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)

    And no a mention about how poor the Eagle scrum is#

  • Guest (JMD)

    In reply to: Guest (steve)

    A good scrum coach is a real necessity for you Eagles. It is may be possible to find it in France or Argentina

  • Guest (USA Rugby Fan)

    I don't want to be unfair about what I saw last night so I'm going to attempt to point out both good and bad points in the game vs Scotland. First, with the team that was on the field last night could the Eagles have won the game. The truth is, no. The Eagle are making the same mistakes every game, that is to say the coach is putting the same players on the field and expecting a different outcome. It's not going to happen

    Prop we have a crisis at prop and the same players are selected every time and the results are the same.
    Lock, I felt Smith had a much better game than he did vs Uruguay and his fitness also seemed to have improved. Stanfill always plays hard and w/Manoa not in the squad for this game the coaches went with an experienced player. IMO this was an opportunity missed to get more playing time for a young guy like Tuisamoa.
    Flanker, Clever played hard but missed a few chances at offloads to Hume. He also seemed to be less confrontational with the ref. LaValla turned in another solid game. I was also pleased with Barrett as a replacement, he seemed to have good quickness and skills.
    8 Man, This was the 6th star for Cam and he has turned in good performance each game. Good game from him.
    Scrum Half- Petri is awful, just horrid. But I'm sure he will get the start against both Canada and Japan. His time is past time to hang up your boots.
    FlyHalf, well for his first start I can't complain, SS didn't turn out to be a playmaker at 10 but his natural position is 9. Having him as an option when Sidal&L'Estrange are out is a good thing.
    Center, Kelly is improving but to be honest the centers saw very little ball so both he and Niua had limited opportunity.
    Wing, Hume shows up to play every time as does Scully, they just didn't get much opportunity to attack.
    Fullback-Wyles is always consistent at 15.

    Zee has not played for the USA for a long time, I can't think of any NFL team that would keep a player of this ability off the roster for so long. If he is having issues with coaching then the coaches need to make good. If Zee no longer wants to play for theEagles then let us as fans know about that decision. In 2003 and 2004 when he was the big threat he saw a lot of defense focus on stopping him. Well the Eagles have a few more options at wing now I'd like to see him back playing. I blame the coach for his absence.

    Prop, Look Fry is not a TH, he may do fine at LH, and to be hones he's not bad outside of the TH scrum problem. Stop putting him at TH, you are going to get the same outcome every time.

  • Guest (5Lock4ward)

    In reply to: Guest (USA Rugby Fan)

    You make a lot of valid points so I'm give to give my synopsis while piggy backing from your starting base.
    Prop- Agreed there is a major crisis and have always said Fry should be a LH. I'm willing to wait long enough to see what his Premiership side Newcastle Falcons does with him and what their top-level scrum coaches can teach him before I say we abandon him completely. For me, Titi Lamositele should be starting every single test match. He's one of our only props who's more muscle than fat and he's young enough to recover mentally from the struggles he'll face as a young prop learning the ropes. He should be given every opportunity to grow at test level that the US can give him. Same w/ Wallace to a lesser extent, he needs to run off the baby-fat and bulk up. He's very talented in open play which makes him very valuable looking ahead. Kilife is just a stop gap while Pittman is out as far as I'm concerned. Way too fat, it limits him in every other facet of the game.
    Hooker-Losing Thiel was brutal, probably our weakest position overall. We need 2-3 guys playing it at the top levels before our scrum and line-out will be able to truly compete.
    Lock - You said a 'young guy' like Tuisamoa. He's 33 y/o, he just got a really late start at test match rugby which is clearly the fault of previous regimes for missing him. I think guys like Harriman and Doyle should be in there while Manoa is away. Doyle was 1st choice until injury struck and Harriman played very well against the Maori, on short notice. Someone else commented that Smith should be in better shape having just returned from the NFL. That's not really logical as they play their game in 10 second bursts. There's no reason to think his lungs would be up to speed yet. That said, when fit, he's a great athlete and will be starting for us week-in week-out once he runs the rest of the bulk off.
    Loose Forward - Stanifll is a beast and a hard worker, but a lock he is not. If they're going to keep him around he should be at 6. Lavalla, for the love of God is no 7. He's another 6. Clever should be at 7, he's got the experience and the build to be a fetcher/poacher type. I'm good with Dolan at 8. Danny Barret should really be getting time at 7 as well. Although I could see him at 12; a basher/crasher, fantastic ball carrier who can tackle and is super aggressive on offense and defense. I'd put him there over Suniula.
    Scrum-half - S. Suniula impressed me last night w/ quick, assertive and accurate passes to runners coming off his shoulder. He's clearly the answer at 9, should have Davies there coming off the bench. Petri is a crafty ol' fellow on occasion but I suppose I'm calling for the youth movement to begin now. We're not going to win the RWC, we might as well get the young guys as much top level experience as possible to build depth and get ready for Japan in '19.
    Fly-Half - I like Siddall and I liked Roland Suniula there. Where has he been? L'Estrange is doing okay. I take Siddall and give him as much time as possible there when he comes back from his injury.
    Centers - I saw Paul Emerick in the house last night, too bad he's retired. Like I said I'd seriously consider Barrett at 12. Famous Seamus never gets the ball b/c we kick it away too much, see all 80 min. against Scotland last night for example. He defended well though so I give him the nod going forward. If Zee Ngwenya and James Paterson were around I'd have Wyles at 13 though. Thretton Palamo is also going to be great in the mid-field once he runs the college football bulk off his frame. I might even put him at wing, Lomu style, running people over.
    Wings - As mentioned Zee Ngwenya needs to be here. If it's a problem with the coach then fire the coach. No player is bigger than the team, that goes w/out saying, and he should be doing what he's assigned on the pitch while also looking for more work during the game. That's the difference between a talented wing and a great wing. People like Joe Rockococko of the All Blacks used to ruck for their team-mates to create opportunities for themselves. Ngwenya never got there. That said the Eagles still need his speed and scoring touch. Also, there's a young man named James Paterson who played Super Rugby w/ the Crusaders of NZ. Why am I the only person who bemoans his absence? How can we not have him on the pitch every single time? What did he see on the interior of this squad that made him choose office work over professional rugby? This, to me, is the biggest crime of all for the Eagles. Letting a Super Rugby player, raised and trained in NZ, played for them at all the age grade levels walk away from us. Shameful.
    Full Back - Wyles is always good for us. I'd still put him at 13 if Ngwenya and Paterson were around and let Scully have 15. He's younger and hungrier on the counter attack. Both are good under the highball. I blame the coaching staff for the continuous kicking away of what little possession we get. We don't have the line-out to back up kicking away that much ball.
    As for last night, I was on the 50 m line in the 3rd row and I saw an Eagles team defend really well against a line-up damn close to Scotland's best available. But all they did was defend and succumb to the same problems at scrum time and the same lack of any coherent offensive game plan. I like that our coach is American. That makes me feel patriotic; but it's not winning us rugby matches. Canada's coach is a New Zealander. Maybe we give that a shot. Or Andy Robinson perhaps. We have lots of guys in the pros and more soon to come I think; If I'm right about Danny Barrett that is. It's down to coaching now and we're just not where we need to be in that regard.

  • Guest (rugby2)

    In reply to: Guest (5Lock4ward)

    And I'll piggy back as well. First, this article is a brief summary, not an analysis - no way to get in everything. The scrum was again terrible, but did improve after some time. Part of the problem here though is also referring. Refs clearly have no clue about the dynamics of the front row, as they got wrong a couple of calls. Also, on the referee, on Clevers near try, a Scot had clearly attempted the tackle, the maul formed, and the Scot, now on the ground, continued to hold his legs, well after the maul formed, and try to pull him down. While I agree Todd double moved the ball, if they can call that on the TMO replay, they surely should have seen the infraction that caused him to come up short - the man on the ground. But the refs did not cost the US the match, not by a far cry. The reality is, if the Scots were half as good as they should be, they would have been a bit more clinical and scored 3 or four more tries - no doubt they left scores on the field.

    But my real comments are on the kicking of the ball. Box kicks are rarely an effective option on the international level. And most of the time, you are trading the territory hoping to either recover the ball, which we were never really close to doing, or oping for a knock - which would result in a scrum, where we were dominated. Playing to a phase where we are outclassed is never smart. But I also question if this is coaching or not. If it is, it must change or sack him - it's simply not logical. I don't think it is for two reasons. I've seen the coaches other teams, and boxing it was never a frequent option on those teams. Second, this was something our 9's have been doing for years, pre-dating the current coach. Further, at a test or two last year, I remember him making comments publicly about ceasing that tactic - but it still hasn't changed...why not? If you watch any other matches save a few maybe in inclement weather, teams can go 10+ phases, sometimes losing ground, in order to garner a penalty, break the line, or find a tactical opening for a driving kick. Given that I think running the ball in hand and lineouts are two of the things we generally do well, wouldn't it make sense to keeping running straight into gaps until we can seize an opportunity as above? Hell, worst case is we end up losing the ball after a few phases and give them the ball - something we are doing without trying to attack with every box kick. And playing defense is always harder than attacking. We simply put way to much pressure on ourselves with this boring, predictable,and ineffective tactic of box kicking...

    As for Zee - I'd like to have him and Hume, but form what I've read he has been in poor form and sulking even with his overseas coaches - from what I've seen and read, he seems to have tired of putting in the work around the pitch, and only lights up if they can get him the ball in a lot of space. That US coaches have reportedly asked him to shape up his attitude, which made him a bit more indignant. If that is accurate, leave him out for good. I'd rather have a team at least working hard.

  • Guest (5Lock4ward)

    In reply to: Guest (rugby2)

    I agree that if Ngwenya's attitude is that poor then he needs the reality check of being left out. I just think that somebody should be able to get through to him and get him back on track. As for Hume, he's exciting on offense but, from what I've seen of him live at the Kingston, ONT match and against the Maori in Philly, he's a a bit of a welcome mat on defense. I've seen enough of Ngwenya's recent performances to know that he makes his tackles when called upon. I suppose it says something though that he wasn't able to catch on elsewhere when Biarritz were relegated.

  • Guest (Guest)

    Hayden smith was not in game. He was out of shape and breathing with his hands over his head. You would think after the nfl he would be in great shape. The line outs were not good. Stanfill again had a good game. What ever happened to Doyle. His line outs were consistent. Isdoyle hurt they seem to miss him.

  • Guest (John)

    one more time, Chicago in June, Houston in November...

  • Guest (Ed)

    Please for the love of god stop kicking the ball. Nothing good happens when you turn the ball back over to the other team. Keep possession and keep working. Good things will happen. Put #10 at scrum half and find another flyhalf that can get the ball down the line to the backs. Also stop playing flat footed and get steeper when we have won the ball.

  • Guest (Chris)

    In reply to: Guest (Ed)

    There should be a rule(law) change on the kick. When a team kicks, the opposing team should be able to catch the ball, no matter where on the field, and call for a mark. This should then be treated the same as a penalty ie. the player should be able to kick directly into touch and have the throw at the line-out.

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