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How The Americans Saw It

27th August 2007 By Munster Rugby

"Our forwards laid a big platform for us and we gave ourselves several opportunities to put the game away. It just came down to making that last pass." said US Eagles captain Mike Hercus.

"Our forwards laid a big platform for us and we gave ourselves several opportunities to put the game away. It just came down to making that last pass." said US Eagles captain Mike Hercus.

Even though the final score saw Munster go out on top, 10-6, the inaugural Setanta Sports Challenge Cup didn’t fail to excite the 8,000 plus rugby fans that filled the Toyota Park on Sunday afternoon.

The fans had a lot to cheer about as the Eagles started strong against Munster, receiving three penalties within striking distance, two of which flyhalf Mike Hercus converted, and dominating possession early on to gain a solid 6-0 lead by half.

"I would say we controlled 80 percent of territory in that first half," Head Coach Peter Thorburn said. "It was an active sort of a half, and I think we played nearly 20 minutes before we had the first scrum. When we did start to scrum, I was happy with their energy. Their tackling looked very good and the enthusiasm the guys played with, in the first half in particular was very encouraging."

But, Munster is not a team to go down lightly and just two minutes into the second half, the reigning Heineken champions, put their first points on the board with a penalty of their own to narrow the USA’s lead by half.

"There was nothing but positive feedback in the locker room at halftime," Munster coach Declan Kidney said. "It was just about building up their confidence and reassuring them that they knew what to do. This was a chance for several of our players to prove themselves and it was an honor for us to be here."

Munster managed to dominate the possession in the second half and finally found the try line in the 52nd minute when Anthony Horgan managed to break through on the sideline and dive in the corner for the first try of the match. Paul Warwick converted to put Munster up 10-6.

While Munster seemed to control the momentum throughout the rest of the game, the Eagles’ defense seemed impenetrable. Several times Munster was within five meters and the Eagles somehow regained possesion, albeit brief. Time and time again, the Eagles fended off the tough Munster squad, only to get an attack that would go just far enough to put the crowd on their feet.

"Our forwards laid a big platform for us," Hercus said. "And we gave ourselves several opportunities to put the game away. It just came down to making that last pass."

"This is one of the largest crowds a lot of these guys have played in front of," Backs coach Adam Friend added. "And I think a lot of the mistakes were just from getting overly excited. There are a lot of positives to take from this. We are giving ourselves opportunities that we never did in the past, and we continue to improve every time we get on the pitch, which is the point of these matches."

The Setanta Challenge Cup served as the Rugby World Cup Send-off match for the U.S. Eagles, as they now have only a week of training in Muscatine, Iowa before heading to France for the Rugby World Cup on Sept. 1st.


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