Rugby Magazine will be putting together its annual awards later this year, and all of those are under lock and key, but it seems hard to imagine a better candidate for Try of the Year than last Thursday’s effort against Russia.
The try was of course the only one in the game, and it was the difference in a 13-6 decision. It came from a penalty against the Russians inside the USA half. The Eagles took the lineout 12 meters inside their half and, after an excellent grab from John van der Giessen, set up a maul. Lou Stanfill took the ball from his lock and the USA maul rumbled to just short of midfield.
Stanfill disengaged from the maul and fed Petri, who zipped ahead a mater and was caught. Taku Ngwenya and Stanfill cleared out, and Todd Clever acted as scrumhalf and passed the ball out.
“From the ground I could see the ball moving across the field to the wide channel,” said Petri, who was at the bottom of that ruck. “My first thought was I had to hustle to get all the way across to the next breakdown. But the guys did well to get over the gainline so I immediately changed my line.”
The ball was moved quickly. Fullback Chris Wyles was first receiver, and he passed to Andrew Suniula who took the ball on the run. Suniula ran at a slight outward angle, drawing the attention of two defenders, and allowing him to pop a flat pass to Roland Suniula bursting through the line.
The flyhalf raced 20 meters and then passed just before contact, back inside to his brother Andrew. The center did the same as his sibling, running about 20 meters, committing a defender, and passing inside. There, somehow, was Petri.
“I could see the fullback coming across hard on his cover line as soon as Andrew passed it to me,” Petri explained. “I could only see him out of the corner of my eye but I wanted to perhaps cut back and force him to pull up from his run a bit. I realized right away though that I didn't have the angle to do that and I just needed to put my head down, go for the line, and get my arm out to keep him away from me.”
Igor Klyuchnikov just barely grabbed Petri’s ankles. It was enough to pull the scrumhalf down, but the former USA U19 and All American captain was just able to touch the ball down on the line.
“I was just able to finish a great team try,” said Petri, and it was true. From Chris Biller’s throw-in at the lineout to the maul and the ruck and the passing, 13 players had a direct hand in the effort.
It was a beautiful, but all too rare moment for the Eagles. They came awfully close a couple of other times – notably when Andrew Suniula was dragged down by three Russians a foot short of the line – but couldn’t notch another try. Even if they had, few will be as pretty as that one.