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Team USA fell 29-25 to Uruguay Saturday in Montevideo, ending its inaugural Americas Rugby Championship campaign on back-to-back losses to teams ranked lower by World Rugby. Two weeks ago, the Eagles were 16th, Uruguay 21st and Brazil 42nd. The loss sees them finish the ARC 2-2-1, with wins over Canada and Chile.
Penalties were an issue for the Eagles all day, as Uruguay pumped five kicks over accounting for 15 points. Three yellow cards, including two to Ben Landry, resulting in a red, left them reeling. They also left points on the board via missed kicks, with both James Bird and Niku Kruger missing penalty goals.
Uruguay struck first through a penalty in the third minute. Eric Fry was called for a breakdown infringement about 15 meters from touch and 30 meters from the try line. The kick was converted, putting Los Teros up 3-0.
The Eagles were bundled into touch twice in quick succession shortly thereafter, with debutant wing Deion Mikesell and hooker Mike Sosene-Feagai turning it over. Uruguay utilized the possession to apply pressure, resulting in a second shot at goal. This one sailed wide.
Shaky halfback play hamstrung the Eagles early. Mike Te’o short-armed a pass to Bird deep inside the attacking 22, and the knocked ball was flyhacked the other direction, reversing field position. Then Bird punted a kick through the try zone, bringing the ball all the way back to the USA’s end.
The Eagles won the scrum, though, and Todd Clever made a hard-charging run, offloading to an oncoming Chad London, who offloaded to Aladdin Schirmer for the first try of the match. Converted, it gave the USA a 7-3 lead.
The USA’s scrum was put on skates in the 20th minute, but the Eagles were able to get the ball out on the back foot. Uruguay pressured the next breakdown, and the USA was pinged for leaving its feet in the mad scramble, allowing Uruguay to draw within a point at 7-6.
An intercept gave Mikesell some possession and momentum going forward after the kickoff, and the Eagles earned their first penalty kick attempt, which Bird stroked over the post to extend the lead to 10-6. Mikesell hurt Uruguay again, this time literally, as an attempted tackle on the new wing ended in a stretcher ride for the Uruguayan defender.
The Eagles couldn’t convert on a trio of prime attacking platforms near the half-hour-mark, with a lineout and two scrums going unrewarded. But Uruguay did eventually commit a penalty well within Bird’s range, and he banged a second kick over to make it 13-6. Uruguay reduced the lead in the 37th minute with a third penalty, cutting the difference to 13-9 going into halftime.
Seven minutes into the second half, inside center Chad London caught an offload from Joe Taufete’e, who broke free, for a long-range try to regain a two-score lead. Not two minutes later, Los Teros burrowed into pay dirt off a series of pick-and-jams. James Bird missed a shot at goal shortly thereafter, and 53 minutes in the USA led 20-16.
Frustration with the referee boiled over in the 56th minute when Eric Fry raised a concern with a call. Ben Landry made a charging run, and he was undercut by a Uruguayan who dove under his legs with no attempt to wrap. Landry was called for holding on in the ensuing ruck, and Fry chatted back to the referee, earning a second penalty.
The infractions ultimately didn’t end up hurting the Eagles on the scoreboard. But tempers continued to flare. Minutes later, Landry was sent off with a yellow card for throwing down a Uruguayan who was standing over a teammate during a dead ball. Los Teros teed up a shot at goal, cutting the deficit to one with a two-man penalty play still in effect.
A fifth Uruguayan penalty in the 68th minute gave Los Teros their first lead, 22-20, since it was 3-0 in the early goings. Reserve scrumhalf Niku Kruger spelled Mike Te’o and took a shot at goal, but it didn’t find its mark.
The Eagles regained their perch via Mikesell in the 74th minute. His try on the wing is the second by a Lindenwood freshman in three matches, as Lorenzo Thomas dotted down against Chile while earning his first cap a couple of weeks ago. The conversion was missed, leaving the USA up 25-22.
Upon his return to the field, Landry was called for playing someone off the ball, receiving a second yellow and a subsequent red. He ploughed over an obstructing Uruguayan player to get to a ball carrier. Uruguay scored immediately from the ensuing set piece, taking a 29-25 lead with the conversion. The Eagles had a handful of phases with time elapsed, but Thomas was bundled into touch ending the game.