USA Men's Eagles Falter Against Portugal

Sun, Aug 13, 2023, 1:02 AM
by Taylor Dean
USA Rugby
USA Rugby

The USA Men’s Eagles fell 20-46 to Portugal on Saturday. The tough match taught the squad some hard lessons as the new squad continues to evolve and build cohesion.

The well-known Portugal attack came out strong on home soil tonight, with a collection of breakaway tries that will have the USA busy on film review this last week leading into Georgia. Despite the loss, these are the exact games that build curriculum for new and seasoned players. The USA face off with Georgia in Tbilisi, next Saturday at TIME live on The Rugby Network. 

The Eagles began their second August match with strides in their set pieces, winning penalties off two scrums to inch their way into Portugal territory. The USA had an early scoring chance with a five meter line out, but Portugal stole away possession before the Eagles could score. More conceded penalties gave the USA opportunity for the first points with a chip shot penalty kick by Luke Carty. 

Portugal wanted to respond quickly and try playing a fast game. With possession, they kicked out to the USA’s five meter line and showed their strengths at set pieces to turnover the ball. They earned their chance to strike back with a scrum, using it to go around and get the first try of the match. 

With the Eagles’ scrambled on defense, their defensive pressure fell through the cracks, but, Sam Golla proved his lethality at the breakdown with a great steal to get the ball back in USA hands and into space. An impressive kicking game changed over possession a few times, but it was the Eagles who held on and pushed downfield with a messy ball. Cam Dolan’s veteran work rate showed in a heads-up play by catching an offload and putting the ball down for a try. Portugal continued to concede penalties, which continued to be the achilles heel of the team. 

The USA displayed another bright moment at their breakdown defense, and Luke Carty slotted another chip shot penalty kick. The Lobos responded quickly to the Eagles’ moments of light, peeling away with a kick and chase and another try. A yellow card to Portugal put them down by one man, but it didn’t stop them from putting on the offensive pressure. The USA’s defense scrambled again, giving Portugal the upper hand to find the holes and strengthen their lead at half time. 

The second half saw a massive start from the Eagles. A line out to driving maul was held up by Portugal, and the USA was awarded a penalty try while Portugal began the second half with 14 men. That would be the last big moment for the Eagles, though, as Portugal proved to be in control on their home turf. It was the USA’s inconsistencies that cost them the game and gave Portugal the win. 

The Eagles conclude their August test series next week against Georgia, kicking off Saturday, Aug. 19, at 11 a.m. ET, live on The Rugby Network. 

Comments from Head Coach Scott Lawrence: 

“Sometimes you need to grow from experience. Growing that muscle between your ears sometimes takes some negative experiences. It’s how we learn and we’ll learn from this. We just have to remember the experience from this group, and that experience just got one game stronger this evening, and we’ll take the lessons from it.”