KINGSTON, ONTARIO --
The USA blooded four new Eagles in Saturday’s 28-25 loss to Canada – wing Luke Hume, flyhalf Will Holder, strongside flanker Andrew Durutalo and his replacement Taylor Mokate.
All won their first caps, and also had rookie mistakes.
Mokate knocked on what would have been his first carry in open play.
“It was a low pass, and I should have reached it. It was my fault. I should have caught it,” Mokate said of the play.
Hume tried to clear a ball into touch late in the second half, but it stayed in bounds and wound up being touched down for Canada’s winning try.
“He was going for touch, for sure,” said debutant Eagles coach Mike Tolkin. “He put some good distance on it. He got it to the 50, so in any case, it should have been covered by us, even if it didn’t go out of the park.”
Holder had trouble kicking from hand early, and his first conversion attempt was uncharacteristically flubbed.
“A bit nerves, a bit of kind of letting things get to my head,” said Holder, who still has one more year of college left. “I’ve just got to calm myself down a bit more, and I think that the jitters of the first game are gone. I’ve got to pick it up.”
Durutalo combined with Holder to poorly defend a channel Canada gashed on numerous occasions for a lot of yardage.
“I think it was a 7-10 issue,” said Tolkin. “Will kind of froze when he should have tackled down. He didn’t get real strong verbal help from the inside, as well. That seam was a problem, and it’s no coincidence that it was two of our new members.”
But the first game for those guys is out of the way, and the amount of butterflies in the stomach should reduce next time around, along with, hopefully, the mistakes.
Holder had a better second half. During intermission, the coaches tried to settle his nerves.
"They said calm down, said I’m playing fine,” recalled Holder, “just keep bossing everyone around and keep running the forwards, keep running the game like I need to be as a 10. That’s what they were telling me. It really calmed me down. It was almost there.’
Mokate rebounded from his knock-on and barreled into a pair of Canadian tacklers, knocking them back a bit.
“It felt great, actually. I’ll call that my first carry. It was good to get the cap, good to have a few runs. It would have been better to catch that ball and come away with a win,” said Mokate. “It was definitely good to get the knock-arounds and get that out of your system.”
As for the miscommunication between Holder and Durutalo, Tolkin thinks it’s a work in progress.
“I think it’s something that over the course of the game in your first test match, you’re probably not going to pick that up,” said the coach. “I think it’s something that you’re going to see in film and we’ll work on this week.”
Up next is Georgia. There are still a few uncapped players on the traveling squad, but at least four guys won't be playing their first game against Georgia or Italy later this month.