In 42 minutes of play Tuesday at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., the Men’s 7s Eagles outscored Guyana by an unofficial tally of 20 tries to two. Not counting conversions (only one try zone had uprights), that would equate to an average margin of victory of about 33-3 in 14-minute matches.
The last time the Eagles played Guyana, in the quarterfinals of the Pan-Am Games, they won 24-12. Tuesday, Guyana played minutes, and then hours, after jumping out of their bus following a long trip to the backyard, literally, of the Eagles. So any judgment about what the thrashing of Guyana means for the Eagles must be tempered. Even so, the USA was impressive.
The scrimmages seemed to instill some much needed confidence for a team that’s gone 1-9 in its last two tournaments and undergone a coaching change, and the players seemed to relish their new-found freedom on the field.
It’s become clear some of the players felt less-thank-free in the gameplan laid forth by Al Caravelli – swing the ball side to side and attack on the perimeter. New coach Alex Magleby is emphasizing attacking the defense, whenever and wherever.
Tuesday was the Eagles’ first time to play in the new system against another team.
“I think the guys tried to attack with a bit of intent, and that was a big step forward for us,” Magleby told RUGBYMag. “This team had the most passes on the IRB circuit, and what we’ve been doing is a lot of passing and really being shepherded by the defense into situations where the defense can turnover the ball. And the way the game is now, we’ve got to take the attack to the defense, and that will then create some space for the speed guys. We started doing that today, and the boys had fun doing it. That was good to see.”
Not only did the team have fun, it had success. Shalom Suniula was able to use his agility and elusiveness, which has always been evident, to create holes for his teammates in the middle of the field. Andrew Durutalo was able to use his size to intimidate and occupy tacklers.
“I like it, because it brings the big forwards in the middle, crash lines, so speedier guys like me and Colin and some wings, we can just run off the big forwards and have great support lines,” said Zack Test of the new offensive system. “A crash in the middle gives us options on both sides of attack and keeps them on the back foot, so I really enjoy it.”
Guyana is not New Zealand, and the Eagles had every aspect of home field advantage, outside of a roaring crowd (though the women’s Eagles watching weren’t exactly non-partisan), so, again, Tuesday’s dominance shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the Eagles will take the Cup in Hong Kong.
But, the team did what it was supposed to do against Guyana at home – slaughter them. It owned possession, the set pieces and open play, and, as a bonus, 11 of the 15 players who played, scored.
If the Eagles can start getting the results that they and most of the rugby world feel they should, the rest of the circuit, it’ll be marked improvement.
Tries v Guyana