The Eagles put together their most complete game to down Portugal 22-0 in the Shield Final and take home some hardware. They attacked with purpose and fluidity, avoiding deficiencies at the breakdown and ball handling that had plagued them earlier in the tournament.
19-year-old Steve Tomasin struck first in the game. Portugal was pinged for offside on a kick, the US got the ball to Matt Hawkins quickly. He put it into play and floated a long pass over the widest Portugal defender to a streaking Tomasin, who ran it in the rest of the way. The conversion attempt was missed.
The United States kept up the pressure, using some short, strong one-off runs to put Portugal on the back foot. The Portugese tackled Folau Niua off the ball, and Zack Test quick-tapped after the penalty was awarded, shrugged off one defender and scored the Eagles’ second try.
Portugal nearly capitalized on some US penalties at the end of the first half, but some scrambling defense with their backs against the wall, and a Portugal kick fielded by Blair in his own try zone, saw the Eagles carry their 10-0 lead into the half.
They took the all-important three-score lead in the second half after Niua and Miles Craigwell, who’d come on for Pat Blair, gave them some good go-forward ball, and Brett Thompson took a hard line straight through Portugal’s defense and into the try zone from distance.
The fourth American try was a direct result of a Portugese penalty. One of their players entered the ruck from the side, and Tai Enosa quickly tapped, and put the ball in motion toward Niua, who cruised under the posts. Niua then hit the only conversion of the game.
The win sees the United States finish the tournament 3-3, with losses to Scotland, New Zealand and Kenya, and wins over Portugal, Tonga and Spain.
Prop: Matt Hawkins
Hooker: Brett Thompson
Prop: Pat Blair
Scrumhalf: Stephen Tomasin
Flyhalf: Folau Niua
Center: Zack Test
Wing: Nick Edwards
Tries: Tomasin, Niua, Thompson, Test