(Lisbon, Portugal) 5 April 1998 -- Overcoming a stop-and-start pace, the United States scored eight tries en route to a 50-7 win over the Portugal Development XV in the opening match of its tour of Portugal and Spain.
Playing in their first games for the USA, flyhalf Gary Puterman and wing Jason Raven collected two apiece, as the Eagles broke open a 19-7 game at half with an explosive third quarter. A combined total of 44 penalties and five-of-eleven goalkicking from halfback Kevin Dalzell as well as a bit of rustiness kept the US from doing greater damage.
Center Juan Grobler opened the scoring at 14 minutes, followed by a try after 29 minutes from midfield partner Tomasi Takau. Both were converted. Portugal then got on the board with its only score of the game, but still another midfield move put wing Raven away for an unconverted try just before the half.
Two tries right after the turnaround effectively put the game out of reach. One from wing Kevin Gittings, another debutant, and Puterman's first extended the count to 29-7.
Toward the end of the third quarter Puterman claimed another, right before Raven logged the play of the day, making a spectacular, mid-air catch of a Dalzell box kick before wrong-footing the fullback and racing in underneath the posts.The count stood at 43-7 for most of the fourth quarter, before Dalzell dummied a defender on a scrum move to score untouched.
For the US, Jay Wilkerson looked in good form and Jason Walker also performed well in addition to captaining the side; but the tight five, including three new players, was a bit disappointing. In the backs, fullback Andre Blum proved steady and Raven gained some ground in his bid to play in the Pacific Rim later this spring. Each of them returning from injuries, centers Grobler (eye) and Takau (knee) both played well, with Takau earning man-of-the-match honors.
"In general terms, we're pleased to have the first match under our belts. There were some good performances, but I wouldn't say that we'd be totally satisfied with our play," commented US head coach Jack Clark. "Our tight five work will need to improve, and we'll need to find some rhythm to our second-phase play."
Tries: Jason Raven (2), Gary Puterman (2), Juan Grobler, Tomasi Takau, Kevin Gittings, Kevin Dalzell.
Conversions: Kevin Dalzell (5).
Penalty goals: none.