Time runs out on Eagles in Spain

SAN SEBASTIÁN, Spain -- Martin Iosefo scored his first career try at Estadio Anoeta Saturday as the Men's Eagles fought for more than 80 minutes in a 20-17 loss to Tonga.

Head Coach John Mitchell's squad finishes the November Tour 0-3 following matches against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks and Romania, and with seven athletes making their international test debuts. The experiences this fall will lead into the second year of the Americas Rugby Championship as well as the summer's tests and Rugby World Cup 2019 Qualifiers.

Much like their match in Bucharest last weekend, the Eagles found themselves on the back foot in the early stages of Saturday's game. A few missed tackles did not help as full back Telusa Veainu slid through three defenders to score under the posts after 10 minutes.

The Eagles responded well with a strong maul that set up a wider attacking platform inside Tonga's half. They got close to the line in the 15th minute, drawing a penalty for fly half Will Holder to bring the score to 7-3.

Jack Ram caught the U.S. defense unaware in the 23rd minute, detaching from the lineout maul inside Tonga's half and feeding Fetu'u Vainikolo for a 14-3 lead.

On debut, Marcel Brache took some time to acclimate in the first half, nearly leading to a third Tongan try 10 minutes from the break. Foul play from Dan Faleafa on prop Chris Baumann nullified the score, and No. 8 Andrew Durutalo kept Tonga from scoring a few minutes later by poaching the ball in front of the posts.

The Eagles' benefitted from a lineout deep in Tonga's half in the waning minutes, with Nate Augspurger taking the ball from the base of the ruck five meters from the line and handing it off to Iosefo for the 14-10 halftime score.

Tongan scrum half Sonatane Takulua extended his team's lead to 17-10 on the other side of the break with his first penalty goal attempt. The Eagles began to hold serve, however, spreading the ball with an enterprising attack featuring several Rugby Sevens stars and overseas professionals.

Madison Hughes used his feet to great effect to kick and create space for himself and his teammates, saving possession and creating a try-scoring opportunity in the 50th minute. A bouncing ball in his own half threatened to find Tongan hands, but his kick and chase of the loose ball and ensuing run drew a penalty from which Joe Taufete'e went through two tacklers under the posts.

With the match tied at 17-17 and substitutes starting to pile onto the field, the Eagles continued to strive for their first win of the month. They nearly scored from the restart if Samu Manoa's offload in contact had not traveled forward, and pressured Tonga into a few mistakes deep in its own half.

Brache's skillful running and offload accuracy put Hughes through for a try in the 59th minute, though it was called back for an obstruction call against Taufete'e. Takulua punished a U.S. error minutes later with his second penalty goal to separate the teams at 20-17 before watching his team commit several penalties and potential foul-play actions as the Eagles went on the attack. Captain Blaine Scully had the match official's ear in the 69th minute, but the Estadio Anoeta replays led to Nick Bryant awarding a penalty rather than a card.

Several warnings had gone unheeded, leading to Sila Puafisi's yellow card in the 70th minute. The Eagles threatened on several occasions but could not find the breakthrough with Tonga wasting time in set-piece setup, keeping the final score at 20-17.

The Eagles will take solace in their ability to create attacking opportunities throughout the match, again conceding just three points in the second half for the second consecutive week. The U.S. stuck with the game plan for its best result against Tonga since its lone win in 1999.

The team will reconvene in just a couple of months for the Americas Rugby Championship. Venue and ticketing information for the team's home matches in Austin, Texas, and San Antonio will be released in due course.

Men's Eagles | v. Tonga
1. Joe Taufete'e
2. James Hilterbrand
3. Chris Baumann
4. Cameron Dolan
5. Nick Civetta
6. Samu Manoa (Haupeakui @ 54')
7. Tony Lamborn
8. Andrew Durutalo (McFarland @ 74')
9. Nate Augspurger
10. Will Holder (Te'o @ 68')
11. Martin Iosefo
12. Marcel Brache
13. Thretton Palamo (Eloff @ 64')
14. Blaine Scully (C)
15. Madison Hughes

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Pat Blair
17. Angus MacLellan
18. Dino Waldren
19. Al McFarland
20. Langilangi Haupeakui
21. Mike Te'o
22. JP Eloff
23. Bryce Campbell

Tonga | v. USA
1. Tevita Mailau
2. Paula Ngauamo
3. Siua Halanukonuka
4. Steve Mafi
5. Joe Tu'ineau
6. Dan Faleafa
7. Jack Ram
8. Tevita Koloamatangi
9. Sonatane Takulua
10. Kali Hala
11. Fetu'u Vainikolo
12. Latiume Fosita
13. Siale Piutau (C)
14. Nafi Tu'itavake
15. Telusa Veainu

Tonga | Reserves
16. Elvis Taione
17. Paea Fa'anunu
18. Sila Puafisi
19. Valentino Mapapalangi
20. Kotoni Ale
21. Tomasi Palu
22. Tevita Taufui
23. David Halaifonua

Men's Eagles | 17
Tries: Iosefo, Taufete'e
Conversions: Holder (2)
Penalties: Holder

Tonga | 20
Tries: Veainu, Vainikolo
Conversions: Takulua (2)
Penalties: Takulua (2)
Discipline: Puafisi (Yellow)

Men's Eagles | November Tour
v. Maori All Blacks - L 54-7
v. Romania - L 23-10
v. Tonga - L 20-17