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The USA’s November Tour came to a close Saturday, with a 21-20 loss to Georgia in the capital city of Tbilisi. The Eagles suffered a yellow card early and struggled in the scrum, but managed to mount a comeback and come within a made kick of winning, with multiple shots on goal unconverted.
Georgia won the early kicking battle, which fed into the Lelos plans to win set piece in the attacking end. However, the Eagles stood up to the challenge in that arena very well, at least early. They won their first two scrums and looked sturdy in doing so, and they’d draw first blood off a driving maul from a lineout in the eighth minute. Joe Taufete’e was the man breaking off the maul and dotting down. MacGinty’s conversion attempt was missed, 5-0 to the USA.
While the USA’s scrum stood the early test, Georgia was able to make hay with its heavy centers. They made multiple big carries early on, giving Georgia its first scoring opportunity in the 15th minute, when the Eagles committed a breakdown penalty under pressure. The Lelos opted for a point-blank lineout instead of the easy three points.
The Eagles knew a maul would be forthcoming, but couldn’t legally stop it, and Georgia opted for a scrum after a penalty. The American pack couldn’t continue to withstand the pressure, resulting in consecutive infringements and a penalty try, putting the home team in front, 7-5, after 18 minutes.
The Eagles went on the offensive after the restart and were rewarded with a penalty when a Georgian tackle was deemed high. Captain Blaine Scully signaled for points, but MacGinty’s kick sailed right, leaving the USA down two.
The home team’s indiscipline continued when the openside flanker picked up and dumped Marcel Brache on his shoulder after he passed the ball, resulting in a penalty and a yellow card. That allowed the USA a second point-blank lineout from which they’d maul in a try. Taufete’e again carried it over. With MacGinty’s first successful kick, the Eagles led 12-7 after 25 minutes.
After a midfield penalty against the Americans for not rolling away, Georgia went back to its well, too, opting for an attacking lineout and subsequent maul. The Lelos didn’t score right away, but kept the pressure on with several hard charging runs before the tighthead prop squeezed over the line. The conversion put the Lelos back in front, 14-12, at the half-hour mark.
The try scorer was sent off not long after for elbowing a would-be tackler in the head, allowing the USA a third point-blank lineout. Despite being down to 13 men for a short time, the Georgians were up to the task this time, though, stopping the American maul for the first time, and the Eagles were penalized in the process.
Georgia also opted for a lineout near the attacking 22. Joe Taufete’e was pinged for tackling someone without wrapping, setting up a five-meter lineout for the Lelos. The front Georgian jumper won the ball cleanly and handed it off to the hooker upon landing, who burrowed into pay dirt. The extra points were added, putting Georgia two scores clear of the Eagles just before halftime.
Georgia committed a second dangerous tackle on Brache, and MacGinty kicked to touch just inside the attacking 22. The Eagles went through several phases, inching closer to the line, but a knock on would end the half with Georgia up 21-12.
Set piece dominance was more pronounced in the second half. Georgia won an early scrum penalty and gained yardage through a kick to touch. After winning the lineout, the USA got caught offside, moving Georgia up to the attacking five-meter. Luckily for the Eagles, the throw-in wasn’t straight. The subsequent USA throw was off, too, granting Georgia’s superior pack a five-meter scrum.
The first scrum ended in a penalty against the USA, and Georgia opted for more. It looked like a penalty try would eventually be on, like in the first half, but the Eagles miraculously stole the next feed against the head and got out of their own end when Georgia committed a breakdown penalty phases later.
A cut out pass from the USA was nearly intercepted by Georgia, and if it had it would have been a try, but Scully did his best defensive back impression, and the Eagles kept the ball. They’d lose it with a second-consecutive poor lineout throw, however.
Landry stole possession back via a Georgia lineout. Off an ensuing maul, Georgia was penalized, and MacGinty lined up a gimme shot at goal. He blasted it through, pulling the USA to within a single score at 21-15 with 20 minutes to play. Georgia had a chance to nullify the score in short order, as a late tackle from Landry set up a long kick for posts, but it was missed.
Georgia’s ascendancy in the scrum delivered a blow in the 67th minute when the penalties mounted enough for Huluholo Moungaloa to be sent off with a yellow card.
The USA had some positive possession, even down two men, as an additional player spent several minutes being attended to by trainers while play carried on around him. But a counter attack ended with a knock on from Matyas.
Back to 14 with less than five minutes to play, the Eagles regained the ball and went back on attack. Tony Lamborn made a good carry before offloading to Bryce Campbell, who burst through the defensive line and won a race to the corner for the try, making it 21-20 with the kick to come. MacGinty’s struggles from tee weren’t done, as he missed the touchline attempt.
The Eagles fielded the kickoff and went through some innocuous phases in their own end before knocking on. Georgia milked the final minute with forward play before clearing to touch to end the contest.