Eagles finish runners-up in inaugural Americas Rugby Championship

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay - Uruguay overcame a second-half deficit with the assistance of two yellow cards to the Men's Eagles Saturday in a 29-25 victory in the final round of the inaugural Americas Rugby Championship.

Deion Mikesell became the 24th debut cap in the John Mitchell era for the Eagles, and put a stamp on his own performance with a try late in the second half. Chad London was instrumental in each of the three U.S. tries, scoring one of his own, as well.

"Again, we got what we deserved," Mitchell said following the match. "There was a lot to be proud of in the effort but we did not answer staying in the contest longer than them, and we let them off the hook with unforced errors."

Uruguay placed the first points on the scoreboard in the third minute, with Augustín Ormaechea slotting a penalty goal from the touch line. The wet pitch at Estadio Charrúa kept the Eagles from playing some of the free-flowing rugby that saw them jump to the head of the ARC standings by the end of the first three rounds, and wing Tim Stanfill was just the first to lose his footing in the middle of the pitch.

Todd Clever, back with the team following a week in England with club Newcastle Falcons, capitalized on the ball coming out of a defensive scrum in the seventh minute by breaking from the pack, but the referee blew his whistle for a penalty. He did the same thing in the 14th minute, and ran down the pitch - past three defenders - before offloading to London. The center ran at the sweeper and found the onrushing Aladdin Schirmer for the Eagles' first try of the match. Fly half James Bird converted for a 7-3 lead.

Augustín Ormaechea successfully kicked his second penalty goal attempt in the 21st minute to bring Uruguay within one point at 7-6, but a penalty against the home side allowed Bird to restore the four-point lead at 10-6 a minute later.

A stoppage in play for the injured Andrés Vilaseca preceded a hooker substitution for the Eagles, with Joe Taufete'e replacing Mike Sosene-Feagai in the 27th minute. David Tameilau went over the try line from the ensuing five-meter lineout, but the No. 8 was held up in-goal. He almost did it again from the next scrum, but lost the ball forward. Uruguay was penalized in the set piece, however, and Bird extended the lead to 13-6 with a penalty goal.

The Uruguayan scrum half missed his third three-point attempt in the latter stages of the first half, but was able to put one through the posts in the 39th minute to bring the halftime score to 13-9.

Tameilau, who started all five ARC matches for Mitchell at the back of the scrum, did well to bring an attacker into touch at midfield in the opening minutes of the second half. He stayed in touch clutching his arm, and played a few more minutes in a scrum and lineout.

Taufete'e galloped through a tackle in the 46th minute following a turnover caused by Ben Landry, and fended another with one hand while offloading to London for the Eagles' second try. Bird converted as Tameilau was replaced by Nate Brakeley, and Uruguay responded from the restart with a try by Mario Sagario.

Bird's 52nd-minute penalty attempt missed to keep the score at 20-16. Minutes later, 19-year-old Lorenzo Thomas used his strength and athletic step to beat four defenders in the middle of the pitch before being tackled by another two. Landry used his long stride to get out of a tackle in the 56th minute, but a penalty was whistled in the breakdown that allowed Uruguay to kick to the U.S.'s side of the pitch.

Landry was shown a yellow card in the 61st minute for coming to the aid of a downed Eric Fry, who was replaced by Olive Kilifi when the second-rower headed to the bin. Originally whistled for a penalty to the Eagles, Augustín Ormaechea kicked a penalty to bring the score to 20-19.

The Eagles found themselves with ball in hand more often than their opponent in the 10-minute man-advantage period for the home team, but did concede a penalty goal in the 67th minute. Niku Kruger came on in place of Bird two minutes later and missed his first penalty goal attempt, but set up a try-scoring play in the 72nd minute with a box kick.

Stanfill and Thomas chased their replacement scrum half's kick all the way to the attacking try line, and forced Uruguay to kick away. Clever fielded the clearance and ran at the defense before sending a skip pass out to London. The center was able to corral the ball on one bounce, and took enough of the defense's attention to free Mikesell for the go-ahead score in the corner.

Kruger's conversion was wide for a 25-22 lead with five minutes remaining, and Landry was shown his second yellow card of the match in the 77th minute. The Eagles lost the lock for the remaining minutes, and could not keep a Uruguayan maul out of the try zone with 14 men on the pitch to concede Diego Magno's match-winning try.

The U.S. national team made strides throughout the inaugural ARC competition, battling player availability and a new coaching system in five weeks to win two matches in finishing runner-up to a fifth-ranked Argentina side. Twenty-four players made their Eagles debuts in February and March, and will have made accurate cases for future selections.

"It's gone very quickly, to be fair," Mitchell said of his first assembly with the Eagles. "The staff have worked hard with the players and have had to install new teams each week as the roster plan has not allowed for continuity. Are we happy with where we are? The honest answer is no.

"However, we have now started and know a lot more about each individual under pressure, and what strengths they bring. Have we developed some depth, started a team culture, a style, aligned strength and conditioning, been skill-focused, and do the players understand themselves better mentally? Yes."

The Eagles will return to action this summer with a series of tests to be announced later. The national team staff hopes to capitalize on the back of the beginning of the first professional competition in the United States - to kick off this April - to get back to winning ways.

"This exercise has now created healthy competition for places as players post-Rio Olympics and overseas players come back into contention," Mitchell said. "Having this amount of talent is a good position to be in to create the right team mix going forward."

Men's Eagles | v. Uruguay

1. Eric Fry

2. Mike Sosene-Feagai

3. Titi Lamositele

4. Brodie Orth

5. Ben Landry

6. Aladdin Schirmer

7. Todd Clever (C)

8. David Tameilau

9. Mike Te'o

10. James Bird

11. Tim Stanfill

12. Chad London

13. Lorenzo Thomas

14. Deion Mikesell

15. JP Eloff

Men's Eagles | Reserves

16. Joseph Taufete'e

17. Olive Kilifi

18. Demecus Beach

19. Nate Brakeley

20. Hanco Germishuys

21. Niku Kruger

22. Ryan Matyas

23. Jake Anderson

Uruguay | v. USA

1. Mateo Sanguinetti

2. Germán Kessler

3. Mario Sagario

4. Gonzalo Soto

5. Diego Magno

6. Juan Gaminara

7. Juan Diego Ormaechea

8. Alejandro Nieto

9. Agustín Ormaechea

10. Menual Blengio

11. Gastón Mieres

12. Andrés Vilaseca

13. Pedro Deal

14. Leandro Leivas

15. Rodrigo Silva

Uruguay | Reserves

16. Germán Kessler

17. Facundo Gattas

18. Juan Echeverría

19. Mathías Palomeque

20. Mathías Beeer

21. Alberto Román

22. Guillermo Lijtenstein

23. Federico Favaro

Men's Eagles | 25

Tries: Schirmer, London, Mikesell

Conversions: Bird (2)

Penalties: Bird (2)

Discipline: Landry (Yellow (2))

Uruguay | 29

Tries: Sagario, Magno

Conversions: A. Ormaechea (2)

Penalties: A. Ormaechea (5)

Men's Eagles | Americas Rugby Championship 2016

v. Argentina - D 35-35

v. Canada - W 30-22

v. Chile - W 64-0

v. Brazil - L 24-23

v. Uruguay - L 29-25