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Scotland beat the United States 24-6 Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 20,001 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas. Scotland led 17-3 at halftime, with 10 of those points coming from penalties on the American scrum, an area the Eagles have repeatedly struggled in, especially the last three years in Houston against Tier 1 teams.
The loss extends the USA’s June losing streak to eight. The Eagles last win in the June test window came against Russia in the 2011 Churchill Cup.
Penalty trouble began early for the Eagles and wasn’t confined to the scrum. The first penalty Scotland kicked to touch for a five-meter lineout, and the Eagles turned over a poorly executed throw. The second Scotland scrumhalf Greg Laidlaw teed up for points, but the ball careened off the upright. Eric Fry knocked on trying to gather the loose ball, and Scotland was awarded a penalty off the ensuing scrum. This time, the easier kick was converted, putting Scotland up 3-0 with six minutes gone.
The USA strung together its first series of phases on the next possession and was rewarded with a shot at goal. Chris Wyles slotted it with relative ease, knotting the score at 3-3 right at 11 minutes.
Todd Clever broke off a nice run a two rucks following the ensuing kickoff, but Cam Dolan was pinged for not releasing at the next breakdown, giving the ball back to Scotland.
A couple of kicks later, Laidlaw caught the Eagles without anyone in the pillar position, darted through the defensive line right off a ruck and passed to wing Tim Visser for the match’s first try. Laidlaw converted, putting the Scots up 10-3 15 minutes in. USA hooker Phil Thiel was being attended to for a leg injury during the scoring play.
Visser nearly went in for a second try a minute later, but the pass that would have put him away was deemed forward. Thiel again went down on that play and was subbed off for Tom Coolican. The USA won the scrum once play restarted, but inside center Andrew Suniula went out with a knee injury, and Folau Niua came on in his place.
The USA continued to struggle at scrum time, and pressure from Scotland saw scrumhalf Mike Petri have to pick at the back of the set piece and Louis Stanfill pass to the pocket after Petri was tackled. That transfer was knocked on, giving the Scots a prime attacking platform in the American end. Alasdair Strokosch managed to carry the ball over the try line, but Shalom Suniula and Todd Clever kept it from being grounded.
Scotland nearly scored again after the five-meter scrum, but knocked on in the process of grounding. The referee was holding advantage for a penalty at the scrum, and Scotland opted to pack down again. The third scrum in short time was wheeled, but uncalled, and Scotland was held up again. Two scrums, a short-arm penalty, and a straight-arm penalty later, Olive Kilifi was shown a yellow card.
Nick Wallace came on for scrummaging purposes, Scott LaValla moved to lock, and Hayden Smith took a 10-minute break. Scotland again opted for the scrum, and this time was rewarded with a penalty try when it went to shambles. After the conversion, Scotland led 17-3.
The USA appeared to respond to the clear frustration at the way the scrums were being policed with a try, but video review showed that Clever committed a penalty in the process of grounding the ball and Scotland was back in possession.
The Eagles saw another scoring opportunity go by the wayside when Wyles badly missed a shot at goal, and the USA went into halftime down 17-3.
When the game wasn’t being marred by scrums, the Eagles managed to string together some long possessions and threaten the Scottish defense. One of those forays resulted in a second Wyles penalty in the 52nd minute, pulling the USA to within 11 at 17-6.
A few minutes later, a poor decision by Wyles to try and dummy a Scottish defender instead of squeeze off a kick deep in his own end saw Scotland with an attacking five-meter scrum. This time, it was Scotland that was penalized, and the USA was able to clear its lines.
Scotland’s defense stiffened under the pressure, and the Eagles took to kicking in an effort to penetrate. A poorly executed cross kick intended for Blaine Scully landed in Stuart Hogg’s hands, and he sprinted in clean for the back-breaking try in the 67th minute. After the conversion, Scotland took the winning margin of 24-6.
The Eagles were undone by handling errors throughout the game’s final 13 minutes, and Scotland’s ability to hold onto the ball wasn’t much better, leaving the score line unchanged until the final whistle.
The United States now turns its attention to Japan, which stormed back from a 25-9 deficit to beat Canada 34-25 in British Columbia Saturday. The USA hosts Japan Saturday June 14 at Stubhub Center in Carson, Calif.
Tries: Penalty, Hogg, Visser
Cons: Laidlaw (3)
Pens: Wyles (2)