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Day one was a mixed bag. Zack Test scored his 100th-try and a hat-trick in the opening win over Canada. That game was enthralling, in a good way, but the Eagles went on to lose their next two.
They came out with some real zeal in the Canada game. They wanted to win, they were sharp, and most impressive, they played some defense. Perhaps being a little overly positive, I made the claim to a friend they played the best five minutes of defense I'd seen them play. Even if that's an exaggeration, the Eagles were very organized in defense, outlasting Canada's organization in attack.
Test was class, as is becoming increasingly usual. He could start for any team on the circuit, and he gets better and better every year. It was fitting that he scored a hat-trick in the game he breached the 100-try mark.
Carlin and Perry. People will talk about how well Perry Baker played versus how bad Carlin Isles performed. Isles didn't have his best day, and Baker, in his debut, was electrifying. Understand, I'm not trying to take anything from Baker. He is fantastic, and he set up the game-winning try against Canada.
However, everyone on the circuit has the book in Isles. They know what he wants to do, turn the corner, explaining why he was bottled up on day one. Baker is brand new, and while the book will be written on him soon enough, no one outside America knew what he was capable of.
Additionally, Isles still seems to be playing like he has to save his job. That insecurity was bred through two years of undue benching, but it needs to be rooted out. Isles now has a coach who believes in him, and he needs to get comfortable playing just to play, instead of feeling pressure to make something jaw-dropping happen so he can keep his playing time. Eventually, I think Isles and Baker could play side-by-side, but for now, they'll spell each other, giving the USA a homerun hitter on the field at all times.
Like any great cleanup batter needs, Isles and Baker need someone next to them in the lineup to take some heat off of them. Maka Unufe will be that guy, and he was in the Canada game, despite the fact he was playing on a bum wheel. He didn't play much against England or Argentina, but when he is healthy, and on the field next to Isles or Baker, he will create a lot of space for them or attack the space left by overplaying the wing.
Danny Barrett was sorely missed in the final two pool matches. Suspended two games for misconduct against Canada, Barrett is much needed in this team. He is such a confrontational runner, he can create space and gaps with offloads and line breaks.
In all, the Eagle talent is there, like we thought it was. The preparation was there, like we thought it would be. Now, the bounces and the decisions need to go the right way for the Eagles to get where they're trying to get.