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Saturday’s 38-35 win over Canada at Sacramento’s Bonney Field, a near sell out with 7,804 in the 8,000-seat stadium, was a special win for the embattled Eagles. It ended a seven-game drought against rival Canada, it marked the USA’s first Pacific Nations Cup win and head coach Mike Tolkin’s first victory over the Maple Leafs.
But for the seven Northern California natives on the 23-man roster, it was like a home game. And for Blaine Scully, Thretton Palamo, Eric Fry and Lou Stanfill, all hailing from the Sacramento metropolitan area, it was like playing in their back yard.
Palamo and Scully started, Palamo earning his first-ever start for the 15s Eagles and his first cap since 2008. Scully ran in two tries, which makes five in the last two tests.
“Obviously, personally, I don’t get to do that very often, so it felt pretty good to have a positive performance and contribute to the team,” Scully said of playing and winning in his hometown.
Fry and Stanfill were impact subs off the bench, making some big hits defensively and being part of the goal line stand in extra time that secured the win.
“You sit on the bench and you’re hoping to get the nod at any given point,” said Stanfill. “First half you kind of save it all up, and come the second half it’s a slow build. After that second water break I had 20 minutes to give. I just made sure I blew everything out of my engine and gave everything I had.”
Scully estimates he had in the neighborhood of 70 friends and family in the stands, and Fry, Palamo and Stanfill surely had large contingents, too. Saturday’s test was Sacramento’s first ever, and, Stanfill hopes, not its last.
“You can anticipate I pumped it up pretty good as far as what the crowd would be like, how nice the venue would be and what kind of atmosphere Sacramento would bring. Suffice it to say, they did not disappoint,” he said.
“For myself, as a native Sacramentan, I was very proud to be able to step in front of my hometown and bring home a win. If USA Rugby doesn’t come back to play in Sacramento, I’d be very upset.”