The USA Men's National Rugby team, the USA Eagles, fought off a resurgent French Barbarian team threatening late in the second half and held on to eventually win the game 26-21.
This game was considered a friendly match -- its outcome did not affect anyone's ranking -- but it was an important one nonetheless for the USA Eagles, as they attempted to get some live action and fine tune their game ahead of their frst-of-two games against Chile next week as part of the next round of qualifying for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
For the Eagles, this was their first match of 2022, having not played as a team since October 2021. In fact, the final roster of 23 players was not named until June 23rd, and even so, it has been a challenge integrating players into the training schedule due to their commitments to the MLR regular season (most), the MLR playoffs schedule (a handful), or to their European teams (a handful).
The French Barbarians are an invitational team of French players known for playing a loose and creative style of rugby. This was their first international game since defeating Tonga in November 2021, and only the second time they have played in North America -- the first time being a victory over Canada played in Victoria, BC.
The game was played on Friday July 1st, at Aveva stadium in Houston, on a night when heat and humidity caused both teams to struggle with fatigue.
USA scrum-half and Saracens player Ruben De Haas put the first points on the scoreboard at 14' with an impressive drop goal from behind the 50-meter line to put the home team up 3-0.
We've seen this one before!— USA Rugby (@USARugby) July 2, 2022
Ruben de Haas with a lovely drop goal 🤌
3-0#USAvBRC | @florugby pic.twitter.com/hFO0Or0Z8l
Not long after, an error in the lineout and sloppy ball handling by the Eagles caused a turnover to the French team. The latter took full advantage of the opportunity and soon scored a try under the goalposts. With the conversion, the score was 7-3 Barbarians.
The U.S. team were just getting started, however, as they soon scored back-to-back tries to pull away.
At 26', scrum-half Ruben DeHaas took the ball from the scrum and offloaded to Houston Sabercats wing CJ Dyer who managed to find a channel through the defensive line and scrambled to touch down the try. The conversion was slotted by AJ McGinty.
Christian Dyer. Remember the name. pic.twitter.com/Ddll0Ae3CG— USA Rugby (@USARugby) July 3, 2022
At 36', playing the advantage off of a penalty at the scrum, DeHaas passed to Seattle Seawolves center Tavite Lopeti, who sliced and stutter-stepped and second-efforted and even third-efforted his way almost all the way to the try line before being brought down. The Eagles pack went to work, and after recycling the ball to Saracens hooker Kapeli Pifeleti and Toulouse prop David Ainu'u, Ainu'u bulldozed over for the try. With the conversion by McGinty, the score was 17-7 Eagles at halftime.
How good was this?! 😤 pic.twitter.com/nFVpdA8LHo— USA Rugby (@USARugby) July 2, 2022
To start the second half, the Barbarians soon drew two early penalties, one at 44' for collapsing the maul, and one at 52' for offsides. At this point the score stood 23-7 USA.
At 54', DeHaas drew a yellow card and a trip to the penalty box for not letting go after bringing down French scrum-half Samuel Marques. The French opted for a scrum and soon after scored a try, followed by a conversion.
Not long after, French wing Raphaël Lagarde found a seam and scored once again for the Barbarains. Suddenly, the score stood at a nail-biting 23-21.
This tension held until substitute fly-half Luke Carty of the LA Giltinis was able to connect with another penalty kick and create a little bit of breathing room for the Eagles at 26-21.
After that, the USA defense managed to bend but not break as the French launched attack after attack, aided by a series of penalties and restarts to the French teams' advantage. In the end, the French were not able to penetrate and score as the game clock dwindled, and the referee finally called full time in at 86' after a French knock-on.
USA Rugby has a long term exclusive contract with the streaming service Flo TV to show USA Rugby games. So the only place you can watch the replay is at florugby.com. This is frustrating to many fans, who both complain about the quality of the video feed and also worry about the damage that such restricted access does for the prospects of growing the sport in United States.
However, if you're okay with just listening along, this gentleman's video podcast providing a live play-by-play is the old-timey version of following the game on the transistor radio, and will surely bring a smile to your face.
The United States will now play Chile in a 2-game series for the next step in Rugby World Cup Qualifications . The first game of that series will take place on Saturday, July 9 in Santiago, Chile. The second game will take place in Glendale CO, home to USA Rugby, on July 16. The winner advances directly to RWC 2023 while the loser goes to November’s Repechage tournament.