Eagles Succumb to Wallabies

Eric Villarreal ’16

On September 4th, the USA Eagles took on the Qantas Wallabies at Soldier Field in Chicago as each team entered its final tune-up match before heading off to England for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The Eagles, captained by 2-time RWC veteran Chris Wyles, came out ready to take on the 2nd ranked team in World Rugby, the Wallabies.

Soon after kickoff, at the 7th minute, Australian-born USA forward Greg Peterson was given a yellow card for repeated penalties. Then just 2 minutes later, Australian fly-half Bernard Foley scored the first try of the match. The Wallabies struck again in the 15th minute when they took a Chris Wyles clearance kick down the length of the field, scoring their second try of the night, with scrum half Nick Phipps capping off the skillful teamwork for the try. The USA soon got on the board with a penalty kick in the 20th minute by Irish-born fly half AJ MacGinty. With this new-found confidence, the Eagles defence finally settled in and shut out the Wallabies for the rest of the half, with centers Thretton Palamo and Seamus Kelly leading the charge for the defence with many big hits against the Australian attack. Wing Taku Ngwenya was a force to be reckoned with, both on offense and defense as he drove multiple Wallabies back with big hits on defense and when carrying the ball into contact. The Eagles’ efforts finally bore fruit when the ball got out to the wing where Ngwenya was able to offload the ball to scrum half Mike Petry for the try. The score at the half was 14-10 with many in the crowd dreaming of an upset.

However after the half, the Wallabies showed why they were the 2nd in the world by scoring on a maul in the 48th minute, easily powering through the Eagles for the try. The Wallabies flexed their muscles again 5 minutes later scoring on another maul, making the score 28-10. The first scoring opportunity of the second half for the Eagles was on a Chris Wyles intercepted ball in the 62nd minute that the winger took inside the Australian 22. The Eagles later won a penalty and won a lineout at the 5 meter line. The ensuing lineout would spell disaster for the Eagles, as the ball was overthrown and the Wallabies stormed down the field for another try. Five minutes later, substitute Quade Cooper scored for the Wallabies. In the final minutes, the Wallabies scored again to make the final 47-10. American supporter Massey Villarreal summed up the match, saying, “I think both teams played very hard, however, it was very apparent that the USA team was outmatched by a faster, stronger, and more aggressive Australian team.”

The match yielded the second largest crowd in USA Rugby history, with 23, 212 fans attending the game. The atmosphere was full of energy with both teams well represented. Mr. Villarreal described it, saying, “The atmosphere was overwhelmingly supportive of the USA team. However, there was a strong contingency of Australian fans.”

Overall, the match was a great send off for both teams, as the Wallabies gained some confidence going into the RWC and USA getting a taste of the intensity of RWC play. The match was an electric follow up to last year’s International Rugby Classic against the best team in the world, the New Zealand All Blacks. With the final warm-up match out of the way, the Eagles now place their focus on the 2015 Rugby World Cup. USA will begin RWC pool play on September 20th against Samoa, at 6:00 a.m. on the Universal Sports Network.