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The United States Men’s National Team claimed its first-ever tier one scalp Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas, beating sixth-ranked Scotland 30-29. The Eagles had to overcome a yellow card and an 11-point halftime lead to seal the upset, their first-ever over a Home Nation.
Scotland quelled early hopes for an upset with a try right at 60 seconds. Scotland created an overload with a simple pass out the back of a dummy runners, and Marcel Brache and John Quill were left reaching for threads as Stuart Hogg and Kinghorn connected in space for the first try. Blair Kinghorn converted, too, putting Scotland up 7-0.
The Eagles made serious forays into the attacking end twice in the opening 15 minutes. The first resulted in a knock-on from Hanco Germishuys. The second in a shot at goal from AJ MacGinty. The latter possession saw multiple Scottish penalties and handling errors put the Eagles in scoring position. MacGinty nailed the kick – 7-3.
After a pair of impressively athletic tackles from Paul Lasike, the Eagles were pinged for not rolling away from the tackle. Kinghorn teed off from 39 meters out and missed wide right.
Scotland put the pressure on the Eagles in the 22nd minute with a monster kick from Adam Hastings, which dribbled into touch just short of the corner flag. The Eagles managed the exit with an equally impressive box kick from Davies.
Two minutes later, back-to-back defensive penalties against the USA helped Scotland gain the front foot. A crease in the defensive line was exploited by the Scots, and a scrambling Manoa wrapped his arm over George Horne inches short of the goal line, constituting a high tackle and yellow card for Manoa and a penalty try, putting Scotland up 14-3 after 25 minutes.
Despite the personnel disadvantage, the Eagles went on the front foot with some deft running by MacGinty and smooth delivery from Davies. Scotland was called offside, and MacGinty slotted his second kick to cut the deficit to eight.
Scotland wouldn’t let the power play go to waste, pinning the Americans deep in their own end with a kick to the corner. The Eagle forwards lost track of the ball in the ensuing maul, and hooker George Turner ended up punching the ball in. Kinghorn converted, putting the visitors 18 points clear with under five minutes to play.
The Eagles weren’t done, either, though. They went on the offensive thanks to a Scottish mishandle, and with Davies pushing the pace inside the attacking 22, Taufete’e made a pair of carries in short order. The second saw him barrel his way over the try line right under the posts. MacGinty easily nailed the extras.
Scotland got lucky to sneak in another three points before halftime. A forward pass was missed by Barnes, and the Eagles infringed at the breakdown right in front of the uprights. Scotland nailed the penalty to take a 24-13 lead into the half.
With experience on the bench for the visitors and an 11-point deficit, the USA needed an early score to keep pace. Taufete’e delivered just that three minutes into the half. Off a point-blank lineout, the Eagles got a slow but effective maul moving, Scotland submarined it giving the Americans a penalty advantage, and Taufete’e broke off and kept his feet through four Scots for the try.
MacGinty added the conversion, and a minute later, a penalty after back-to-back whistles against Scotland. The first gave the Eagles attacking possession, and the second, a blatant hand in the ruck, three points to cut the cap to one at 24-23 with 35 minutes to play.
The Eagles kept the pressure up, owning possession and territory through the 57th minute. A promising attack that penetrated the Scottish 22 went unrewarded when it ended with a knock-on. Taufete’e hurt his shoulder on the play, resulting in a break in action, but was able to play on.
Scotland exited quickly, engaging the Eagles in a kicking battle. Will Hooley returned the serve effectively, and MacGinty took the set with a booming kick and chase. Scotland’s Matt Fagerson mishandled the ball, allowing MacGinty to scoop it up and feed Germishuys for the go-ahead score.
Scotland appeared to score a try that would have likely been converted and regained the lead, but as Davies was being run over, Landry and the scrumhalf dislodged the ball, resulting in a knock-on and an Eagle scrum. They only barely got their exit kick away, but Scotland bungled the lineout, giving the Eagles another chance to clear.
Nate Augspurger, who subbed on for Davies after the try-saving effort, got the ball up to the 22. Scotland spilled the ball again. MacGinty cleared the USA’s lines finally, but didn’t find touch, and Scotland was back on the offensive quickly. The American defense held firm still, as time ticked off the clock, forcing another knock.
The Scots kept knocking, winning a penalty in the ensuing set piece. They punted into the attacking 22 and put on a driving maul, garnering an American penalty. With three-and-a-half minutes left and a six-point deficit, the visitors opted for the corner. The Eagles repelled the drive this time, and Scotland spilled the ball at the back.
The Eagles did themselves no favors from there. Augspurger slowed the ball to a trickle, with referee Wayne Barnes repeatedly urging him to play the ball. The indecisiveness led to a penalty with less than two minutes remaining, giving Scotland one more bite at the cherry.
Scotland won the lineout, during which the USA was penalized for hitting the impending maul before Scotland’s jumper hit the floor. With advantage on, Quill was injured. Scotland took the corner once more, opting for one final lineout at full time.
The ball was won, but not cleanly, taking a maul off the table. The Eagles won some meters back, but Scotland ground their way forward with a series of short balls before Dougie Fife broke free for a try in the corner. Kinghorn pushed the conversion right, delivering the win.