eagles decided to keep it close and go for points. Chris Wyles took his time with the setup and nailed the kick to level the match at 3-3.

Louis Stanfill plowed through the gain line on the other side of the restart to set up Todd Clever with a momentous run, but again the Eagles’ momentum was halted because of a penalty.

The game broke open for the visitors in the 15th minute when Laidlaw offloaded to Tim Visser inside the Eagles’ half. The Eagles had overloaded the opposite side of the pitch and the wing had no trouble finding a hole with a neatly-timed run. Visser touched down between the sticks to give Laidlaw an easy conversion, which he made for a 10-3 lead.

Phil Thiel went down with an apparent injury in the 18th minute and needed treatment, but Scotland moved down the pitch and almost scored a second try if it were not for a pass lost forward in the final fourth of the field.

Tom Coolican replaced Thiel in the 20th minute and Folau Niua came on for Andrew Suniula, who appeared to land awkwardly in a tackle a minute earlier. Suniula was eventually taken off of the pitch on a stretcher.

Scrum after scrum moved Scotland closer to the in-goal, but the Eagles held firm before holding up a try in the 27th minute. Two minutes later, Visser got the ball over the try line again. The referee did not signal a try and referred to the TMO, whose replay showed the wing lost the ball before it hit the ground.

Scotland had been playing an advantage, however, so the Eagles were not able to escape the danger. Another held-up try kept the score close, but a yellow card for multiple infringements against Olive Kilifi at prop would prove costly. Nick Wallace replaced Hayden Smith as a front-row sub and managed to keep the scrum alive for the Eagles, but the referee awarded a penalty try a minute later. Laidlaw’s conversion from in front was successful to extend Scotland’s lead to 17-3.

The Eagles did not bow their heads after the try and went back to work, regaining possession following the restart and pushing deep into Scotland territory. Cameron Dolan put the Eagles within striking distance and Scott LaValla helped Clever near the try line in the tackle. The captain stretched over the try line and put the ball down, but a second look at the replay gave the referee reason to keep the Eagles at three points: an infringement for double movement.

“If Clever’s try was allowed that would have given us momentum, answering the Scotland try down to 14 men,” Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin said after the match. “It was just too much stop-start, not enough continuity.”

Clever said the disallowed try “took the wind out of [the Eagles’] sails,” but Scotland did not capitalize and, with a missed penalty goal by Wyles, took the 17-3 lead into halftime.

Kilifi and Smith reentered the match before the end of the half, but Wallace came back onto the pitch at halftime as a substitute for Eric Fry.

Niua saved a near-try in the 45th minute, taking Sean Maitland into touch when the wing had room to run. Mike Petri broke the line after the lineout and the Eagles put together a few phases before kicking for territory. Seamus Kelly laid out a Scot to turn over possession in Scotland’s half and the Eagles gave Wyles a third shot at the posts in the 50th minute by earning a penalty. Wyles kicked the ball true to cut Scotland’s lead to 17-6.

More stop-start play kept either team from continuous attacks, and it was not until the 66th when the next points were scored. Suniula kicked a perfect, 50-50 ball for Scully at Scotland’s 22, but Stuart Hogg timed his jump just a bit better than the Leicester Tiger and finished the turnover by running the length of the pitch for a try in the corner. Laidlaw kept his kicking average high with the tough conversion to give Scotland a 24-6 lead.

The Eagles did not give up until the final whistle, but temperatures above 80 degrees and a physical encounter with the Six Nations side made it tough in the final minutes. Chad London entered the match as a blood sub for Clever, who had been cut above his eye, but more scrums advanced the clock to 80 minutes before the Eagles could score a try.

Not long after the captain took the pitch once again, the referee blew his whistle to mark an end to the 24-6 match.

Positive signs for the Eagles included keeping Scotland scoreless while down a man in the first half and keeping the visitors scoreless for 20 minutes in the second half, but failing to score for the second consecutive match in Houston is a worry.

“We weren’t aggressive where we needed to be around the ruck and off the defensive line,” Tolkin said. “Overall, we didn’t do a good enough job holding onto the ball. We didn’t have the ingredients we needed to take the game tonight. The opportunities were there if we broke through.”

The match was Scotland’s first in a four-match tour, and new coach Vern Cotter was impressed with the effort from the Eagles.

“They never gave up,” Cotter said. “I thought they made ground at times around rucks, they caught us on wheels a couple of times. They have powerful runners, powerful athletes, and I’m sure they’ll be looking at the game tomorrow and they’ll be looking to improve. And they will improve their next game because there’s a lot of energy from their team, they just need to channel it and I think they’ll be fine.”

The Eagles had gone four matches unbeaten headed into Houston with wins against Georgia and Russia before a draw and win against Uruguay in the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier playoff series. The Eagles will get a chance to add more tallies to the win column this month as they take on Japan at StubHub Center June 14 and Canada at Sacramento’s new Bonney Field June 21.

Men's Eagles | v Scotland
1. Olive Kilifi
2. Phil Thiel
3. Eric Fry
4. Louis Stanfill
5. Hayden Smith
6. Todd Clever
7. Scott LaValla
8. Cameron Dolan
9. Mike Petri
10. Shalom Suniula
11. Luke Hume
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Seamus Kelly
14. Blaine Scully
15. Chris Wyles

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Tom Coolican (@ 20')
17. Nick Wallace (@ 40')
18. Titi Lamositele (@ 54')
19. Tai Tuisamoa (@ 63')
20. Danny Barrett (@ 54')
21. Folau Niua (@ 22')
22. Chad London
23. Tim Maupin (@ 70')

Men's Eagles | 6
Tries: N/A
Conversions: N/A
Penalties: Wyles (2)


Scotland | v USA Eagles
1. Gordon Reid
2. Scott Lawson
3. Geoff Cross
4. Richie Gray
5. Jim Hamilton
6. Alasdair Strokosch
7. Blair Cowan
8. Johnnie Beattie
9. Greig Laidlaw
10. Finn Russell
11. Tim Visser
12. Duncan Taylor
13. Sean Lamont
14. Sean Maitland
15. Stuart Hogg

Scotland | Reserves
16. Pat MacArthur
17. Alex Allan
18. Moray Low
19. Grant Gilchrist
20. Kieran Low
21. Grayson Hart
22. Ruaridh Jackson
23. Max Evans

Scotland | 24
Tries: Visser, Penalty Try, Hogg
Conversions: Laidlaw (3)
Penalties: Laidlaw

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Comments (29)

  • Guest (Steve)

    In reply to: Guest (Ed)

    This comment really hits the nail on the head, in my opinion. Put the foot away, start working through phases, and get the ball wide to start stretching the defense. SS, our fly half, seems prone, in this and previous games, to panic and kick before distributing the ball and letting the play unfold. Also bummed that Todd Clever wasn't awarded the try. Could have given us some much-needed confidence and momentum.

  • Guest (steve)

    To the writer of this article, were you at a different game as your take is slightly skewed "Suniula kicked a perfect, 50-50 ball for Scully at Scotland’s 22, but Stuart Hogg timed his jump just a bit better than the Leicester Tiger and finished the turnover by running the length of the pitch for a try in the corner." This was a 7 point turn around which put the game out of reach. Honest reporting needs to happen as does honest selections.

  • Guest (5Lock4ward)

    In reply to: Guest (steve)

    Right on man. I was at the match last night and he (Hogg) caught that ball right in front of my face and there was nobody near him when he caught it and there was nobody who was going to stop him once he took off. All b/c of the continuous kicking away of what little possession we had. They do sugar coat these match reviews; as if we're not actually watching the match.

  • 5Lock4ward,

    Universal Sports featured Hogg's try as the try of the match, and you can revisit the highlight here: http://universalsports.com/video/2014-rugby-world-cup-preview-usa-vs-scotland-top-score/.

    Additionally, Mike Tolkin addressed the play during the post-match press conference, which is embedded in the article.

    Thanks,

    Chad Wise

  • Guest (5Lock4ward)

    In reply to: Chad Wise

    Chad Wise, Fair enough that Scully was closer to Hogg than I remembered but Hogg was comfortable in taking that kick. Scully may have been near him when he took it but it's not like they collided in mid-air with both of them having their hands on it. And as guest Steve noted that's a major turning point in the scoring. The US simply cannot afford to kick that much ball away, especially when nobody was back to defend in such and iffy 50/50 situation. You can see the main defender chasing Hogg from behind was Wyles. Had Wyles been back covering at FB, maybe we make that kick. And let's be honest; there is some sugar coating and glossing over or ignoring some of the Eagles flaws on this site. And I'd like some more in depth reporting on the selection process in terms of leaving out the likes of Ngwenya and Paterson while I'm on a roll here.

  • Guest (rugby2)

    In reply to: Guest (5Lock4ward)

    Well, there was someone that actually made contact with him as he caught it, so I'm not sure what you were watching. He went up for the ball, but he went up behind Hogg, instead of taking the inside route and trying to contest the ball. I think there was another person who was running on about 3 meters inside of Hogg as well who made no play on the ball - I question if that player (Wyles?) ever even saw the ball coming down...

  • Guest (rugby2)

    In reply to: Guest (5Lock4ward)

    Well, there was someone that actually made contact with him as he caught it, so I'm not sure what you were watching. He went up for the ball, but he went up behind Hogg, instead of taking the inside route and trying to contest the ball. I think there was another person who was running on about 3 meters inside of Hogg as well who made no play on the ball - I question if that player (Wyles?) ever even saw the ball coming down...

  • Guest (5Lock4ward)

    In reply to: Guest (rugby2)

    That was Scully jumping past him and maybe their shoulders brushed against one another. So if that's what you consider contact then...we can agree to disagree. The author said it was a 50/50 ball that they both had a chance at. That's not really how it was, that ball not a 50/50 contest in that Scully wasn't really close to it and he and Hogg didn't physically contest it in mid-air. Sure, if Hogg and the other Scotland players hadn't been there then Scully gets it and scores. But to say Scully was close to it is sugar coating. It was a bad decision b/c there were more Scots than Eagles at the area where the ball was kicked, esp. b/c Wyles wasn't back to defend should Scully not come down with it.

  • Guest (steve)

    In reply to: Guest (5Lock4ward)

    I watched it over again the eagle who jumped for the ball was off by a country mile, more evidence to me that poor selections are being made. The kick was horrible no doubt but any kick is horrible without pressure on the ball. A lot of the players are getting beaten because of lack of will. Japan will put 50 points on this team!

  • Guest (steve)

    In reply to: Guest (5Lock4ward)

    Its the same as the selection process, to busy being nice instead of honest

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