USA Eagles
Men's Eagles
Mikheil Meskhi Stadium (Lokomotivi Stadium)
Men's Eagles@Mikheil Meskhi Stadium (Lokomotivi Stadium)
November 25, 20176:00 pm TBMT
Autumn Internationals
The Rugby Channel

Men's Eagles Give Up 21-20 Victory to No. 12 World Ranked Georgia

The Men's Eagles lost a tightly contested battle against the Georgian Lelos at Lokomotivi Stadium tonight, losing the match by 1 point (21-20) and splitting the overall series 3-3. The American squad came in attacking well against an experienced forward pack who sent two players to the sin bin in the first half alone. Though the contest saw many shifts in momentum throughout the 80-minutes, the Lelos walked away with a victory that halted the United States' attempt to climb past their No. 17 position in the World Rankings.

Interim Head Coach Dave Hewitt recognized his team's strong effort, noting their preparedness and confidence going into the first half.

"I thought we started the match really positively. It showed that we were ready and mentally in a great space to play the Georgians," said Hewitt.

The biggest thing we had to do was finish correctly, holding onto the ball and making the right decisions. The reality was we created all the opportunities, the Georgians didn’t put pressure on us, we put pressure on ourselves by not being accurate enough.
Dave Hewitt, Interim Head Coach

The Lelos brought physical play to the match immediately but had trouble handling the ball, giving the U.S. plenty of possession with several early knock ons. The Eagles took advantage of struggles on the Georgian offense, scoring the first try of the match with an excellent maul that allowed Joe Taufete'e to dot down for the lead. Georgia attempted a maul of their own, being stopped by the U.S., but eventually earned a penalty try off the ensuing scrum.

As the home team took the lead, the match quickly heated up with the Lelos sending flanker Victor Kolelishvili to the sin bin and the Eagles using another exceptional maul to earn Taufete'e his second try. The five point USA lead lasted for minutes as the Georgians answered back quickly with five of their own. Though they sent try scorer Levan Chilachava to the sin bin right after, the Lelos finished the half by sealing their 21 points on the board with a 9 point lead over the Americans.

"The biggest thing we had to do was finish correctly, holding onto the ball and making the right decisions," said Coach Hewitt. "The reality was we created all the opportunities. The Georgians didn't put pressure on us, we put pressure on ourselves by not being accurate enough."

The Georgians brought a tough defense into the final twenty minutes of the match consistently stopping the United States from gaining territory. Growing frustrated, the Eagles tried to regain momentum but committed penalties on a scrum that earned them a warning by the referee. With the Georgians earning a penalty of their own and the U.S. avoiding the card, AJ MacGinty found his footing to put 3 through the post and give the Eagles the drive they needed to stay in the match.

With another U.S. penalty sending Moungaloa to the bin, the Americans stayed resilient and Bryce Campbell took a stunning run across the goal line to come within 1 point of the Georgian lead. Pressure rose causing MacGinty's victory sealing conversion to fall short; and, though the Eagles continued to fight, the Georgians kicked the ball out of touch to seal their victory.

While the Eagles fell short of an upset over No. 12 World Ranked Georgia, Coach Hewitt was was proud of the way his team performed, noting areas where he recognizes a need for improvement.

"We played after the 80th minute and that's a really great thing to see from Eagles Rugby," said Hewitt. "What we have to do between the first minute and the 80th minute is make sure we are accurate and we execute. We beat ourselves by running out of time." 

Serving as the final test match of 2017, a win against Georgia would have provided an opportunity for the Eagles to rise from their now No. 17 position in the World Rankings. Coach Hewitt and his team will take a break off the pitch before returning in February of '18 for the Americas Rugby Championship on home soil.

Though they lost their final contest, Hewitt identified tremendous growth in his squad and sees a promise in their ongoing strategy.

"I'm really proud of the way the whole group including management have come together over the last two weeks," says Hewitt. "It shows that U.S. Rugby is in a positive state. We don't have to change anything, just get better at what we are currently doing."