Tomahawks Donnybrook Cup Analysis
On the face of it, it was a loss for the US. The Tomahawks leaked five tries to Ireland and scored just one of their own, but there’s more to it than just winning or losing a one-off rugby league international.
The Tomahawks went into the Donnybrook Cup Test against the Irish riding a four-game win streak and the Wolfhounds burst their bubble.
The last time the USA had a four-game win streak going was back in the late 1990s when the national team put together four consecutive victories between 1997 and 1999 before Lebanon stopped them dead in their tracks.
Overall though, the US still has a healthy win-loss ratio. The Tomahawks are now 22-15 all-time in rugby league internationals and they lead the Irish series 4-3 overall.
Prior to Saturday’s defeat, the USA’s last loss came in 2007 when Samoa beat them in a Rugby League World Cup qualifier in Widnes, in the UK.
So what are we to make of the Donnybrook Cup result? Well, for one thing, the Tomahawks’ coaching staff acknowledged going into it that the team they selected was a blend of youth and experience. A well worn cliché, yes, but true nonetheless.
Of the 17-man squad, seven had not played at this level before. Four of the players were from Hawaii, and of those only one, Sione Taufa, had international experience. Taufa, who donned the red, white and blue in the Atlantic Cup last November, was also in the USA Sevens player pool that assembled in Chula Vista, CA, ahead of the next two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
US coach David Niu said afterwards, “I'm disappointed in the result but I'm not disappointed in the process.”
What he was referring to is the build-up to this year’s RLWC Atlantic Zone qualifying series. The United States is slated to host qualifiers against South Africa and Jamaica in October with the winner clinching one of only two berths still open for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
Sandwiched in between is a home and home Colonial Cup series with Canada scheduled for late summer.
Before we get to that series, the American National Rugby League’s domestic competition will enter its 14th season and undoubtedly the Tomahawks team management will have their eyes keenly focused on potential talent.
The AMNRL is no different to USA Rugby in terms of needing to experiment with as many different players as possible and as many different combinations as possible in order to put the best possible team on the field for the money rounds. And in this case, the money rounds will come in October.
The Tomahawks have never qualified for a RLWC, but this year is their best opportunity to do so and the process that Coach Niu talked about is a methodical, step by step process that started last Saturday.