Eagles head to Atlanta with 27-27 first-leg draw

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – The Men’s Eagles scored three tries in the second half and held Uruguay with 14 men for the final 10 minutes to draw, 27-27, the first leg of the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 at Estadio Charrua Saturday.

The first half was not the prettiest 40 minutes of rugby, as Uruguay kicked four penalties and could have had more. Folau Niua gave the Eagles the lead in the first two minutes with a penalty kick, but Felipe Berchesi replied for Uruguay.

Niua could have given the Eagles a second lead with a penalty kick attempt about 15 meters out, but his kick hit the post and Uruguay moved down the field on the attack. Eventually, Berchesi added his second penalty in three attempts to give Uruguay a 6-3 lead.

Niua kicked his second in the 28th minute before Berchesi again gave Los Teros the lead with a penalty. They extended the lead with a try in the 35th minute though it was reviewed. The try-scorer was thought to have been taken into touch by the Eagles, but he touched down before his leg went into touch. Berchesi’s conversion was from a tough angle but he managed to put the ball through the uprights for a 19-6 lead.

Uruguay withstood a few attacks from the Eagles close to the try line. Eric Fry finished off one attack with a dive over the line, but the referee penalized the Eagles for double movement. The Eagles recovered a few minutes later and Phil Thiel rewarded his front row mates with a try. Niua’s conversion was successful to bring the Eagles within six for a 19-13 halftime score.

Berchesi opened the second half with his fourth penalty to extend Uruguay’s lead to 22-13. The Eagles had a lineout at midfield in the 48th minute, which Hayden Smith won to get his team on the attack. Samu Manoa broke through the gain line and dashed to the try zone untouched to close the gap at 22-20 after Niua’s conversion.

The Eagles put in a few more drives and Niua fed Chris Wyles on the wing for the Saracens man to cut through the Uruguay defense for a third try. Niua again converted to give the Eagles a 27-22 second-half lead.

Luke Hume nearly added the Eagles’ fourth try four minutes later but was taken into touch as he dove over the try line in the corner.

Both teams traded lengthy spells of possession for the next 10 minutes, with Uruguay getting close in the 72nd minute. After a few scrums, Nick Wallace was sent to the sin bin for multiple infractions. Kyle Sumsion was replaced by Titi Lamositele as a front row replacement for the scrums, but the Eagles had to play the remainder of the match at 14 men.

Uruguay quickly moved the ball from the ensuing scrum and touched down in the corner. The referee asked for the try to be reviewed and the TMO confirmed the score. Berchesi could not replicate his tough-angled, first-half conversion, however. Instead of Uruguay taking a late lead, the match was leveled at 27-27.

The Eagles had the final opportunity to earn a win, but the referee signaled for full time while Hume had the ball.

An improved second-half performance gives the Eagles a good reference point headed into the second leg March 29 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University.

“In the second half we did more often what we wanted to do, and we did it efficiently,” Head Coach Mike Tolkin said following the match. “First half also we have away a lot of penalties.

“We’ll look at the film and see where they were. Some of them were just poor decisions when people should stay out of it. Second half wasn’t as bad in terms of having bad penalties.”

Tolkin also said there were no injury troubles from the match.

The Eagles will have to win the second leg in Atlanta to qualify for the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 England. With a loss, the Eagles will have to go through the Repechage playoff.

Watch the Eagles on Universal Sports next weekend at 3:30 P.M. ET and follow live match updates on Twitter with @USARugby.

Men's Eagles | v Uruguay
1. Olive Kilifi
2. Phil Thiel
3. Eric Fry
4. Hayden Smith
5. Samu Manoa
6. Todd Clever (C)
7. Scott LaValla
8. Cam Dolan
9. Mike Petri
10. Toby L'Estrange
11. Tim Maupin
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Folau Niua
14. Blaine Scully
15. Chris Wyles

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Tom Coolican
17. Nick Wallace
18. Titi Lamositele
19. Louis Stanfill
20. Kyle Sumsion
21. Shalom Suniula
22. Seamus Kelly
23. Luke Hume

Men's Eagles | 27
Tries: Thiel, Manoa, Wyles
Conversions: Niua (3)
Penalties: Niua (2)

Men's Eagles | Coaching Staff
Mike Tolkin - Head Coach
Billy Millard - Assistant Coach
Justin Fitzpatrick - Assistant Coach
Phil Bailey - Assistant Coach
Dave Williams - Strength & Conditioning Coach
Chris O'Brien - Kicking Coach
James Walton - Video Analyst
Jeff Mjaanes - Doctor
Richard Quincy, Jr. - Physio
Zach Vyhananek - Physio
Sarah Sall - Massage Therapist
Tristan Lewis - Manager

1. Aleja Corral
2. Arturo Avalo (C)
3. Oscar Duran
4. Mathias Palomeque
5. Santiago Vilaseca
6. Juan Manuel Gaminara
7. Diego Magno
8. Alejandro Nieto
9. Agustin Ormaechea
10. Felipe Berchesi
11. Jeronimo Etcheverry
12. Andrew Vilaseca
13. Joaquin Prada
14. Leandro Leivas
15. Gaston Mieres

Uruguay | Reserves
16. Nicolas Klappenbach
17. Rodolfo de Mula
18. Mario Sagario Cagnani
19. Cristofer Soares de Lima
20. Franco Lammana
21. Juan de Freitas Turcatti
22. Alejo Duran
23. Francisco Bulanti

Uruguay | 27
Tries: Ormaechea, Prada
Conversions: Berchesi
Penalties: Berchesi (5)

Men's Eagles | v Uruguay
Saturday, March 29 - 3:30 P.M. ET - Marietta, Ga.