The High School All Americans take another step on their South American tour, facing Uruguay Saturday in Montevideo.
Having, presumably, loaded up on large cuts of beef, the HSAA team has to be prepared for a massive battle up front. The good news is, they have been. So far in the first two matches against Chile, their front row has risen to the challenge impressively.
In the second match, won by HSAA over Chile 43-15, the front row of Solomone Anitema (Kihei, Hawaii), Andrew Iscaro (Olney, Md.), and Inoke Raikadroka (Inglewood, Calif.) were unstoppable. Raikadroka is a big-haired, big-bodied power-runner. Iscaro was strong in tight but also like another loose forward around the field. Anitema did all the unglamorous work, with great commitment.
They will need another performance like that one, and likely the HSAA team will run out a new front three to do it. Somehow, it doesn’t seem to matter. In the first game, Titi Lamositele was brilliant on defense and in the open field. Andy Sandoval as game day captain kept his team focused on the task at hand. Tyler Norris was the guy doing the cliff-face stuff.
Who will Salty Thompson choose for Los Teros M19? Doesn’t seem to matter.
Some other players really stood out in the second match with Chile. Scrumhalf Michael Reid, who is one of the few to start both games, was brilliant. He is quick to the ball, quick to get it to the right guy, and can lay in a tackle. His try in the second half – pouncing on a turnover ball, selling a dummy, and then just going for the line – was impressive in terms of his confidence, field vision, and pace.
Nu’u Aiava remains one of our favorite players. We at RUGBYMag.com were truly impressed with his abilities in 7s when we saw him in Las Vegas. He commands the field in 7s. And somehow, patrolling right wing, he did the same in 15s. His tackle on the Chilean outside center set the tone for the game. His interception and 95-meter run for a try turned what was a close game early into a rout. He scored two more times, and both times he wisely put himself in the best position to get the pass, and was not denied when the tryline beckoned.
He is a special player.
Also most impressive for us was Nick Gadbaw, the Camas HS product out of Camas, Wash., (their team plays in Rugby Oregon because it’s just over the border from Portland, Ore., and north of Camas there isn’t an awful lot of rugby for the next 100 miles). Gadbaw has that wonderful skill of making a tackle and immediately getting to his feet, staying low but under control, and being able to poach the ball.
He did this many times against Chile, and forced several turnovers as a result.
And lock Oliver Drew is another. The lock forward who goes to school at Bryanston School in Salisbury, England is a USA-eligible player who clearly knows his way around the field. But how many times have you seen an overseas-trained player who has lots of skill and knowledge, but seems to only gravitate to the more glorified positions. Drew is a lock. He wins lineouts (even when the other guys has hands around the ball). He makes tackles. He wins rucks – lots of there because he always seems to be there.
Scoring tries? Yeah, that’s nice. Tackles and possession are important too.
Drew started both games against Chile, as did Reid at scrumhalf. It’s possible they will be rested Saturday. But watch out for Gadbaw next time he plays, he’s all kinds of trouble for the other guys.