COMODORO RIVADAVIA - The USA Men's Eagles scored four tries in a 27-27 draw with Argentina XV Saturday, winning the second Americas Rugby Championship with 22 competition points.
First-half substitute David Tameilau dotted down twice in the tie as Argentina benefitted from two penalty-try calls and a man-advantage spell with the Eagles down to 13 men on the field. Head Coach John Mitchell's squad closed a 12-point deficit in the face of capped Argentinian international reserves to earn the draw and championship.
Tied on points in the standings heading into the final match of the tournament, both teams named sides capable of testing the opposition. The Eagles were mostly unchanged, with Nate Augspurger captaining the team for the second consecutive match. Following a flurry of an opening 10 minutes that saw Argentina fly half Domingo Miotti record a penalty goal, Augspurger called for a lineout when the home side was whistled for an infraction in its 22.
The scoring opportunity ended with a failed set piece, but full back Ben Cima received his first opportunity to put points on the board when Argentina was penalized in the U.S. half. Setting up the tee not far from his own 10-meter line, Cima kicked a 60-meter try from an angle for a 3-3 score line after 15 minutes.
Young lock Siaosi Mahoni was relieved in the 26th minute with an injury, with Tameilau coming on to partner Matt Jensen in the second row. The Eagles were kept from threatening on the attack for a few minutes while the teams played through the air, and Argentina used penalties against the U.S. to enter the "red zone." Augspurger found a loose ball within 15 meters of his try line and immediately sprinted 80 meters down the field. Caught by two defenders close to the try line, Augspurger popped the ball out to Will Magie for a clinical recovery and the fly half's first international test try.
Cima missed just wide with his touch-line conversion attempt but the Eagles hung onto the 8-3 lead in the 32nd minute as Argentina threw its forwards at the try line. The ball flew out of a tackle and into Cima's hands in his own try zone, with the 20-year-old instinctively kicking the ball away to relieve pressure. The pack drew a penalty call in an Argentina maul to turn possession the other way, and used its own maul to slice through the Argentina pack for Tameilau to extend the lead to 15-3.
The match official allowed play to continue for nearly five minutes past the in-stadium horn as Argentina drew penalty after penalty in the Eagles' defensive end. He whistled play for an intentional knock on wing Mike Te'o - who was promptly shown a yellow card - and a penalty try to bring the halftime score to 15-10.
As if Te'o's sinning starting in the 41st minute was not enough, the Eagles had to deal with Tameilau's trip to the bin in the 44th minute for what was deemed to be foul play. With tempers flaring in a highly-contested set of plays within 10 meters of the U.S. try line, Argentina scrum half Sebastián Cancelliere was flashed yellow for foul play on flanker John Quill.
The Eagles could barely escape their 22 before a 49th-minute turnover saw Argentina bombard the try line once again. Fresh hooker substitute Peter Malcolm combined with flanker Tony Lamborn to hold up a try a minute later, but a series of unfinished scrums gave the match official reason to award a second penalty try to the home side.
Te'o was released from the bin following the 53rd-minute penalty try, minutes before more penalty troubles allowed Miotti to extend Argentina's newly-found lead to 20-15. Argentina had its own substitutions to make in the second half, with reserve Lautaro Bazán Vélez slipping around a 63rd-minute ruck to kick off a scoring play. Beyond the gain line with most of the U.S. defense chasing, he found Tomás de la Vega in support for a late offload to full back Gabriel Ascárate and the try, 27-15.
Facing their largest deficit of the competition with fewer than 20 minutes remaining on the clock, the Eagles clicked into gear. Turned away from a third try to several turnovers and self-inflicted errors trying to play quickly, the U.S. finally broke through in the 74th minute after reserve wing Ryan Matyas swept into the attacking half with a game-breaking run. Augspurger followed as support arrived, and a few first-time passes out to the wing found No. 8 Cam Dolan in space for the 27-20 score. The touch-line conversion from Cima was just wide again, but the Eagles were already primed for the restart.
Argentina could only kick the ball away when the U.S. turned it over in the last few minutes, as Mitchell's high-flying squad spread the ball around the forwards and backs to progress forward. The home side took its time with a 79th-minute lineout when a misplaced U.S. pass found touch, but the Eagles stole the ball in attacking territory before it could be cleared. Two penalties against Argentina after time expired were taken quickly by the Eagles, with Cima's centering run followed by the hard-charging Tameilau for the team's fourth try. Cima had no problems with the conversion in front of the posts to level the match at 27-27 and secure a fourth competition bonus point for the ARC championship title.
The Eagles averaged 43 points a game in the five-match Americas Rugby Championship, conceding a second-best 89 in four wins and the final draw. Scoring more than 50 points in the middle three games, the U.S. put itself in position to win the competition with three bonus points and a defense capable of holding Argentina to one true try.
The squad will return home for players to continue their club and college seasons before Mitchell's next assembly in the summer. On the slate so far is a June 10 Tier 1 test against traveling Ireland in New Jersey and a two-match Rugby World Cup 2019 Qualifier series against Canada.
Men's Eagles | v. Argentina XV
1. Anthony Purpura (Tarr @ 62')
2. James Hilterbrand (Malcolm @ 47')
3. Chris Baumann
4. Matthew Jensen
5. Siaosi Mahoni (Tameilau @ 25')
6. John Quill (Germishuys @ 66')
7. Tony Lamborn
8. Cameron Dolan
9. Shaun Davies (Davis @ 62')
10. Will Magie (Matyas @ 68')
11. Nate Augspurger (C)
12. JP Eloff
13. Bryce Campbell
14. Mike Te'o
15. Ben Cima
Argentina XV | v. USA
1. Francisco Ferronato (Bello @ 66')
2. Gaspar Baldunciel (Brandi @ 48')
3. Santiago Medrano (Brarda @ 57')
4. Pedro Ortega (Molina @ 61')
5. Ignacio Larrague
6. Francisco Gorrissen (Montagner @ 58')
7. Lautaro Bavaro (C)
8. Tomás de la Vega
9. Sebastián Cancelliere (Vélez @ 55')
10. Domingo Miotti
11. Julián Domínguez
12. Bruno Devoto
13. Santiago Álvarez (González @ 70')
14. Germán Schulz
15. Gabriel Ascárate (Cuaranta @ 78')
Argentina XV | Reserves
16. Marcelo Brandi
17. Franco Brarda
18. Eduardo Bello
19. Franco Molina
20. Santiago Montagner
21. Lautaro Bazán Vélez
22. Juan Cruz González
23. Franco Cuaranta
Men's Eagles | 27
Tries: Magie, Tameilau (2), Dolan
Conversions: Cima (2)
Discipline: Te'o (Yellow), Tameilau (Yellow)
Argentina XV | 27
Tries: Penalty (2), Ascárate
Conversions: Penalty (2), Miotti
Penalties: Miotti (2)
Discipline: Cancelliere (Yellow)
USA Eagles | Americas Rugby Championship