All American Head Coach Alex Magleby told RUGBYMag.com Wednesday night that his team knew the second match against New Zealand Universities would be tougher, but while the players knew that intellectually, they didn’t feel it viscerally until midway through the match.
“Emotionally it didn’t sink in,” said Magleby. “We knew they would come after us, and with them having been together a little bit longer they would challenge us, especially in the rucks, and they did. We were a step slow, and because of that we didn’t take advantage of some opportunities early in the game.”
The All Americans ultimately won 21-11, earning their points through pressure, which led to three penalties and a well-worked team try finished by scrumhalf Chris Saint. The other try was an individual effort, with Peter Tiberio scoring from an interception, but an interception forced by defensive pressure.
Still it was a shaky performance by the Americans, and much of that can be linked to players thinking it would all come flowing the way it did in Saturday’s 60-17 victory.
“Guys were a little bit impatient,” Magleby said, pointing out how on several occasions a player in a good attacking position forced a run or kick when setting up a ruck and going another phase would have produced better results. “We lacked depth on attack and we were a step slow to the breakdown. It was all part of guys expecting something to happen.”
But, in the end, they won.
“I was very proud of the guys, because even as things weren’t as accurate as last time, they kept going forward, kept working at it, and pulled out a win,” said the coach. “There were some good lessons in this game, and I think the players know how they should have approached it. Now we keep moving forward and we expect to play our best game on Saturday.”
Among the bright spots was sub prop Mikey Su’a, who made a huge impact coming off the bench. Saint, also, “had a hell of a game,” said Magleby. Yet another product from Scrumhalf U (Penn State), Saint was essentially the All Americans’ only true scrumhalf available on Wednesday, and put in a full 80, finishing off his day with an impressive diving cover tackle to stop a potential try for the tourists.