The USA Selects didn’t want Friday’s match with the Argentina Jaguars to be like last year.
In 2012 the two teams were relatively close at halftime, but had spent all their energy hanging with the South Americans and were blown out in the second 40.
This year, they not only hung with Argentina, the USA Selects actually had the run of play for much of the second half. The USA lineout was good, save for two important mistakes (a missed lift and a poor tap to the scrumhalf), and in the scrum the Americans did surprisingly well, winning their own scrums, for the most part, stealing a Jaguar put-in, and forcing a couple of penalties, too.
Then there were the five visits deep into the Argentina 22, five visits that netted … six points.
Had Adam Siddall made his fifth penalty attempt – he was 3-4 before them – then the USA would have been down only 16-12 and might have put a little worry in the hearts of the Argentina. He missed, but even then the Americans had scoring chances. They made it to the Jaguar tryline repeatedly, only to be stymied, and, it seemed, stymied for ideas.
Aside from the series of ponderous pick-and-jams, or passing flat and wide, the USA didn’t have much to offer in the green zone. Too often the inside backs cut back into contact. Too often ball was slow. And rarely did we see a big player running onto a pop pass. Rarely did we see the backs line up deep and challenge gaps with power runs.
It’s likely you will see that going forward. The USA coaches did want to see a big unit run onto a pass – imagine how Titi Lamositele or Phil Thiel or Danny Barrett would have handled such a ball with a meter to go.
With a little better body height and taking the ball at pace near the line, the USA could have won.
That, in the end, is the bad news and the good news. They could have won, and didn’t due to some very iffy perimeter defense and some luck on Argentina’s part. But they can also look at it that the USA was right in it until the end. Compared to last year’s effort, it was a massive improvement.