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The High School All Americans seem to have picked up a few pointers since their 2012 tour of South America.

The biggest improvement? The maul. The young Eagle hopefuls beat Cordoba Academy in part because they maul superbly well, an aspect of play that favored Uruguay and Argentina in 2012. One such maul led directly to a try, and another helped set the platform for another.

related, of course, to the maul, is the scrum. And the High School All Americans scrummed effectively against Cordoba, putting the Academy boys under pressure and even garnering a penalty or two. It’s just nice to see a USA scrum move forward.

All of that has opened up opportunities for the HSAA backs. Left wing Joeli Tokoisuva came very close to scoring a try twice in the opening portion of the most recent game. Christian Adams did score a try, and really the HSAA attack was often on the front foot.

It was also surprising to see the USA players kick better than Cordoba. This was especially true in kicks to touch, where flyhalf James Wolfer made distance and didn’t miss touch, and Cordoba struggled to combine distance and accuracy.

Things to work on? The America forwards, big and physical as they are, still go into contact too high. Their mauling success is in large part due to good body position. But when running the ball, they are far too upright, and that has certainly hurt their scoring chances. Against Argentina, those too-high encounters won’t be lost scoring opportunities, they will be turnovers, and worse. The HSAA team has shown power at the point of contact, good lineout work, and an effective maul. Power, body position, and control in contact with the ball in hand will fit in nicely.