Monday, January 9, 2012

USA vs Wales, 2009

The USA Eagles played host to Wales in a friendly international in June 2009. The match was played in Chicago with USA Rugby looking to spread around its home matches. Santa Clara´s Buck Shaw Stadium had been the host venue the previous week for the USA vs Ireland, a match in which the home side lost 27-10 but had competed in a number of areas. The USA had fielded a vastly experimental team with eight players making their international debut´s for the USA Eagles. It proved to be a turning point as debutants Chris Biller, Nic Johnson, Roland Suniula, Kevin Swiryn and Tim Usasz would all go on to make the USA Eagles squad for New Zealand 2011.

The match took place during the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa which meant the Welsh side was not at ful strength. Wales used the opportunity to blood some new players and also gvie some experienced, out of  favor players a chance to return to the international stage. Current Welsh captain, Sam Warburton made his debut appearnce for his country as he was named on the bench while the teams current first choice outside centre, and the man whose try eliminated Ireland from Rugby World Cup 2011, Johnathan Davies had made his debut the previous week vs Canada in Toronto. Wales had defeated Canada 32-23 in a match that either team could have won with both teams scoring two tries each. One of Wales´ concerns had been the young Dan Biggar´s command on the match at flyhalf. He was dropped to the bench vs the USA to be replaced by the experienced Nicky Robinson.

The USA were missing a host of players themselves with the teams three most famous players - Todd Clever, Paul Emerick and Taku Ngwenya both missing the match. Without Todd Clever scrumhalf, New York´s Mike Petri was named as captain for the series  while his place in the backrow was taken by Peter Dahl who had debuted vs Ireland and after the June 2009 series would never return to the USA Eagles team. Gavin DeBartolo was playing in place of Taku Ngwenya and was charged with the goalkicking responsibilities.

Wales came to Chicago to play and played much better than they had the previous week vs Canada as the Dragons scored six tries to two to complete an impressive 48-15 victory. The game was wrapped up at halftime as Wales had gone in leading 27-3 after scoring two tries and a penaltry try. Nick Robinson had also slotted two penalties. The North Americans were the first to score a try after the break with Pate Tuilevuka finishing off a period of sustained Eagles´ pressure. Wales had control of the match, however, and ran in three more tries before JJ Gagiano scored the final try of the match on full time. Despite losing, the USA took out a number of positives such as lineouts which had been a poor area vs Ireland. It was also the last time that the USA would have a test match against a Tier One opponent before Rugby World Cup 2011. The USA Eagles learned from the experience and used it in World Cup Qualifying matches vs Canada and Uruguay latter in 2009.

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