Keep Breathing: EIRA Players Reflect On Win

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The Eagle Impact Rugby Academy team in Ireland gave up a soft try only a few minutes into the opening game of the team's Ireland tour, but maybe they needed that jolt.

Stuck in their own 22 the EIRA team had a scrum and a chance to get out of trouble. But the expected eightman pick didn't come to fruition as the ball kind of squirted out of the back. Quickly the team consolidate possession, but probably should have run a few more surges ahead before sending it back to Mike Weir for the clearance kick. They didn't, Weir, by his own admission, was a bit slow to make the kick, and the Ulster Academy U17 defenders rushed in, blocked the kick, and scored.

Fired Up

"It motivated us," said CK McClatchy (CA) lock Quinn Sheppard, who captained the team to a 12-7 victory in three periods against Ulster. "We knew we wanted to get right back at it."

Weir, who plays his high school rugby with Doylestown in Pennsylvania, agreed. "It fired us up."

Even though Ulster continued to pressure the EIRA team, the American defense held.

"Our team defense was something we took pride in," said Sheppard. "We knew we could hit them hard and also bring the right amount of communication to work together."

Coach Scott Bracken was please with how the team rucked and rebounded from that early setback, saying that "after that try they did really well to turn ball over and also exit out of trouble. We do skill rotations in all our trainings and I have them with bring the ball into contact and I was pretty confident after what I saw from them that they'd do well in the breakdowns."

What Bracken wanted to see, however, was more urgency. 

Not Just There To Compete

"I told them in the first intermission that they seemed like they were happy to be in the game and competitive," he said. "What I wanted them to be was more aggressive and play not just to compete, but play to win."

Certainly the intensity went up.

"We stopped the silly knock-ons and got back to playing the way we wanted to play," said Weir.

Props Larry Williams and Gavin Prentice powered through the inside channels and eventually Williams went over for a try. Then Weir surprised the Ulster players with a quick tap, and Mateo Gadsden and Alex Vaca were in support - both running onto passes popped up from a tackled teammate - and then Vaca sent a nice wide pass to Sean Nolan for the try. They showed what the EIRA team can do.

Keep Breathing

"The forwards worked really hard to put the pressure on them; I'm proud of them," said Sheppard. "I just told the guys to keep breathing and keep working. We got that first try and we knew we just had to do it again."

For the second try, Weir said "I saw we were too far away to try for a kick and they had turned their back to me so I just went. Eventually I was tackled but Mateo was right there."

"We all have to same approach - you see a chance and you just go," added Sheppard. 

The 12-7 victory was good for morale and confidence, said Weir and Sheppard, but they also know it didn't go unnoticed in Ireland. Tuesday's game against Leinster Academy U17s is now where the EIRA team will not surprise anyone. And Friday's rematch with Ulster (under slightly more formal parameters as it will be a two-half game) might bring some payback.

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