The USA Selects team at the ARC performed about as well as could be expected, and that’s good news.
They were in a position to beat Argentina, beat Canada soundly, and then defeated Uruguay – well enough – to take 2nd.
Surely the Americans wanted to score four tries against Uruguay to clinch 2nd without having to wait for the Canada v. Argentina game, but the good news arrived anyway. The Uruguayan game was just a lot to ask of these players – many of whom had been asked to contribute close to 240 minutes of rugby in the space of nine days.
They were running on fumes at the end, fell into some poor habits (attacking just the inside channels, and just kind of hung on.
It didn’t help that the USA Selects were hit for 16 penalties, and were harshly treated, it seemed, by the referee.
Still, there’s much to be pleased about. It seems that Toby L’Estrange got some of his mojo back. Several players, among them Cam Dolan, Tai Tuisamoa, Shaun Davies, Nick Wallace, Phil Thiel, and Tim Maupin, made massive strides toward more full-Eagle minutes.
The new-look coaching staff brought an aggression to the game, and the players, aside from everything else, battled, scraped, and clawed throughout the game.
But more than that, they beat Uruguay, and they beat Uruguay playing the Uruguayans’ game.
“I told them before the game that World Cup qualification starts tonight,” said Tolkin. “To play Uruguay now with this team and beat them was huge. And I am really proud of what they did and how they stood up to Uruguay.”
So beating Canada was good, and finishing second nice, but beating Uruguay, the team the Eagles have to beat in March to qualify for England 2015, and handling the aggressive way they play, and doing it when they were on their last legs – that was a test of character the USA Selects team passed.