The USA Eagles celebrated their place in next year’s Rugby World Cup with a second consecutive win against Uruguay, taking the second leg of the qualifying series 33-7, giving them a conclusive 75-20 points aggregate.
The Eagles are on the verge of some exciting times and now that the dream of going to France 2007 has become reality, the next challenge is to continue to grow their game plan.
Following on from a week ago, the Eagles backs managed four tries – a brace each for wing Paul Emerick and Vaha Esikia. Los Teros only scored one try, although the match that was closer than the score reflects.
Early USA pressure reaps rewards
From the start, the Eagles put pressure on a Uruguayan team that never gave up. Within 10 minutes, Mike Hercus’ side was 10-0 to the good thanks to a great individual effort by Emerick, a conversion and a penalty.
Los Teros’ tenacity paid off though in the 17th minute when full back Juan Menchaca emerged from the bottom of a rolling maul as the try scorer. Having twisted his ankle in the warm-up, Menchaca a veteran of two World Cups could easily have missed the match, but the try and conversion were just reward for his commitment. Unfortunately, these were to be Uruguay’s only points as Emerick again showed his capacity to score tries with another long range run-in to make the score 18-7 at half time.
Two early second half yellow cards gave a good numerical advantage to Uruguay, but through a committed defence the Eagles prevented the visiting side from scoring any points and with fresh legs on the field and back to full strength they later managed to score two more through replacement centre Vaha Esikia.
“Winning and qualifying for Rugby World Cup is awesome; we are delighted as a team,” said winning full back Francois Viljoen.
Interim USA Head Coach Peter Thorburn added: “It wasn’t a good game, but we certainly tried to play the kind of game we are after, and did it at times.”
With 11 months until the start of the World Cup, USA is now looking forward to their fourth tournament (they failed to qualify in 1995), having secured their ticket a round earlier than last time 2003, when they needed the 'repechage' to make it to Australia.
Los Teros now play two repechage matches against opposition yet to be decided. Their fate should be known next March. Their captain Rodrigo Capo said: “I know we are going to go to the World Cup, it will only have to be through a longer route.”
United States will play in Pool A against England, South Africa and a team to qualify from the Repechage.
Played in Stanford University, Palo Alto
USA: Tries by Paul Emerick 2, Vaha Esikia 2; three penalties and two goals by Mike Hercus
Uruguay: Try and conversion by Juan Menchaca