Miserly Eagles repel France
The Classic Eagles enjoyed some rare success in the Rugby World Classic after lifting the Plate trophy in a 21-0 final victory over France Classic Rugby at North Field, National Sports Centre, yesterday.
It was the team’s first triumph in the Plate competition since 2003.
Building on the momentum of a hard-fought 16-15 semi-final success over Rugby Italian Classic XV on Thursday, the Eagles got off to a dream start as Maximo de Achaval released Ed Pitts to break through the French defensive line and race clear to score the game’s opening try after just 54 seconds. Achaval successfully added a simple conversion to gift the Eagles an early 7-0 advantage.
To France’s credit they rallied strongly from the early setback to put the Eagles under prolonged periods of pressure. However, a mixture of stout defending and lacklustre finishing, namely from Maxime Petitjean, who spurned his side clearest opening in the seventh minute, ensured the USA’s lead remained intact.
The wave of French attacks continued to pound the Eagles’ defence but they refused to relinquish their early initiative, repelling each advance with growing doggedness in an attempt to turn the tide back in their favour.
That determination was duly rewarded before the break as a flowing move from right to left saw Pitts turn provider finding the onrushing Matt Turner to crash down between the posts. Nese Malifa took responsibility for the simple conversion, driving the ball sailing between the posts to send the Eagles into the interval with a commanding 14-0 lead.
The second-half very much followed the same narrative of the first, as France once again got on the front foot in search of a route back into the match.
However, just as they found in the opening 30 minutes, time and time again their well constructed probing patterns of play got them close, but crucially not close enough, to finding a way through the Eagles organised defensive line.
Much of the Eagles’ success throughout the match was built on that defensive foundation and their patience to seize an opportunity was once again evident in the final moments. Forcing a mistake near the French try line, Colin Hawley pounced on the loose ball to run clear and add a final try much to the delight not only of entire Eagles bench but the large fanbase in the crowd who had been rewarded for braving the adverse weather conditions throughout.
It was left to Malifa to add the resulting conversion to take the scoreline to 21-0, signalling the final whistle and wild celebrations among the Eagles contingent.
Doug Brown, the Eagles president, hailed his side’s unyielding defence which simply refused to buckle under some sustained French pressure.
“It was a heck of a performance by us,” Brown said. “It was a fantastic performance all-around. The defence was superb, especially in these conditions. You had the wind, the rain coming down, but our ball handling was superb. Our defence was as strong as could be.”
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