2015 World Rugby Classic, Bermuda
French Defense too much for USA classic eagles
France Overcame the USA 17-5 in World Rugby Classic Plate Final
November 15, 2015 - Hamilton, Bermuda – In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, France that has left the world reeling, Classic France was able to limit the USA offense to only one try, while the French offense capitalized three times on space outside on the wings for their tries. Opening Saturday night with a moment of silence for the tragedy in France, and wearing black armbands to honor those killed and injured, the USA faced a stiff breeze in the first half.
France took the first score of the match at about the 10 minute mark. The try came after a USA scrum and quick ball out to the backs to ease the pressure. However a turnover led to a swift French attack. France’s speedster, Julian Saubade, evaded the USA tackle and passed to Jean Philippe Grandclaude. Facing only one US defender, Grandclaude executed a clean two-on-one attack with a pass to scrum half Benoit Marfaing, who scored in the corner. The conversion by Sebastian Bozzi was wide left, leaving France ahead 5-0.
The remainder of the half saw a multitude of thwarted offensive attacks, strong defensive stands by both USA and France, leading to multiple turnovers from handling errors, lineout trouble, and kicks to relieve pressure. In addition, both teams committed three penalties late in the first half. With a mix of forward crashes and back movement, the USA tested the French defense. Finally, after 23 minutes of play, a series of USA forward crashes set up the pass out to Taylor Howden at outside center. After a grubber kick ahead, Howden recovered the ball cleanly and stormed into the corner, for the first and only Eagle try of the match. The conversion attempt was no good, and the score was tied at one try apiece.
The end of the first half saw possession turn over 10 times, with knock-ons, penalties and a USA throwing error in the lineout. A minute before the half ended, it looked like USA would have another score as wing Louis Tulio kicked ahead and followed with a strong chase, but the French defense stepped up again to prevent the score. The first half ended with a tie of 5-5.
Now with the wind at their backs, the USA seemed to clean up some problems in the lineout. USA had momentum and drew another French penalty. Scrum half and captain, Mose Timoteo ran the quick penalty and passed to Ata Malifa, who swung it out wide to the backs. Although it presented a scoring opportunity, the USA was penalized for not releasing the ball, and France was on attack again.
After the first five minutes of the second half, France’s Elvis Vermeulen, committed foul play with an elbow in the rolling maul and was sent off with a yellow card. Unfortunately, despite being down a player, France took advantage of a US penalty for a high tackle, and then Benoit Marfaing of France broke through the USA defense to score and was tackled over the line wide of the posts. This try was also unconverted.
The French defense allowed little progress by the USA in the second half. Despite strong US defensive pressure that caused the French to commit eight second half penalties to USA’s four, the USA was continuously thwarted in both forward and back offensive attempts. Meanwhile, France charged ahead with repeated forward crashes, requiring a lot of defensive effort by the USA.
Finally, with only 3 minutes of the game remaining, the USA was attacking from a penalty and spun the ball out wide to the backs. With the ball at the bottom of a ruck, a French player on the ground was able to nudge the ball out on the weak side, where it was picked up by a French player, who ran along the touchline 80 metres for the try. The conversion by Laurent Manticorena sailed through to make the final score 17-5. With too little time left for the USA to mount a comeback, France became the 2015 Plate winners of the World Rugby Classic.
By Kristin Richeimer
Hard-hitting USA Classic Eagles Top Classic Italy 48-19
Eagles to Face France Saturday in World Rugby Classic Plate Final
November 13, 2015 - Hamilton, Bermuda – From the opening USA kickoff with the wind behind them, the USA Classic Eagles emerged strong with continuous pressure on Italy forcing multiple penalties and turnovers. Paired with a strong USA offense and excellent team fitness, this 48-19 victory over Italy means the USA will now face France in the Plate Final on Saturday night at the North Field, National Sports Centre in Hamilton.
USA drew first blood after a strong run by flanker, Dennis Walker, resulting in the first of many Italian penalties. Hooker Mark Crick offloaded to Louis Tulio for the first try of the match in the far corner. With a strong crosswind, Ata Malifa’s conversion went just wide, leaving the score 5-0 just after the 5 minute mark.
The score remained 5-0 for the next 20 minutes as USA and Italy traded possession on turnovers from handling errors, problematic lineouts and penalties. Finally, an Italian yellow card for repeated infringements gave the USA an extra advantage, which they fully capitalized. Two minutes after the yellow, USA Captain, Mose Timoteo, opted for the scrum at the 22m mark off another Italian penalty. From the back of the scrum, Timoteo passed to flyhalf Ata Malifa, with quick ball out to center Taylor Howden, then out wide to wing Matt Byrd, who scored a diving try into the corner. Another good strike at the conversion by Ata Malifa went just wide left to leave the score 10-0.
Leaving no time for Italy to recover, the USA came back immediately with a pounding run by Peter Dahl off a USA lineout. After some quick ball transfer by the backs, the ball came back into the hands of Pete Dahl, who stormed in for a try well outside the posts. Malifa’s kick was again barely wide to the left and the USA was up 15-0 with 5 minutes to play in the first half.
The USA continued to pressure Italy with crushing tackles forcing errors and preventing Italy from garnering a threatening offense. However, in the closing minutes of the first half, Italy came back from USA attack in their red zone with a spirited run off a stolen pass. The intercept gained Italy significant ground into USA territory. Play was halted for injury time to remove Italy’s wing, Marco Stanojevic, with a shoulder/neck injury. Keeping their momentum up despite the loss of a key player, Italy took advantage of a USA penalty and scored an unconverted try off a lineout as the whistle blew for halftime. The teams headed into halftime with USA ahead 15-5.
Returning from the break, the USA wasted no time by scoring only 3 minutes into the second half. The try by Taylor Howden was converted by Malifa to bring the USA ahead 22-5. Italy had another chance off a USA turnover at mid-field, but Taylor Howden again stormed through to steal a loping Italy pass and score under the posts. Another easy conversion by Malifa extended the USA lead to 29-5.
With just 11 minutes left to play, a clearing kick by Italy was fielded cleanly by Brian Barnard. Barnard sent the ball over to Mike Palefau, who evaded all Italian defenders and dazzled the crowd for a clean try in the corner. Taking over kicking duties, Mathieu Lesgourges, converted the try.
USA penalties in the second half gave Italy some room to move on offense. After an Italian player was taken out of bounds in a tackle, they took advantage of USA’s miscue in the lineout to score just left of the posts. Converted by the Italian flyhalf, the score was 36-12 with 8 minutes left to play.
In the closing minutes of the game, Italy’s Simone Carlesi intercepted a USA pass for Italy’s final try and conversion to bring the score to 36-19. However, the USA offense still had more to give as fitness remained strong through the full 60 minutes. The USA kept up team continuity and clean ball movement on offense and drove in two final tries by Mathieu Lesgourges and Louis Tulio to finish the game with an impressive 48 points to Italy’s 19.
Captain Mose Timoteo credited the team’s preparation, fitness and composure for the win. “We knew we needed to eliminate mistakes and stick to the pattern. We had good weather, so we were able to play an expansive game, and the boys were up to the task.” The USA Classic Eagles will be tested again on Saturday night as they face France at 7:00 pm. The USA has not won a Plate final at the World Rugby Classic since 1997. With many new players on the team, they will be eager to bring home some hardware.
By Kristin Richeimer