France has beaten the USA 14-12 in Pool Play to push the Eagles to 0-2.
The USA had plenty of chances to win, but made too many poor decisions at critical times.
USA Head Coach Matt Hawkins used the same lineup against France that almost beat Argentina, with Andrew Durutalo, Brett Thompson and debutant Danny Barrett forming the forwards, Folau Niua and Pono Haitsuka at halfbacks, and Zack Test and Nick Edwards as center and wing.
The idea of all players, all skills and all roles certainly seemed to be in effect when Durutalo saw fit to kick to touch. The prop was likely looking to punch the ball downfield, but he didn’t. The result wasn’t good, as France won their lineout, moved ahead after the USA was penalized in the ruck, and then Julien Candelon saw a mismatch and cut back to score easily.
The Eagles failed to claim the restart but turned the ball over to their side in a counter-ruck. Haitsuka passed off to Test who took the corner, but he was hauled down. And then a series of completely unnecessary penalties for killing the ball allowed France to exploit an overload. Renaud Delmas capped it off in the corner.
The Eagles finally got it together. From a tap penalty at their own 22 they worked the ball up the right side. The Americans seemed to want to engage tacklers, and handled that well enough, with Folau Niua making the final offload to Haitsuka, who burst out of an attempted ankle-tap to score under the posts.
It was a try the USA desperately needed, making it 14-7 France at halftime.
The Eagles certainly seemed to get a boost from the try. They pressured France on the kickoff, and Les Bleus almost knocked on three times as a result. Finally some smart counter-rucking from Edwards forced a penalty and the ball was spun to Durutalo, who took contact and slipped the ball to Haitsuka for the try. The kick was too much for Niua, leaving the score at 14-12 for France.
The Eagles tried to then set up Carlin Isles by going into contact in their own 22 so the wing would have more space. It didn’t work, as Test went in high and his support was penalized for sealing off. Still the US defenders tried to change the game. Brett Thompson threw a Frenchman into touch. But the USA lost the lineout and France had another shot. The USA forward, though, held France up in the tackle and got a scrum in their 22, once again with a chance to win the game.
This time it all set up right, with a quick ruck putting the USA backline at a numbers advantage, with Isles on the business end. But Ryan Matyas took too long to pass to Isles – trying to set the wing up for a perfect run to the tryline, when giving him a man to beat would have worked.
Isles ran onto a pass that wasn’t there; the pass was late and behind, and France got the ball back. The game ended on a penalty that was somewhat harsh on the USA, but the Eagles were even harsher on themselves, going into contact too high, falling on the ball too easily, and failing to pass to their strike runner with the game on the line.
Tries: Haitsuka 2
Tries: Candelon, Delmas