Eagles tune up with Life University's Elite Training squad

The Eagles are in Charleston, S.C., preparing for their August 17 World Cup Qualifier test match with Canada. The Eagles welcomed Life University’s Elite Training Squad for a scrimmage held at the Citadel Friday. Life’s Elite Training Squad is a hybrid team consisting of selected players from Life’s undergrad and post grad teams.

Under clear skies with temperatures in the high 80s and humidity at 82%, the teams played four 20 minute periods with unlimited substitutions. The pitch was in excellent shape but the ball was greasy due to the humidity.

Life gave the Eagles a good run but the Eagles rose to the challenge giving a strong defensive game that kept Life out of the try zone despite Life getting within the USA five-meter line on a few occasions. The Eagles scored three tries, including an impressive grub kick from USA fly half Toby L'Estrange that was touched down by Seamus Kelly for the Eagles’ initial score. Two of the Eagles’ tries were converted. The final score was USA 19 – 0 Life University.

After the scrimmage, Mike Tolkin and Scott Lawrence provided some feedback on the performance of their respective teams:

Mike Tolkin: “Our goal was to get a game under the belts of our domestic players before they play Canada… to play under the conditions we find down here, it gets slippery real quick so it’s important that we’re able to adjust to that… and to see some of the new guys.

On forward play: “I think what we needed to do was to be a little more dominant in the tackle area. We weren’t rucking past the ball with power. We were getting to it and not presenting a strong wall. It’s something that we need to work on… holding on to the ball. I thought our lineout worked really well against a good lineout team in Life. We’re really going to be working on that new scrum (cadence). So it’s good to get out and have the experience.”

On the play of the back line: “I want to see some better game management. This allows us to go over the film and go over those points with the team and the decision makers. I saw some good phases of play. I though the defense was good in the back line, they were real stingy.

Regarding stand out players today: “I thought that Cam Dolan really stepped up. He really stepped up and is becoming more of a senior player. So that was good to see. I thought that Folau Niua, who has been playing sevens, he made some really nice runs and showed some good footwork.

Scott Lawrence of Life University had this to say about his team’s play: “We were trying to get ourselves into some pressure rugby situations where we had to play with some real pace and physicality. Which we got in the first couple of periods and I think it took us a step back.

Regarding the Life University forwards: “We were a little disappointed with our timing around the set piece. We thought we were a little more prepared for linouts. Once we got it together and we could get some sustained pressure on them, things worked out much better for us.”

As to the Life back play: “They didn’t see a lot of ball today. It was really kind of suffocated. I think… the slippery ball probably contributed to that. When we did get the ball, a lot of times it was in the green zone which is less about back play.”

Coach Lawrence’s Life stand outs: “A. J. MacGinty played well again. He got some messy ball and dealt with it… Benny Matealona was great. He gave us some go forward. I think some other guys really came in and stepped up. Zack Walker came off the bench and added some real physicality to the breakdown, which we needed.”

The Eagles will play Canada on August 17th at 6:30 PM MT in a Rugby World Cup Qualifying match at Blackbaud Stadium.  For more information, please visit the Event Page.

Tickets for the Qualifier can be purchased on the Charleston Battery website here. Be on the look-out for more information regarding events surrounding #USAvCAN on Twitter by following @USARugby and liking USA Rugby on Facebook.