After folding a bit in the opening loss to Spain, the Eagles rebounded to tie England 12-12 in as inspiring a performance as can result in a tie.
Alex Magleby sidelined speedsters Maka Unufe and Carlin Isles and started Nick Edwards on the wing. The Eagles took the opening restart and pounded England’s defensive line in a series of confrontational pick-and-gos. England was pinged for offside inside their own five meters, and Luke Hume penetrated the try line and dotted down to put the Eagles up 5-0. The conversion attempt was missed.
England showcased great speed in its 19-14 upset of New Zealand in the opening round, and the Eagles employed a possession-first, physical game plan to keep the ball out of Dan Norton’s and Mat Turner’s hands in space. They pressured England at every turn, counter-rucking effectively, and managed to own possession in the first half. Luke Hume was tenacious off of defensive scrums, suffocating the England halfback.
At the end of the half, Norton kicked downfield and chased after it. Hume, playing on a torn meniscus, beat one of the fastest men on the circuit to the ball to save a try, and the Eagles cleared to touch to take a 5-0 lead into the break.
The Eagles kept up their tactics in the second half. Like Hume did in the first half, reserve Blaine Scully saved a try in the beginning of the second half with superb effort. He reeled in Tom Powell while he was going over the tryline and managed to tie the ball up and prevent a grounding.
Then, on defense deep in their own end, the Eagles counter-rucked well and turned England over. Edwards scooped up the loose ball and pierced through the middle of the field. He was caught by the sweeper and offloaded to a streaking Unufe, who would have been in for the score if he caught the ball, but he knocked on.
The fatigue of constantly pressuring both defensively and offensively, combined with a few too many penalties at the breakdown, allowed England to score two second-half tries and take a 12-5 lead. The second score came near the middle of the field in the 8th minute, but not in time to prevent a restart. England smugly took its time to attempt the conversion and missed, leaving the Eagles within a converted try.
The Eagles cleanly fielded the ensuing kickoff and Maka Unufe flaunted his 4.3 40-meter speed en route to a fantastic long-range try with no time left on the clock. Folau Niua converted to tie the game at 12-12.
The Eagles, 0-1-1, are still a long shot to make the Cup Quarterfinals with New Zealand lurking in the day’s final match, but they showed admirable grit, resilience and toughness in tying England.
Tries: Hume, Unufe
Tries: Turner, Lewis-Pratt