Eagles depart Bucharest with 27-17 win


BUCHAREST, Romania – Taku Ngwenya returned to the Men’s Eagles with a try Saturday in a 27-17 defeat of Romania.

The Biarritz winger made his first appearance with Mike Tolkin’s team since the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Qualifier series against Canada in August 2013. In the fourth minute of the match at Stadionul National Arcul de Triumf, Ngwenya brushed off two defenders deep inside the Eagles’ half and sprinted away from the remaining 13 to dot down in the corner.

“The first try gave us much-needed momentum,” Tolkin said. “They were pressing us and we turned that around with Taku’s try. They were deflated for a while.”

In a productive half for the Eagles’ young fly half, Adam Siddall successfully kicked his first conversion from the touch line to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.

On the other side of the pitch, Siddall’s opposite number, Florin Vlaicu, had already missed a penalty-kick attempt but gave Romania three points with a successful kick in the ninth minute.

The Eagles struggled to get much time with the ball in hand due to the strong play of Romania in the scrum and maul, but they did not give their opponent much territory. It was not until the 21st minute when the visitors created the next scoring opportunity, albeit through a penalty. Vlaicu missed his second of three kicks to keep the Eagles’ lead at 7-3.

Romania did manage to threaten inside the Eagles’ 22 in the 26th minute, but was undone by a knock and lost scrum. A forced lineout inside Romania’s half three minutes later set up captain Todd Clever for a barging run. The Eagles swung the ball to the opposite side of the field and back again to Clever on the wing, where he waited for the perfect offload to Tim Stanfill, who dotted down the try. Siddall’s successful conversion extended the lead to 14-3.

The momentum had fully turned in the Eagles’ favor and Clever helped lead more attacks on the Romanian try line in the final 10 minutes of the first frame. A Siddall penalty kick to end the half sent the teams into the break with the Eagles leading, 17-3.

Romania started on the front foot to open the second period of play and brought the ball over the try line inside five minutes. Referee Leighton Hodges did not see the ball strike ground in-goal, however, and polled the T.M.O. for confirmation. No try was awarded, though Romania’s ensuing scrum forced a penalty try. Vlaicu’s conversion kick was successful for a 17-10 scoreline.

Vlaicu failed to draw his side closer with a third missed penalty kick in the 53rd minute, and the Eagles punished the mistake with a physical attack up the pitch. Within 10 meters of the try line, Mike Petri sent a drop-goal between the posts to give the Eagles’ a 20-10 lead.

The additions of John Cullen, Greg Peterson, and Shalom Suniula contributed to the continuation of the Eagles’ defensive structure to keep Romania from approaching a scoring opportunity in the following minutes.

Ngwenya pushed the Eagles over the 22 in the 66th minute with a darting run along with wing, and support followed to get the ball to the opposite wing. There, full back Folau Niua exploited a gap in the Romanian defense with a dummy to Tim Stanfill and forced the ball in-goal over a defender in the corner.

Siddall, who had been shaken up following a tackle minutes earlier, kept his perfect kicking success rate with a successful conversion from the touch line.

Not long after the restart, Romania replied with a try from Daniel Carpo between the sticks. Vlaicu’s conversion kick rose above the outstretched hands of Clever and Tim Stanfill and through the uprights to draw Romania within 10 at 27-17.

Romania enjoyed most of the possession in the final 10 minutes of the match, but was suppressed by the Eagles’ defense. Hodges blew his whistle to signal the team’s first win of the November Tour and the second conquering of Romania in Bucharest under Tolkin.

Louis Stanfill earned his 50th cap in the win, while John Cullen, Greg Peterson, Ben Tarr, and Matt Trouville each made their first appearance in the red, white, and blue. The four “rookies” added significant size to the set pieces in the second half, with Trouville capped from the kickoff, to thwart Romania.

“Set piece is their strength so a bit surprising, especially against our guys, many of whom are new to the squad,” Tolkin said. “Cullen and Peterson added fresh legs and punch and Trouville handled a lot of dirty ball.

“Winning is a positive, the defense was good along with some of the sequences of play. Siddall’s kicking and overall play was very good.”

The Eagles will travel to Gloucester for next weekend’s match against Tonga at Klingsholm Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. ET. Follow match updates on Twitter with @USARugby and watch the match live on IRB Live.

Men’s Eagles | v Romania1. Nick Wallace
2. Phil Thiel
3. Olive Kilifi
4. Tai Tuisamoa
5. Louis Stanfill
6. Todd Clever (C)
7. John Quill
8. Matt Trouville
9. Mike Petri
10. Adam Siddall
11. Tim Stanfill
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Seamus Kelly
14. Taku Ngwenya
15. Folau Niua

Men’s Eagles | Reserves16. Tom Coolican (@ 52′)
17. Benjamin Tarr (39′)
18. Mate Moeakiola
19. Greg Peterson (@ 62′)
20. John Cullen (@ 52′)
21. Kyle Sumsion
22. Shalom Suniula (@ 68′)
23. Roland Suniula

Romania | Starting XV1. Mihaita Lazar
2. Otar Turashvili
3. Paulica Ion
4. Marius Sirbe
5. Alin Coste
6. Mihai Macovei
7. Ovidiu Tonita
8. Daniel Carpo
9. Valentin Calafeteanu
10. Dorin Manole
11. Robert Neagu
12. Florin Vlaicu
13. Csaba Gal
14. Adrian Apostol
15. Catalin Fercu

Romania | Reserves16. Andrei Radoi (@ 63′)
17. Andrei Ursache (@ 53′)
18. Horatiu Pungea
19. Valentin Poparlan (@ 55′)
20. Vlad Nistor (@ 48′)
21. Florin Surugiu
22. Catalin Dascalu
23. Florin Ionita

Men’s Eagles | 27v Tonga – Klingsholm Stadium (Gloucester, England) – Nov. 15 @ 11:45 a.m. ET
v Fiji – Stade de la Rabine (Vannes, France) – Nov. 21 @ 1 p.m. ET