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USA’s opening win over Wales wasn’t pretty, but a win nonetheless, and head coach Mike Friday seemed relieved to have gotten one in the bag walking off Rhino Rugby Field at Sam Boyd Stadium. It’s no doubt been a long week for the Eagles, who are always inundated with appearances and outside obligations leading up to their home tournament. All things considered, Friday is probably duly relieved by the mere fact that the rugby has finally gotten underway.
“I don’t know what day of the week it is with all of the extracurricular, but let’s put it in perspective. It’s always very hard playing your first game, especially at your home tournament,” Friday said. “There’s a lot of expectation on you from the supporters, and rightly so, but also they put a lot of expectation on themselves, so it’s about managing and riding that pressure horse.
“They came out well I thought. The issue is in this game of sevens it can be brutal. Two silly mistakes by us with ball in hand gave them two tries and that made it a contest at halftime. We earned that win, we fought for that win, and I’m really pleased with the mental resolve. They stayed in the game.”
Team USA’s anticipation level was visible, with a touch more adrenaline feeding the play.
“You want to do so well, and the anxiety can get on top of you. Rather than being able to stay on top of it and being able to focus,” said Friday. “We did that for large parts of that game, but certainly for bits and pieces we didn’t, and that allowed a team as good as Wales back into it.”
Up next for the Eagles is Canada, who fell 33-7 to South Africa earlier. That game will end their day one, with the final pool match against the Blitzboks reserved for Saturday. Friday will try and calm his players a bit before they take the field against their rivals.
“We need to learn lessons quickly from this because we go up against Canada – that’s rivalry, there’s energy, there’s anxiety in that game. It’s going to be personal,” he said.
“It’s a North American derby, and there’s no such thing as an easy game, and they’re going to be hurting from their South African game, so we’ve got to just collect our thoughts, we’ve see what we can do well, see what we can do better, and make sure that we can translate that onto the pitch and then feed off the energy of this crowd.”