Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011 - USA 13-6 Russia

Mike Petri on his way to scoring for the USA

The eagerly awaited rebirth of the Cold War was recieving World wide headlines in the leadup to the match between the USA and Russia at New Plymouth. It was the USA´s second match of Rugby World Cup 2011 as the team had debuted vs Ireland four days earlier and competed very well in going down 22-10. Russia were the new kids on the block. It was the first time Russia had ever played at a Rugby World Cup. The Bears and Eagles had been drawn in a demanding group alongside three first tier sides in Australia, Ireland and Italy which meant the sides match vs the USA Eagles was considered the most important as it was the only one which was considered winable.

The organizers had made it tough for the USA as playing twice with such a small turn around is extremely demanding in a physical contact sport like rugby. It seemed to have an impact on the match as the game was not as much of an attacking contest as had been expected. The two sides had met in the USA in 2010 and in England in June 2011 as part of the Churchill Cup. On both occassions the scorelines were much higher and there were lots of tries scored. The wet and cold field conditions had a lot to do with this but not as much as the occassion. It was a must win game for both sides. In the career of a rugby player the chance of winning a match at a Rugby World Cup is a precious thing and it is even more important to third tier sides such as the USA and Russia.

The Europeans took an early lead as Russian flyhalf, Yuri Kushnarev slotted a penalty in the third minute of play. The USA hit back in the eventh minute to level the scores with fullback Chris Wyles kicking a penalty for the Eagles. The North Americans then left their mark on the tournament with one of the best tries of New Zealand 2011. The USA Eagles broke clear from their own 22 metre line and spun the ball through the backs before scrumhalf, Mike Petri received it and was able to outrun two defenders to score what would be the only try of the match. Wyles was successful with the conversion as the USA held a 13-13 lead after 19 minutes. From there the USA were happy to play percentages for the rest of the match. They played to protect their lead and were in firm control despite only being able to add points through goalkicking. The secondhalf saw both sides add three points to their totals with Wyles kicking a penalty and Russian centre Konstantin Rachkov landing one for his side. Both sides missed a number of opportunities as conditions combined with the gilbert balls which were highly  criticized by, among others, Jonny Wilkinson as not being up to standard.

Neither player from either side was thinking about the lack of points scored. The 13-6 win was a great success for the USA while it was a major let-down for Russia. It highlighted how important such matches are for second and third tier teams who play at World Cup´s. Both sides are expected to continue developing and qualify for Rugby World Cup 2015 which will be hosted by England. Such a fixture would be another must see one should it occur in England 2015. Curiously, in not conceeding a try, the USA was the only side that Russia failed to score a try against. Russia went on to score some wonderful tries against Ireland, Italy and Australia.

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