After beating the Chilean U19 team, the High School All Americans were quick to compliment their opponents.
“They are hard runners,” said No. 8 Tama Paogofie. “We know they’re going to be tough next game.
“We’re excited to play a great team like Chile,” added captain and hooker Andy Sandoval. “I think both teams will be more familiar with each other. We’ve seen how their players play. I think it will be more personal, and more fun.”
The score itself was 24-17. The High School All Americans scored three tries to Chile’s one, but Head Coach Salty Thompson was under no illusions.
“I think either team could have won the game,” he said. “The Chile team is very skilled, and very well coached. I think this was a competitive game and we expect it will be also on Wednesday.”
Thompson is also clear that his team’s effort wasn’t perfect.
“We did give up a lot of penalties,” acknowledged the coach, whose openside flanker, Vili Toluta’u, was yellow-carded after the team committed repeated offside infringements. “We also struggled to dictate field position and spent too much time inside our half.”
But fullback Anthony Salaber did very well in his work returning kicks, making sure the kicks didn’t gain much ground, and leading to American tries as well. But the reason all those kicks happened comes full circle to those offside penalties – the HSAA team was very aggressive on defense. Eventually the Chilean backs weren’t interested in challenging the American defensive line, and used the boot.
That defense was led in tight by the team’s locks, Oliver Drew and Joe Whalen, who were tops on the team in tackles. Tolta’u was a menace on defense, as was prop Titi Lamositele.
“Titi is simply a monster at this stage in his development, playing with pace and power,” enthused Thompson, adding that in addition to his defense and impressive open field running, “his scrummaging is explosive.”
But can they bring it again on Wednesday? Certainly the team hit the ground running with their desire to work hard on defense. Offensively they misfired at times, with some passes going to ground – a result of the timing being off more than anything else.
With a young inside back combination – Michael Reid, Calvin Whiting and Fitou Fisiiahi – of all sophomores, that’s to be expected. Expect a little crisper attack on Wednesday … and still plenty of respect for their opponents.