Thursday, April 23, 2015

International Rugby: USA win in Uruguay to open tour

Photo URU
The USA has begun it's South American tour with a victory. a hard and evenly fought contest in the Uruguayan capital was won by the visiting North Americans by the scoreline of 13-3. Despite both teams having a significant contingent of players likely to play at Rugby World Cup 2015 the match was uncapped. The USA was playing as the USA Select XV, the official 'A' side of the country. Uruguay, on the other hand fielded a team under the title of the test side, Los Teros. Missing for both teams were European based professional players. The USA will now travel to Salta to take-on Argentina next week. 

With both Uruguay and the USA into the advanced stages of finalizing their respective squads for Rugby World Cup 2015 tonight's game in Montevideo was an ideal manner to judge individual players by having them play head-to-head against opposition players targeting the rare opportunity of playing in a Rugby World Cup. Uruguay's backs were looking to prove to more more mobile while the USA's pack was expecting to have many questions asked of it. 

Uruguay has been preparing by playing test rugby against South American nations and also by investing in the players by paying their salaries so that they can train full time rather than work. Based on the performance and outcome against the USA Select XV the investment could be said to be effective. Los Teros were better prepared than has been the case in previous years for comparable fixtures both at the elite and 'A' levels. 

The low-scoring affair was dominated by a tight-contest with key areas being relatively split between both teams. Uruguay proved to be a level above the USA in the scrum but the expected dominance in the maul did not eventuate. Similarly, the USA's superior back play was not clear as Uruguay was able to nullify the North Americans and keep the score down. 

So tight was the fixture that the scores were tied at a mere 3-3 well into the second half. The USA scored the only points of the first half with a long range penalty from right winger Zachary Pengelinan. There could have been more but the kickers of both teams were unsuccessful in their attempts. 

The USA's half time lead was one of the few positives for the visitors as handling errors and ill-discipline resulted in opportunities going begging. Second-rower John Cullen and his Uruguayan opponent, Matías Palomeque were both yellow carded for entering a fight which had been started by other players. Also yellow carded in the opening half was Olive Kilifi who has been singled out as a possible starting tighthead for the North Americans. His quest is far from simple with Uruguay outplaying him at scrum time. 

Kilifi returned to the field in the second half only to receive a second yellow card, thereby having his match ended with a red card. Four minutes later the scores were leveled as Manuel Blengio made it a 3-3 game in the 64th minute. Playing with a man down the USA needed a team effort to avoid defeat and they found it through John Quill. The openside flanker scored from a maul off a set-piece line-out move in the 73rd minute to all but secure the result. 

With goal kicking having been an issue for both teams replacement outside back AJ MacGinty gave the Mike Tolkin administration plenty to think about as he slotted a difficulty conversion attempt. With time almost up MacGinty then landed a simple penalty from in front to give the USA Select XV a 13-3 lead. With time up Uruguay had a final opportunity inside the U.S. half but was unable to capitalize as handling errors were again to blame. 

The USA is now to travel to Northern Argentina to play two matches against Argentina in Salta. The games on April 28 and May 02 are also to be non-capped fixtures. Uruguay, in contrast it to have next weekend off before traveling to Chile to play it's final match of the South American Championship and then return home to play host to Argentina on May 16. 

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