SANDY Playing Uruguay offered a perfect remedy for the U.S. National rugby team which was mired in a lengthy winless streak to turn its fortunes around.
In nine previous meetings with the South American squad, the United States lost once.
History proved an accurate barometer on Saturday. The U.S. team snapped a losing streak stretching back to 2006 with a 43-9 rout of Uruguay in the second-half of a rugby doubleheader at Rio Tinto Stadium.
It's a solid first step in a quest to become more competitive on an international level. But plenty of work remains to be done.
"The skills of the team are improving," USA team coach Scott Johnson said. "But it takes you 500 hours to learn new skills and 500 hours we haven't had and 500 hours we need. We're going to keep working until we get it right."
Todd Cleaver scored on a try in the third minute to help the U.S. team stake out a quick 7-0 lead. That advantage did not last for long thanks to the kicking skills of Matias Arocena.
The Uruguayan flyhalf converted three consecutive penalty kicks over an 11-minute span to put Uruguay up 9-7 in the 21st minute. Arocena finally misfired on his fourth attempt in the 40th minute when the ball sailed wide right.
Those extra three points would not have mattered much based on how quickly the tide turned in favor of the United States. The U.S. side came to life in impressive fashion ripping off 36 unanswered points in the second half. A large chunk of that outburst came in a 10-minute span.
It was an offensive explosion the U.S. side had not seen all year and a welcome development.
"In the past, we come out in games and we haven't had that explosion," fullback Chris Wyles said. "To have that, it's a great feeling. The guys are pumped up for it and ready to go for the next game."
The decisive run started in unassuming fashion with Mike Hercus connecting on a penalty kick from the 10-meter line to make it 10-9 in the 50th minute.
Once the U.S. had regained the lead, Gavin DeBartolo helped fuel the explosion with a couple of huge plays. DeBartolo found Wyles on a pitch out near the goal line in the 54th minute. Wyles took the lateral and raced untouched past the line to boost the lead to 17-9.
It was DeBartolo's turn to convert a try a few minutes later. He picked off an errant pass from 40 yards out in the 56th minute and returned the ball back untouched to make it 24-9.
The United States put the match away with yet another successful try in the 59th minute when Takudzwa Ngwenya took a pass from behind the 22 meter line and stayed a step ahead of the pack on his way to the goal line.
"We knew in the second half that if we did the things that (our) coach told us that we would take the win," Wyles said.
Paul Emerick added to Uruguayans' collapse, breaking loose for a try that gave the U.S. team a 29-point lead in the 76th minute. Chad Erskine finished them off by punching it in from close range to make it 43-9 in the final minute.Things did not go so well for the United States in the first half of Saturday's doubleheader. A late rally helped New Zealand Heartland squeak out a 19-14 victory over the USA Select XV team.
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