USA Rugby vs. Ireland: Live Coverage, Updates and Analysis
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USA Rugby's national senior men's team, the Eagles, take to the field at BBVS Compass Stadium in Houston on Saturday night against Ireland in their biggest test of the summer.
As our complete Bleacher Report preview explained, the USA squad arrived in Texas boosted by the return of several key overseas professionals. Meanwhile, Ireland have been forced to take to the pitch stripped of their top talent by the British and Irish Lions.
We'll provide you with scoring updates and analysis throughout the evening, as the USA look to cause the biggest upset of the summer on home soil.
Ireland come into this match as the ninth ranked team in world rugby, according the the International Rugby Board's Rankings; while the USA sit in 16th spot.
Before the players took the field to warm-up for this match both coaches talked to Bleacher Report about their preparations.
Earlier in the day and elsewhere in North America, Canada defeated Tonga in a bloody affair in Kingston, Ontario.
And we're ready for the anthems, here in the Texas heat. Ireland the USA both look fired up.
1:00 - Predictably, the match has opened with a kicking battle for field position. Around the three minute mark, the USA Eagles put together an impressive series of runs; making about 20 meters on the Irish defence, but there was never any real danger.
5:00 - The game has its first scrum, dominated by Ireland, who win the penalty. This is trouble early of the USA.
9:00 - Another scrum collapse deeper in the USA end, and Ireland win the penalty and shot at goal. The penalty conversion is made by Ireland's Ian Madigan, and its 3 - 0 Ireland early on.
15:00 - A period of furious USA dense, led by Northampton's Samu Manoa, smashes Ireland back towards mid-field. Ireland is guilty of trying to play too much rugby early on.
Finally a high ball traps a USA player, and Ireland win a another penalty at the USA 22 meter line.
Ireland's Madigan converts again. Now 6 - 0 for Ireland.
21:00 - The USA looks dangerous with ball in hand, but every time they knock the ball on, they have to scrum with Ireland; an area where the Irish are completely dominant.
25:00 - A chip and chase sees the USA's Luke Hume fly down field after the ball and the USA are - all of a sudden - within inches of the Ireland line. The crowd goes mad. Ireland impede the ball and the USA wins a penalty through Toby L'Estrange.
Now 6 - 3 for Ireland.
30:00 - The USA's Scott LaValla is penalized for interfering from an offside position and once again Ian Madigan makes them pay. The USA are playing attacking rugby, but the penalties are killing them at the moment.
33:00 - A big run from Samu Manoa takes the USA to the Ireland 10 meter line, where the Irish give away a penalty. Saracens fullback, Chris Wyles - who is apparently the Eagles long distance goal-kicker - steps and bangs it through the posts.
Now 9 - 6 for Ireland.
39:00 - Seconds before the first-half ends, Ireland completely destroy another USA scrum and win another penalty from 40 meters out. Irish fly-half Ian Madigan doesn't miss.
Now 12 - 6 for Ireland.
Our Bleacher Report preview called for an intense and combative USA start. The crowd at BBVA Compass Stadium has certainly helped them produce that. The Eagles are physically the equals of the young Irish team in front of them; however, they are being completely demolished at scrum-time.
It's hard to imagine how the USA can overcome this weakness, especially as their first-choice props begin to tire in the second-half.
Irish fly-half Ian Madigan doesn't seem like he is going to miss with his kicks today, and the USA are almost guaranteed to give away penalties from the scrum.
Samu Manoa, Scott LaValla and Todd Clever are trying valiantly to lead a USA comeback; however, the Americans have not been able to break through the Irish defence more then once. They were unlucky not to come away with a try from that Luke Hume break.
Will the Irish widen the gap or tire under the Texas heat, and allow the USA to make a charge?
We shall see.
USA Penalty Kicks: L'Estrange, Wyles
Ireland Penalty Kicks: Madigan (4)
First Half Score: Ireland 12 - USA 6
41:00 - The USA start the second-half like house of fire and smash Ireland back towards their own goal-line. Ireland under all kinds of pressure, before they mysteriously steal the ball and kick to clear.
The play results in a scrum at mid-field. The USA doesn't want to have to scrum with Ireland.
47:00 - Could it be that Ireland are starting to tire from the heat? The USA look much stronger and have been driving Ireland backwards for the first 10 minutes of the second-half.
If the USA can keep this up, points will surely come for them.
51:00 - Heroic USA defence has kept the Irish at bay, after a big break by Fergus McFadden. The ball is cleared to mid-field and both teams begin to make substitutions.
Still 12 - 6 for Ireland.
52:00 - In a seemingly needless stoppage, the French referee has stopped the match to consult the television match official, about a bit of wrestling that took place off the ball. He issues a yellow-card to USA Captain Todd Clever.
The USA will play a man down and Ian Madigan also punishes them with another penalty.
Now 15 - 6 for Ireland.
57:00 - With the loss of their Captain, the USA begin to look a little tired and disorganized. However, multiple Irish penalties are saving them at the moment.
Fullback Chris Wyles secures another 3 points from a penalty kick. USA 9-15 IRE #USAvIRE— USA Rugby (@USARugby) June 9, 2013
Chris Wyles makes a nearly impossible kick from mid-field and the USA are edging closer once again.
Now 15 - 9 for the Irish.
62:00 - The crowd explodes as Samu Manoa kicks a loose ball down field and Takudzwa Ngwenya screams down field to chase. Ngwenya levels the Irish player and ball bounds into the Irish goal area.
Not only that, but the USA wins the subsequent scrum!?! That's right, you heard me.
The Americans are storming the Irish goal line.
Ireland give away a penalty, which Wyles bangs through.
Now 15 - 12 for a quickly tiring Ireland and Captain Todd Clever is back on the field.
70:00 - A big moment for the USA, as Ireland has a line-out deep in the American end. However, the USA draw a penalty and bang the ball to half-way, where they will have their own line-out.
10 minutes left. What can the Eagles muster here?
76:00 - After a period of frantic pay, the USA have won a scrum at mid-field. The field is covered with bodies lying on the ground gasping for air. The USA will have one final chance to attack.
They need at least three points to tie, and they need another 20 meters before they are in range of a kick.
79:00 - Ireland win a questionable penalty. Ian Madigan then misses his first kick of the night, but it makes no difference. The match is over.
Final Score: Ireland 15 - USA 12
The USA made this match much closer than our predictions expected them to. Neither team scored a try; however, the USA came close to on multiple occasions.
The true reason the USA lost this match were the penalties they gave away at the scrum; which continues to be one of the big differences between first and second-tier nations.
Eagles Coach Mike Tolkin had these words for Bleacher Report after the match:
"I thought that on a few of those scrums we were judged rather harshly, but we'll have to go back and look at that. Obviously, when you immediately give up 3 points or 30 meters downfield, its not where you want to be, so we'll have to go back and look at that aspect.
However, even when we had the ball, Ireland are a very well coached team, and they didn't allow us as many line-breaks as we needed to win the match."
Very proud of our Eagles. #WorkForIt— Paul Emerick (@paulemerickiv) June 9, 2013
That having been said, Captain Todd Clever and his American team were 3 points away from what surely would have been one of the biggest upsets in USA Rugby history.
The Eagles now move on to play the rest of their schedule in the Pacific Nations Cup tournament.
The Irish, meanwhile, will play next week in Toronto, against a Canadian team that is undefeated so far this summer. Based on the results of this match, Canada will be fancying their chances.
Reported Attendance: 21,000 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston
USA Penalty Conversions: L'Estrange, Wyles (4)
Irish Penalty Conversions: Madigan (5)
Final Score: Ireland 15 - USA 12
Chris Wyles (Saracens); Luke Hume (Old Blue), Seamus Kelly (University of California), Andrew Suniula (Chicago Griffins), Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz Olympique); Toby L'Estrange (New York Athletic Club), Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club); Shawn Pittman (Dublin University), Chris Biller (San Francisco Golden Gate), Eric Fry (London Scottish), Brian Doyle (New York Athletic Club), Louis Stanfill (Vincenza Gers), Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints), Scott LaValla (Stade Francais), Todd Clever (NTT Shining Arcs) (capt).
Zach Fenoglio (Old Mission Beach Athletic Club), Nick Wallace (St. Mary's), Phil Thiel (Life), Peter Dahl (Belmont Shore), John Quill (Dolphin), Robbie Shaw (Richmond), James Paterson (Glendale Raptors), Adam Siddall (Old Blue).
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht); Fergus McFadden (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Darren Cave (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Stuart Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster); Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Isaac Boss (Terenure College/Leinster); David Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Mike McCarthy (Buccaneers/Connacht), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster), Chris Henry (Malone/Ulster), Peter O'Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) (capt).
Mike Sherry (Garryowen/Munster), Tom Court (Malone/Ulster), Jamie Hagan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Dan Tuohy (Ballymena/Ulster), Tommy O'Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster), Paul Marshall (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Paddy Jackson (Dungannon/Ulster), Felix Jones (Shannon/Munster).
Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant Referees: Bryan Arciero, Chris Assmus (both Canada)
Jeff Hull is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
Unless otherwise stated, all quoted material was obtained firsthand.
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