The USA Men’s Eagles wrapped up their 2023 Summer Series tonight in Tbilisi, with a decent showing against World Rugby No. 11 ranked Georgia from Mikheil Meskhi Stadium.
The 22-7 score line tells a few stories as the USA defense did well, however missed opportunities in scoring position will be the education as the USA look back on this tour finale. Ruben de Haas scored the lone try following a flashy breakaway alongside Christian Dyer towards the end of the first half. Penalties and ball security kept the USA out of the try zone on a few occasions, adding to the studies of this new and developing squad. Saint Mary’s soon to be Sophomore, Dominic Besag subbed on early in the first half, becoming the second youngest USA Men’s Eagles to debut on the international stage, playing nearly 50 minutes at center. The USA will head home, with a few back to their club season, before a selected roster will venture to Salt Lake City for a clash with Stade Toulousain on home soil, Sep 17 at Americas First Field. Tickets to that match are now available.
Head Coach Scott Lawrence noted after the match, “The education tonight will be around penalties and discipline, I think that was the difference in the game. We have some opportunities to learn how to capitalize on a man advantage, some of our game management when the opposition has a player in the bin. Also knowing when to play and when to stick to the initial game plan, these are all lessons for a young team that’s growing.”
“I think the boys were great today, all week we focused on ourselves and I think it showed on this performance at times. When we get to bigger games against better teams, it’s about the pressure the opposition will put on us and how we handle that pressure. Unfortunately today Georgia were very good, quick around the corner and caused us a couple offside penalties and other small penalties, putting us under that pressure. But in terms of the opportunities we were able to create, that was pretty good.
Looking back, Peterson added, “We’ve had a huge amount of growth as a very young team, the futures looking bright. I can’t wait for us to get back together come September, be able to keep building off what we’ve already done. Just continuing to improve and get better as a group and as a collective, that’s where the best teams are able to get the best results and do incredible things. It will take time, but the more time we’re able to spend together, the more brilliant things will happen. Very exciting times for USA Rugby.”
The game started with a kicking exchange, and would continue for a fair amount of the match as the USA looked to keep the Georgian pack spread out and in space. The Lelos would be first into striking territory with a 5-meter scrum, but the USA defense that held well for 80 minutes turned the ball over and allowed Ruben de Haas to clear out. Ball possession was the early challenge for the USA, with just one trip past the opposing 22 in the first 15 minutes. Georgia would capitalize on the game control with the first points, spreading the defense from a line out for a try in the far corner. Some early subs also came in before half, with Thomas Tu’avao helped off the pitch, replaced by Luke White and Tommaso Boni stepping off, replaced by Dominic Besag. Back to the line out and maul, Georgia did well to bring their big pack together in the 28’ for a second try, with the conversion this time slotting through.
The Eagles however did well to respond in short time, taking advantage of the scrambled Lelos defense and engaging the quick feet of Christian Dyer. Dyer found space with speed towards the end zone, however it was his offload that impressed, threading the defense to find de Haas near midfield and a clear path to points. Luke Carty’s conversion is good and the USA momentum picks up. The challenge of closing opportunities began in extra time as the Eagles had a man advantage following a high tackle to Paddy Ryan, spending a few minutes past the Lelos 5-meter line, bashing the gain line, but unable to dot down. Turning the ball over, a penalty advantage gave the USA another shot but a second turnover on the man advantage ended the half. The Eagles head to the sheds frustrated not to have put points on the board.
The second half saw ball security and penalties in the Georgia end, missed opportunities for the Eagles as the Georgian defense was on the back foot. Substitutes came in around the 50’ mark which sped up play, however the Lelos would be the only team to capitalize, adding a try and late penalty goal. The USA conditioning and defensive effort was a high point however, with physical play continuing through the full 80min. A prime example being only a few minutes from the final whistle when the Eagles held a string of Georgian phases from falling over the line with a goal line stand. A tenacious effort all around against a top team, with clear work-ons for the young group going forward.
Lawrence’s message to the team heading into the short break, “The score was a true reflection of where both teams are at, Georgia is an experienced team preparing for a Rugby World Cup while we’re a team at the beginning of our journey towards the next Rugby World Cup. I think we played as well as we could at this time in our journey. I was proud of that effort and think its something we can build of from here.”
USA Men's Eagles Roster | USA vs Georgia
|1. Jack Iscaro||Old Glory DC||5|
|2. Dylan Fawsitt||New York Ironworkers||25|
|3. Kaleb Geiger||New York Ironworkers||2|
|4. Sam Golla||Dallas Jackals||3|
|5. Greg Peterson (C)||Unattached||42|
|6. Cam Dolan||NOLA Gold||66|
|7. Paddy Ryan||Coventry (ENG)||3|
|8. Thomas Tu'avao||Utah Warriors||3|
|9. Ruben de Haas||Free State Cheetahs (RSA)||31|
|10. Luke Carty||Chicago Hounds||14|
|11. Nate Augspurger (VC)||San Diego Legion||39|
|12. Tommaso Boni||Zebra (ITA)||2|
|13. Tavite Lopeti||Seattle Seawolves||10|
|14. Christian Dyer||Houston SaberCats||14|
|15. Chris Mattina||Chicago Hounds||3|
|16. Peter Malcolm||Seattle Seawolves||13|
|17. Jake Turnbull||Seattle Seawolves||3|
|18. Paul Mullen||Utah Warriors||33|
|19. Nate Brakeley||New York Ironworkers||32|
|20. Luke White||Chicago Hounds||3|
|21. Nick McCarthy||Leinster||3|
|22. Dominic Besag||Saint Mary's College||1|
|23. Lauina Futi||Seattle Seawolves||2|
2023 USA Men’s Eagles Staff
Head Coach | Scott Lawrence
Assistant Coach - Attack | Alama Ieremia
Assistant Coach - Forwards and Defense | Nick Easter
Head of Athlete Performance | Alex Ross
Head Analyst | Jimmy Harrison
Head Physiotherapist | Kristen Douhan
Assistant ATC | Ron Klingensmith
Sports Massage Therapist | Daliah Hurwitz
Team Doctor | Sam Akhavan
Team Manager | Oscar Alvarez
2023 USA Men’s Eagles Schedule
Aug 5 | USA vs Romania | (W) 31-17
Aug 12 | USA vs Portugal | (L) 20-46
Aug 19 | USA vs Georgia | (L) 22-7
Sep 17 | USA vs Stade Toulousain | Salt Lake City, UT