Falcons take it to the Hawks in NA4 opener
April 7, 2007

The U.S. Falcons took it to the U.S. Hawks today at the Little Qualcomm Rugby Complex in San Diego, Calif., dominating possession and creating much needed space with their forwards for a final victory of 48-17 in the first match of the 2007 IRB North America 4 Tournament.

The early exchanges of the game favored the Hawks with the boot of David Williams (Denver Barbarians) converting two early penalties. The Falcons quickly gained command after a turnover midfield and some deft passing by Chris Wyles (North Hampton) led to a Andrew 'Tui' Osborne (Belmont Shore) breakaway try.

Just minutes later, Chad Erskine (Waterloo) capitalized off an outstanding Philip Eloff (Chicago Lions) break from within his own quarter. Erskine couldn't convert from the sideline, but the Falcons were now in control of the game and the score at 10-6.

"All week we emphasized the importance of team work. In this match our forwards really stepped up and did their job. They opened up space and created opportunity for our backs to make big plays," Head Falcons Coach Adam Friend said.

Play see-sawed for the next 10 minutes with powerful running by Inaki Bausari (Massy Essonne) who gained some much valued yardage for the Hawks. Attempts were futile, however, as the Falcons captain Eloff once again eluded the Hawks defense with a try run in from over 20 meters. Erskine converted from in front to open the lead to 17-6 Falcons.

Williams added another penalty at 36:00 minutes but it was the try by Falcons vice captain Mike Mangan (Denver Barbarians) that ended the half in the Falcons favor, 22-9.

For the second half, wholesale changes were made to each team resulting in many fresh legs ready for the opportunity to impress the Eagles selectors. With the absence of Williams, Dominic Mara (NYAC) took over the kicking duties and calmly slotted his first attempt from in front, narrowing the deficit to 10.

Three minutes later, against the run of play, Mark Aylor (Denver Barbarians) intercepted an Andy Locke (USMA) pass to run 50 meters back for the easy five points. Erskine converted and in an ironic turn of events, Mara then intercepted a pass from Erskine and ran it back for five of his own and the first for the Hawks.

The Falcons really took charge of the match in the last twenty minutes as their forwards asserted dominance over the Hawks pack allowing Erskine's vision to create two tries for Takudzwa Ngwenya 'Zee'. One was from a cleverly crafted cross kick and the other from a neat skip pass to end the game. Reserve center, Alipate Tuilevuka (Park City Haggis) scored at the 76 minute after some powerful Falcons' forward interchanges sealed the deal for the Falcons. Erskine ended up racking up the most points for the Falcons as he again successfully converted after Tuilevuka's try and finished with 13 points.

"I think we wanted it more," Erskine said. "Before the match we just took a look around and realized that we didn't want someone else taking our place on the team going to the World Cup. That was the motivation. We played hard for ourselves, the team and the selectors and the proof was in the score."

USA Falcons 48, USA Hawks 17 (Halftime 22-9)

USA Falcons

Tries: Ngwenya 2,Osborne, Erskine, Eloff, Mangan, Aylor, Tuilevaka

Conversions: Erskine 4

Penalties: none

1. Chris Moreno; 2. Blake Burdette (Owen Lentz @ 40); 3. Aaron Beuhring; 4. Adam Casias (Latu Puloka @ 47); 5. Mike Mangan; 6. Danny LaProvette (Mark Aylor @ halftime); 7. Rikus Pretorius; 8. Travis Meidinger (Tasi Mounga @ halftime); 9. Mose Timoteo (Kimball Kjar @ 40); 10. Chad Erskine; 11. Chris Wyles; 12. Vaha Esikia; 13. Philip Eloff (Takudzwa Ngwenya @ 40); 14. Mike Palefau (Alipate Tuilevuka @ 67); 15. Tui Osborne.

USA Hawks

Tries: Mara

Conversions: none

Penalties: Williams 3, Mara

1. Mike French; 2. Mark Crick (Patrick Bell @ 47); 3. Mate Maeakiola; 4. John VanderGiessen; 5. Alec Parker (Jake Stanfill@ 47) 6. Inaki Bausari; 7. MC Laubscher (Jason Lett @ 47); 8. Dan Payne (Andrew Ryland@ 57); 9. David Williams (Doug Rowe@ 40); 10. Andrew Locke; 11. Scott Jones; 12. Albert Tuipolotu (Jone Naqica @ 40); 13. Nathan Rogers; 14. Brian Barnard (Riaan Hamilton @ 40); 15. Dominic Mara.

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