Shape, concentration the focus for Eagles in Atlanta

MARIETTA, Ga. – The Men’s Eagles held two training sessions at Life University campus Tuesday in preparation of the second leg of the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier against Uruguay at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University March 29.

One of the focuses for the group was the scrum. In the 73rd minute of last Saturday’s first leg, following three failed scrummages, prop Nick Wallace was shown a yellow card, forcing Tolkin to substitute Kyle Sumsion for a needed front row player – Titi Lamositele.

Uruguay had chosen to scrum instead of put the ball in open play or kick to touch, though Los Teros were already within 10 meters of the try line. Lamositele’s influence in the scrum was immediate, as the referee did not see reason to blow his whistle. Mike Petri’s last-stand tackle in the corner was not enough, however, as Uruguay scored.

The try resulted in a 27-27 tie with nearly five minutes remaining in the match, and Wallace’s yellow hindered the Eagles’ late surge to find a win.

Forwards Coach Justin Fitzpatrick was pleased, overall, with the Eagles’ scrums throughout the match, save for the “lack of concentration” in those few minutes.

“If you look at it statistically, for 60 minutes there we had parity in the scrums,” he said. “[Then we had] a bit of lack of concentration and we lost our way a little bit.

“Overall I was very happy with what we produced in scrum time with one or two scrums at key areas at key times that cost us. But when we look at the collective, there was good enough shape and we’ll just focus to make sure we keep that concentration through the full 80 minutes.”

The forward play in Montevideo resulted in one Eagles try and nearly another, as starting hooker Phil Thiel dotted down ahead of the first-half whistle and prop Eric Fry was relieved of an apparent try earlier in the match for an infraction. Uruguay’s only other try came from a counter-ruck at midfield and a strong run on the wing.

As for the backs, professionals Folau Niua and Chris Wyles combined for 17 of the Eagles’ 27 points with a try, two penalties and three conversions. The overseas players joined camp less than a week prior to the match at Estadio Charrua and needed game time to find their stride. Samu Manoa and Wyles scored tries eight minutes apart in the second half and Luke Hume was deemed to have stepped into touch on his run to the try zone to nullify a fourth try.

The draw was the third consecutive match the Eagles have scored three tries following November’s 25-23 win against Georgia in Tbilisi and 28-7 win against Russia at Saracens’ Allianz Park. The Eagles have only scored at least three tries in a match on home soil six times since a 91-0 drubbing of Barbados June 7, 2006, with the most recent instance coming in a 36-20 win against Georgia June 16, 2012.

The Eagles have a full week to prepare for Saturday’s second leg, which is on its way to being sold out at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Get tickets here.