For Immediate Release
June 19, 2010
U.S. Lose Physical Battle to French in Churchill Cup Plate Match
HARRISON, N.J. – The U.S. Men’s National Rugby Team lost a nail biter to France ‘A’ in the last Churchill Cup match on Saturday at Red Bull Arena.
The U.S. was down by just one try for nearly 35 minutes of the second half, before allowing France ‘A’ to touch down the game-ending try to seal a French 24-10 victory and walk away with third place and the Churchill Cup Plate.
“The scoreline is a bit harsh when compared to how close this match was,” U.S. Coach Eddie O’Sullivan said. “I’m very proud of this whole team and how they fought until the every end. Playing a team of this caliber is a big challenge and their level of play was definitely lifted to the next level.”
From the very beginning, both teams were very determined to get the win in this final match. The intensity and physicality brought from both sides made it obvious that this would be the game to watch.
The U.S. saw an opportunity to put points on the board first, after a French penalty around 30 meters allowed Nese Malifa a look at the uprights. Malifa missed, however, and it became apparent that the U.S. wouldn’t win on kicks alone.
Just six minutes later, France was able to make a break in the corner, but Takudzwa Ngwenya stopped the wing short. The French had gotten a taste for U.S. territory, though, and it wouldn’t be long until Julien Arias was running it into the corner for the first try of the game. France converted and the score was 7-0 with just 10 minutes gone.
The play went back and forth for the next 20 minutes, with both sides forcing some penalties and mistakes.
In the 30th minute, the U.S. finally saw the break it was looking for, when Chris Wyles saw some space and ran the distance, dishing it to captain John Van der Giessen, who was stripped of it just before he reached the try line.
France kicked the ball into space and Scott Lavalla was the receiver deep in the USA’s territory. Lavalla decidedly passed it to Ngwenya, one of the fastest players in the world, and the U.S. made its way back down the field in a flash.
The ball was passed through a number of hands and in what could be compared to as a magic trick suddenly popped up in the hands that had started it all. Lavalla ran in the USA’s first try of the game, and the crowd exploded as the Eagles tied the match shortly thereafter, converting the try to bring the score to 7-all.
The try lit a fire under France ‘A’ and they battled back hard for the remaining minutes of the first half. The U.S. tried to counter several times, battling for territory, but with four opposing players in the backfield, the U.S. just couldn’t gain much territory with their kicks.
Just before half, France ‘A’ was able to push over a well-earned and hard-fought try after several phases of rucks finally wore the American’s defense down. Both teams were exhausted as they headed to half, with the margin just mere seven points.
“The team really absorbed a lot of hits in the first half, and I think it just took its toll,” O’Sullivan said. “I was proud at how they didn’t let their guard down in the second half. They turned the ball over some and it slipped out of their hands a few times, but they made France fight for everything and I’m happy with the heart they showed today.”
In the second half, neither team let up and it took nearly 13 minutes before the USA’s fullback would see some space and break through the line of defense, bringing the U.S. and its crowd back to life.
The gain in territory put the U.S. in a perfect position to be able to slot the penalty, which France made just moments later in an attempt to stop the offense. Malifa put three points on the scoreboard and the U.S. were only down by four points.
Minutes later, however, France returned the favor bringing the margin back to seven, just before the 60 minute mark.
Again the teams were in a standstill. For the next 20 minutes the back-and-forth battle continued and it wasn’t until the final moments that France finally put the dagger in the USA side, as Julian Arias scored his second try of the match in the corner and Lionel Beauxis converted and the game ended with France ‘A’ winning 24-10.
“We have definitely seen forward progress since the first match in the Churchill Cup,” lone try scorer Scott Lavalla said. “We have seen improvement in a few areas, but mostly we have become more disciplined in our defense and have sharpened our attack and I think we will only continue to improve from here on out.”
For more information on the U.S. Men’s Team, please visit www.usarugby.org/goto/mens_eagles. For more information on the Churchill Cup, please visit www.churchillcuprugby.net.
Tries: Arias (2), Forestier
Conversions: Beauxis (3)
15. Chris Wyles (Saracens)
14. Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz Olympique)
13. Alipate Tuilevuka (Provo Steelers)
12. Junior Sifa (Middleton RFC)
11. Paul Emerick (Parma RFC)
10. Nese Malifa (Belmont Shore)
9. Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club)
1. Mate Moeakiola (Sporting Club Albi)
2. Phil Thiel (Life University)
3. Shawn Pittman (Bayside RFC)
4. John Van Der Giessen (Sporting Club Albi) *Captain
5. Scott Lavalla (Dublin University)
6. Louis Stanfill (Canberra Royals)
7. J.J. Gagiano (University of Cape Town)
8. Nic Johnson (Denver Barbarians)
16. Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate)
17. Tony Purpura (Boston Rugby Club)
18. Patrick Danahy (Life University)
19. Dan LaPrevotte (San Francisco Golden Gate)
20. Tim Usasz (Nottingham RFC)
21. Volney Rouse (Te Kawau)
22. Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins)