Nate Augspurger leads the Eagles to the ARC Championship

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RUGBY-USA-CANADA-AMERICAS RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
USA (blue) and Canada (red) compete in the Americas Rugby Championship at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, BC, Canada February 18, 2017. USA won 51-34. / AFP / Don MacKinnon (Photo credit should read DON MACKINNON/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States draw against Argentina XV to win their first Americas Rugby Championship (ARC) thanks to smart captaincy by Nate Augspurger.

What an improvement that a year makes. Last year, the USA Eagles tied for second place, with two losses to Uruguay and Brasil. In an improvement of form, the Team USA went undefeated in the 2017 ARC, to win their first championship in 94 years.

First Championship an Indication of What the Eagles Are Capable of

The United States traveled to Comodoro Rivadavia, to take on the Argentina XV; the A side of Argentinian rugby. This non-test match up saw the best defense by the Eagles in recent memory, as they went on to draw the match 27-27.

That team was led well by Nate Augspurger. The eight cap scrumhalf has emerged from the 2016 season as one of the bright lights of US Rugby. The Minneapolis former-Sevens player was a part of a group of developing players who shone over the five game championship.

And those performances were epitomized by final match up. In the final match, especially where the Argentina XV where a tough opponent. The strong head wind against Argentina in the first half made points very difficult from the kick. Team USA were very dominant offensively in the first half, with a 15-10 lead at half time. Ben Cima scored the first points for the USA, with an extremely impressive penalty kick from well beyond the 50 meter mark.

Tense Encounter at the Estadio Municipal

Twenty eight minutes in, Argentina drove deep into the US half and was set up at the 5 meter line. Chris Baumann managed to steal the ball from the tackle and offload to Nate Augspurger. The scrumhalf sprinted down the sideline, showing his sevens speed. Making a clear 90 meters, before being brought down, on the ground Augspurger offloads to fly half Will Maggie. In a great effort, Maggie would army crawl untouched into the try zone, to put the US up 8-3.

This game was the best performance by any category from the US, during the ARC campaign–especially in the lineout. The match against Argentina was no exception. Shortly before halftime, the US had a lineout 18 meters from the Argentinian try line. The rolling maul was set and drove hard, to allow David Tameilau to roll off and dive for the line.

Multiple Yellow Cards Make the Second Half Difficult for the Eagles

To end the first half, the United States allowed a penalty-try due to an intentional knock on by Mike Te’o. In fact, only one of Argentina’s three tries were actually scored by an Argentinian player.  Four minutes into the second half, David Tameilau earned 10 minutes in the bin for stamping in the ruck. The second yellow was [to a degree] offset by a similar offense a minute later by Sebastian Cancelliere. The US defense held well during the Argentinian power play allowing only a single penalty try.

Over the second half, Argentina used this time to produce an offensive push and scored 17 unanswered points. Leading 27-15, many believed that Argentina had finally taken their place and the US would not return from a 12 point deficit.

The Eagles refused to let go of their ARC dream in those last minutes though. First, a line break allowed them forward momentum. They worked down the line until Cam Dolan found a gap and ran in to close the gap to seven points. The Eagles then drove hard again, and once the clock ran red, with good territory David Tameilau broke through from close to score the try directly under the posts. Ben Cima easily convert to bring the US to a draw against Argentina 27-27.

The US outscored Argentina 4 tries to 3, allowing them to pick up the bonus point and the championship. The match was not only a fifth win in a row, and proved the growth of the american team resolve.

The Best USA team Without the Best Players

The ARC provided the Eagles a chance to develop their younger players while the European professionals were unavailable. Many of the best players in the US were unavailable due to their contracts with European teams.

So players like Samu Manoa, Thretton Palamo, and Joe Taufete’e were absent. Other US players had limited availability, but what is clear is that the men selected to represent the Eagles, came together over the course of the tournament. No single player was consistently outstanding, Nate Augspurger among names who combined to exceed expectations.

This team is the best in a long time, but not for their stars–but for the team itself. Averaging 43 points across all five Championship games. the next few years will be very exciting to watch. The John Mitchell coached group will continue to build as these American players gain more experience with each other, and enjoy the rewards from winning the 2017 America’s Rugby Championship.

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Team USA next play on June 10, in Chicago against Ireland at Red Bull Arena, New York.

 

“Main photo credit”

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