There were several heroic performances for the USA in their 13-6 victory over Russia Thursday in New Plymouth, NZ.
Mike MacDonald made a series of crunching tackles, was ferocious in making the gain line, and earned Man of the Match honors in his 64th test.
Mike Petri put in a full day’s work, and also scored a brilliant try, which was all the more impressive because when the movement began, he was at the bottom of a ruck.
John van der Giessen stole several lineout balls at key moments, including on one lineout five meters from the USA tryline.
And Chris Wyles, playing for the USA for the first time in ten months, was excellent – solid under the kicks, effective running with the ball, and good punting. He connected on three of five kicking attempts, but the wind was a factor in those misses.
“I thought Chris Wyles was outstanding,” said USA Head Coach Eddie O’Sullivan. “This is his first game since the Premiership. For a guy to come in with that much of a lag time and slip in pretty seamlessly shows you what a class act he is. He’s a very talented footballer; tonight was a magnificent performance considering the guy hasn’t laced up a pair of boots in anger in a few months.”
Asked about Petri, O’Sullivan said his scrumhalf is in excellent form at present. “The strength of his game is he’s an excellent passer, he’s very dangerous because he’s so quick, and his kicking game is strong. And the other great thing about him is his work rate on defense is colossal. I thought tonight he did an excellent job. He’s always been that kind of guy, he just runs until he drops.”
But O’Sullivan also didn’t want to lift too many players too high.
‘I’m happy to talk about Mike or any player on the Eagles, but I have to say that over the last 160 minutes of rugby, I could say the same about every one of them. Their performances have been extraordinary. We did roll the dice, no question, in putting our best foot forward against Ireland.
“Certainly we knew there was risks involved; we knew there’d be tired bodies out there. I was expecting to flood the bench on there, to be honest with you. In my mind I was talking maybe 20, 25 minutes to go, get some fresh legs out there. But the guys who were out there just kept going, and it was extraordinary. I could talk about all the other guys just as easily who went through that mountain of work. As a coach I couldn’t be prouder of these guys and couldn’t ask any more.”