So why the salute?
USA center Paul Emerick added to his impressive test match try total (now at 15 and easily in the clear for second all-time) Sunday against Ireland, scoring an intercept try at the end of the match. It was against the run of play, to be sure, but no one begrudged the brave USA team reward for their hard work.
Emerick knew he was going to be in under the posts about four steps into his run, dove majestically between the sticks, slide on the grass, popped up, and saluted.
“It was just spur of the moment,” Emerick said after the game. “It was 9-11, we’d been at the memorial service earlier in the day. I was thinking about those people, and with the Marine Corps band here I thinking about the men and women who serve our country. And I wanted to do something for the crowd. It was all there, and I just fired off a salute to all of them.”
The crowd loved it, and even though the Irish fans outnumbered the Americans, the USA contingent was loud and proud at Stadium Taranaki. At some key moments their shouts were heard over the vocal Irish, and several fans commented after the game not only on how proud they were of their team, but also of their fans.
Proud also were Emerick and his center threequarter partner Andrew Suniula. They held a vaunted Ireland midfield in relative check all night, and made some good plays as well.
“We wanted to put them under pressure,” said Suniula. “Paul and I especially wanted to do that. We knew we weren’t going to see a lot of ball so we felt we could make an impact in other ways. I think Paul’s try was a direct result of that. We were putting pressure on them and something happened for us.”
“What I look at is their centers, D’Arcy and O’Driscoll, have been together forever,” said Emerick. “To play against them is great, and we not only did that, we went toe-to-toe and gave them a real game. And for me, well it was a much better start than the last World Cup.”