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Jaguars Bite Late

Wednesday Jun 10, 2009 in Elite Level Rugby National Teams

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Glendale, Colo.  - Led by 23 points from the boot of center Benjamín Urdapilleta the Argentina Jaguars defeated a largely inexperienced USA side 35-14 at the Churchill Cup at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.

The Eagles were well within striking distance at, behind 12-11 at halftime and behind only 19-14 well into the second half. But a maddening inability to win lineouts when they needed to, and the fact that any penalty within 50 meters of the posts meant Urdapilleta would get three, things fell apart for the Americans in the final 20 minutes.

“That is by far the best we’ve ever done,” said coach John Shorey. “But it took a lot to get us there. At one point we weren’t even sure we’d make it to the tournament.”

The defending national champs had it all planned out – fly out Wednesday night and use all of Thursday to acclimate and prepare. But Wednesday night their plane broke down. After a long, long wait they had to take a different flight, and ended up flying into Boston before doubling back to Pittsburgh. They ended up arriving 24 hours later than planned, losing a full day of preparation.

Ian Muir photos. Above, Todd Clever. Below, Dan Power, Mike MacDonald, Todd Clever again.

Led by captain Todd Clever the largely inexperienced Eagles did not back down.

Argentina got the first scoring opportunity, as center Benjamín Urdapilleta badly shanked a penalty attempt (the ball fell off the tee). He would not miss again all day. The Jaguars got a nice break from Matías Viazzo, exploiting some miscommunication between centers Junior Sifa and Tai Enosa. But the cover defense was there.

Eventually, though, the pressure got Argentina some points – Urdapilleta hit his first penalty.

The Jaguars suffered a blow 13 minutes in when flanker Leonardo Senatore had to leave after being hit very hard by somebody.

Argentina came close to making it 6-0 when a drop goal attempt hit the post. Wing Colin Hawley did very well to gather that ball and kick it away. And eventually the Eagles scored. Clever nabbed the ball at the back of the lineout and set off. He had Dan Power with him and then JJ Gagiano. Argentina stopped it, but knocked on. From the scrum the Jaguars were penalized and Gavin DeBartolo hit the easy kick.

Right off the restart Argentina pressured and Urdapilleta hit his second to make it 6-3. The Eagles came back six minutes later – a brilliant tackle and poach by Clever forcing a penalty and eventually DeBartolo tied it up. 6-6.

After Jaguar flanker Alejandro Tomás Campos was sin-binned for tripping, the Eagles smelled blood. Some good work at midfield led to a lineout, where Argentina was penalized. Clever opted for the scrum, and a snappy pickup from Scott Lavalla set up a multi-phase sequence that ended when Tim Usasz fed DeBartolo on the wing for a try in the corner. Conversion off the post, but the USA led 11-6.

Determined to get some points back Argentine used their kicking game to keep it in the USA end. The try seemed so close, but it didn’t happen, as the Eagles took a tighthead right on their line, and after some quick dancing in the end zone Dan Power fed DeBartolo, who booted the ball away.

Fullback Lucas Bernado Barrera Oro gathered and calmly slotted a 50-meter drop goal to make it 11-9. At the end of the half, Urdapilleta hit a long range kick to put his side ahead. 12-11 Argentina in a game much closer than expected.

But right off the restart in the second half Urdapilleta lofted a sweet chip kick for wing Agustin Gosio to gather in and score. His touchline conversion made it 19-11.

The Eagles got some points back when Dan Power (DeBartolo nursing a cramp at the time) hit his first ever USA points. But after that it was pretty much all Argentina.

Time and again the USA had promising opportunities, only to see a muffed lineout, penalty, or combination thereof mess it up. Down 22-14 they opted to go for the lineout in the corner on one penalty, lost it, and moments later found themselves watching another Urdapilleta sail over the bar.

Eventually Argentina opted for a lineout themselves, and after some agonizing work and a couple of scrums sub wing Horacio Agulla went through Gagiano’s tackle to score in the corner.

The USA had the last chance, and failed to score off a lineout five meters out. They rammed the forwards repeatedly at the Argentina defense, but were just held short. They got a scrum, but lost the put-in, and that was essentially the game.

Good for the Eagles was they defended doggedly, worked very hard, and at times looked decent come scrum time. Their continuity was solid. Bad for the Eagles was a desultory backline attack and a predictable approach in the forwards – no surprise there as the USA said they wanted to keep it simple and direct. The players showed plenty of heart, but not a lot of flash.

Argentina’s backline always looked the more dangerous of the two, and Urdapilleta was simply superb with his kicking.

For the USA Clever was superb in 55 minutes of action, and Shawn Pittman had a strong game at tighthead prop. Only DeBartolo was really active in the backs, fielding and returning kicks. He made several good plays and some others that weren’t so good. All in all, a learning experience for a USA team with five new caps and several others with fewer than ten.

USA 14
Tries: DeBartolo
Pens: DeBartolo 2, Power

Argentina 35
Tries: Gosio, Agulla
Convs: Urdapilleta 2
Pens: Urdapilleta 6
DGs: Oro

1 Mike MacDonald (Mate Moeakiola @ 50) 2 Brian McClenahan (Chris Biller @ 70) 3 Shawn Pittman 4 Patrick Danahy 5 Courtney Mackay 6 J.J. Gagiano 7 Todd Clever (capt) (Lou Stanfill @60) 8 Scott Lavalla 9 Tim Usasz 10 Dan Power (Ata Malifa @75) 11 Justin Boyd (Dallas Harlequins RFC) 12 Junior Sifa (Middleton RFC) 13 Tai Enosa (Pate Tuilevuka@65) 14 Colin Hawley15 Gavin DeBartolo

Not Used: 19 Nic Johnson (Denver Barbarians RFC) 20 Mike Petri (New York Athletic Club)

Argentina Jaguars
1 Cesar Felipe Bettoli (Tucumán Lawn Tennis) 2. Agustín Creevy (capt, San Luis) 3 Juan Francisco Gomez (Leeds) 4 Mariano Sambucetti (Bristol)  5 Tomás Roan (La Plata R.C.) 6 Alejandro Tomás Campos (Pueyrredón) 7 Leonardo Senatore (G.E.R.) 8 Tomás Leonardi (S.I.C.) 9 Martin Landajo (C.A.S.I.) 10 Ignacio Mieres (Perpignan) 11 Agustin Gosio (Cardinal Newman)  12 Benjamín Urdapilleta (C.U.B.A.) 13 Matías Viazzo (Bourgoin) 14 Tomás De Vedia (London  Irish) 15 Lucas Bernado Barrera Oro (Universitario)

Replacements 16 Mauricio Rául Guidone (La Plata R.C.) 17 Pedro Arocena Ledesma (Stade Francais) 18 Mariano Galarza (Univeritario de La Plata) 19 Agustín Guzman (Tucumán R.C.) 20 Francisco Cubelli (Belgrano Athletic) 21 Belisario Agulla (Hindu) 22 Horacio Agulla

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ire)

- Alex Goff © www.erugbynews.com


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