Eagles falter in second Pacific Nations Cup match

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CARSON, Calif. - The Men's Eagles completed their third consecutive match without scoring a try and could not keep a physical Tonga side under control Friday at StubHub Center, formerly Home Depot Center, losing 9-18 in the second IRB Pacific Nations Cup match.

The Eagles came out of the gate with the vigor they showed against Ireland in Houston last weekend, passing quickly and keeping the ball through multiple phases in the early going. Chris Wyles gave the Eagles their first lead of 2013 with a penalty kick in the third minute, but it was short lived as Tonga's Viliami Hakalo kicked a penalty of his own three minutes later.

Tonga began to give the Eagles trouble not long after leveling the score. Wyles played the hero again when he tackled a Tongan attacker after he made a venturing run through the Eagles' defense. Tonga kept possession and drew a penalty a minute later ten meters away from the try zone, but elected to take a scrum instead of kick for points. Tonga then committed a penalty in the scrum and the Eagles cleared.

Tonga made a nice switch to Sione Piukala in the 15th minute and the center had no trouble dotting down between the sticks for the first try of the match. Hakalo kicked the conversion for a 10-3 lead.

Toby L'Estrange caught the Tongan defense off guard in the 18th minute with a juke and made a nice offload to Andrew Suniula, who drew a penalty for Wyles to convert and cut the deficit to 6-10.

Wyles missed his first penalty since rejoining the Eagles last week in the 26th minute from around midfield. The Eagles got the ball back in a Tongan maul and Suniula broke a few tackles up the middle before a grubber kick was sent through the try zone.

 Kelley L Cox

Tonga's captain Nili Latu made a high tackle on Brian Doyle and received a yellow card with 10 minutes remaining in the half. Wyles kicked the penalty to make the score 9-10.

The French connection of Takudzwa Ngwenya and Scott LaValla, who each play in France's Top 14 with Biarritz and Stade Francais, respectively, almost created the Eagles' first try of 2013 before the end of the half, but Ngwenya's pass was a bit too high for LaValla to reach. The Eagles went into the break down but not out trailing 9-10.

The Eagles were dealt a blow in the 42nd minute when Piukala added his second try of the match and could not fully recover. Head Coach Mike Tolkin started his rotations to give players rest in the 54th minute, with Mike Petri and Peter Dahl coming off first.

Tonga kicked another penalty in the 71st minute for a 9-18 scoreline and the Eagles began to hurt themselves in situations, including Ngwenya taking a quick tap and immediately committing a knock on. An Eagles lineout 10 meters out failed due to a miscommunication between lifters and Todd Clever failed to get the height needed to retain the ball--a sign of how the game was to continue for the Eagles.

The Eagles' Pacific Nations Cup campaign continues next week in Japan with a match against Fiji June 19 and Japan June 23. Canada is currently atop the table with three wins from three games. Both Eagles matches will be streamed on the IRB Pacific Nations Cup website.

Men's Eagles | vs. Tonga

1. Shawn Pittman

2. Chris Biller (Fenoglio @ 68)

3. Eric Fry (Wallace @ 61)

4. Brian Doyle

5. Louis Stanfill

6. Scott LaValla

7. Peter Dahl (Quill @ 54)

8. Todd Clever (C)

9. Mike Petri (Shaw @ 54)

10. Toby L'Estrange (Siddall @ 68)

11. James Paterson

12. Andrew Suniula

13. Seamus Kelly

14. Takudzwa Ngwenya

15. Chris Wyles

Men's Eagles | Reserves

16. Zach Fenoglio

17. Nick Wallace

18. Phil Thiel

19. Graham Harriman

20. John Quill

21. Robbie Shaw

22. Adam Siddall

23. Blaine Scully


1. Kama Sakalia (Fakalelu @ 64)

2. Elvis Taione (Ma'asi @ 70)

3. Taione Vea

4. Josh Afu (Kauhenga @ 72)

5. Lua Lokotui

6. Hale T Pole

7. Nili Latu (C)

8. Paula Kaho (Faleafa @ 51)

9. Thomas Palu

10. Taniela Moa (Fahiua @ 75)

11. Will Helu

12. Sione Piukala

13. Fraser Anderson

14. Viliame Iongi

15. Viliami Hakalo (Pone @ 36)

Tonga | Reserves

16. Ilaisia Ma'asi

17. Peni Fakalelu

18. Sila Puafisi

19. Emosi Kauhenga

20. Daniel Faleafa

21. Siale Fahiua

22. Samisoni Pone

23. Soni Masima

Men's Eagles | 9

Penalties: Wyles (3)

Tonga | 18

Tries: Piukala (2)

Conversions: Hakalo

Penalties: Hakalo, Latu