Eagle Impact Wins Irish Tour Opener

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The Eagle Impact Rugby Academy team won the opening game of its Ireland tour on Saturday morning, defeating Ulster Academy U17s 12-7 in a three-period game with open subs at Campbell College in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The game was certainly a contrast in styles, despite the fact that Eagle Impact head coach Salty Thompson is a Belfast native. The Ulster team relied on a cohesive pattern of play and did well to maintain continuity at the breakdown and put itseld into scoring position. While playing superb team defense, the EIRA squad was a bit bigger, more physical, and more athletic.

Ulster got on the board first when EIRA was a bit slow to get a cleating kick away. The kick was blocked by the hosts and fell in-goal, where an Ulster hand was there first for the try. Trailing 7-0, Eagle Impact came back to pressure Ulster for several minutes, but ball-handling errors hurt the cause, and Ulster got back on the front foot. That led to Ulster getting a break down the sideline that was just halted by the EIRA defense. But a penalty set up a Ulster lineout five meters from the EIRA line, and the hosts looked set to score.

However, some excellent goal-line defense from the Eagle Impact players led to a turnover that ended a significant scoring threat.

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The teams took a break with Ulster leading 7-0, and in the second period, once again EIRA was defending. But eventually the U.S. team got the ball back and a few breaks through the interior channels around the ruck got them close. Gavin Prentice almost made the line, and then Clayton High (NC) School prop Larry Williams went over from a pick-and-go to tie the game. Eagle Impact took the lead when Ulster was caught napping on a penalty. With the Ulster players slow to retreat and committing the cardinal sin of turning their backs to the opposition, EIRA's Mike Weit quick-tapped and ran a series of superb offloads to set up a nice pass from Alex Vaca to Sean Nolan for the try in the corner.

No more points were scored after that, and EIRA came away with a 12-7 victory, somewhat against the run of play. However, Eagle Impact players said they had been working on their defense as a team, and it certainly showed on Saturday.

Next up for the EIRA is a game against Leinster Academy U17s on Tuesday afternoon at Donnybrook in Dublin. On Friday, Eagle Impact takes on Ulster Academy at Newforge Rugby Club.

Eagle Impact Coaching Staff

Salty Thompson: Head Coach & Attack
Scott Bracken: Forwards Coach
John Banarhall: Defensive Coach
Sean O'Leary: EIRA Ambassador to Ireland & Coach
Anne Micinski: Trainer
Darrell Knowlton: Manager and Mental Strength Coach

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