The bad news for the All Americans on tour in Ireland is that Don Pati is out of the remainder of the tour thanks to a broken arm suffered in the opening match against Connacht Development.
Pati had surgery Sunday and will remain with the team for the rest of the trip. He is expected to recover and should have little problem getting back on the field for the University of Utah.
The good news is that Ryan Roundy, who was taken off the field with a worrying injury, is not seriously injured. X-rays didn’t show anything problematic – good news for Roundy who suffered a nasty fracture while playing for the All Americans last year.
And the really good news is, of course, that they won. Head Coach Matt Sherman had to have been pleased with his team’s patience, as they were down 14-3 against the wind, and came back piece by pice (taking three penalties in a display of smart decision-making from the on-field leadership).
“We had a reasonable wind behind us in the second half and we wanted to use our exit strategy to play the game in their half and apply pressure from there,” said Sherman. “The guys did a great job to not panic and chase the game too soon. We played very smart in the second half, played most of the game in their end, and even though our attack lacked a lot of structure, we were able put pressure on them that led to points through effective continuity at the breakdown, where the guys all performed extremely well.”
In short, it was a grown-up kind of rugby effort. The All Americans in 2011 played well, and won a couple of games thanks to some breakaway tries. It was like they ripped the Band-Aid off quickly. This time, the Band-Aid had to be teased off one three-point bit at a time, and the players were patient enough to do it.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that Joe Cowley was lights out with his kicking, which he needed to be.
The real positives for the All Americans were that they showed excellent continuity at the breakdown, turning over only a handful of balls, their defensive physicality (no surprise there), and their work rate in realigning on defense.
Sherman said he was also pleased with his lineout, which set a good attacking platform and also troubled Connacht on defense.
“The scrum also improved throughout the game,” Sherman added. “It wasn’t perfect, but held well.”
On the other hand, the team is still looking for its shape on attack.
“A bit to be expected with only one real team attack session,” said Sherman. “But we think with film and walkthroughs we can make big improvements in this area going into Leinster. We made up for that structure with aggression and physicality at the breakdown, as well as just some imagination in play.”
Leading that charge was scrumhalf Chris Saint, who read the game very well and created some attacking opportunities. Now Sherman wants more of his players to be on the same page.