The USA Rugby Collegiate All Americans got some measure of revenge against New Zealand Universities Saturday, as they capped off their three-match tour of New Zealand with an emphatic 34-11 victory in Wellington.
The All Americans had lost 17-10 to the same New Zealand Universities outfit just after arriving in-country, and then lost 30-23 to the Wairarapa-Bush club in mid-week.
This game was seen as the culmination of the tour, and despite the cold and very wet conditions, the All Americans defended superbly and ran in five tries to win.
Early on things didn't look so swift as the Americans were consistently penalized for a variety of infractiond around the breakdown.
NZU opted for points twice in the first 15 minutes, missing one and making another.
But right from the restart the All Americans regained some momentum. Flyhalf Pat Sullivan ran around the weakside to score and put the tourists up 5-3. Moments later, some good work by loose forwards Ryan Roundy and Kyle Sumsion - both of BYU - put the New Zealanders under pressure and forced an infringement. Fullback Joe Cowley booted the ball over for the 8-3 lead.
That was it for scoring until just before halftime. Consistent work on offense put NZU under more pressure, and they backpedaled furously, but were unable to hold off the Americans. The captain, Roundy, bulled over just before the halftime whistle, and Cowley's conversion put the All Americans in command 15-3.
That last try was a big one, said All American Head Coach Matt Sherman. But there was some concern as the All Americans had enjoyed the lion's share of territory while playing with the win. As it turned out, playing against the wind was just was the tourists' forwards wanted.
Six minutes into the second half, Cal loose forward Danny Barrett, lurking in the #1 channel, took a nifty inside ball from Sullivan and ran in to score after a periods of sustain pressure and snappy recycling. Cowley hit the conversion to make it 22-3. New Zealand Universities kicked a penalty to make it 22-6, but seven minutes later, a counter-attack led to a try. The All Americans were stopped just inside the NZU 22, but a quick ball from scrumhalf Jake McFadden to the onrushing lock John Cullen saw the Utah powerhouse rumble through several tacklers to score.
Cowley was again good on the conversion and the All Americans led 29-6.
Then Life University prop Paris Hollis, who has had a superb spring, picked and crashed over from close-in. New Zealand Universities scored their first try with five minutes to go, but it was a dominant performance from the Americans.
"It was a strong second half," said Sherman. "We were very physical and disciplined with ball in hand to keep possession into the wind. We made good kicking choices and controlled game with wind against us. Very good defensive pressure and physicality."
Sherman said this was without a doubt the team's best performance on tour.
"It was pleasing to see the team make significant improvements in the areas we set out to improve, particularly as it related to playing in the poor conditions," continued Sherman. "Our set pieces improved dramatically. We made better decisions with the ball in hand and were able to retain possession while also speeding up our ruck ball, and defensively we were organized, committed, and very physical."
Sherman said the team learned a lot from the first two games, especially "that a good performance wasn¹t going to be enough to win down here. We had to dominate in most categories, minimize mistakes and capitalize on opportunities, and be fully committed in both effort and focus. I think we got that today throughout the entire team."
The All American forward, in particular, were strong, with man of the match Sumsion, who has been lights out since January, and Roundy and Barrett rounded out an excellent back row effort.
Cullen, still relatively new to rugby after a period of years playing football (see the February issue of RUGBY Magazine ... here's pdf reprint so you can see the sort of article you're missing if you're not a subscriber), and Lawrenson were imposing at second row on offense, defense, and in the rucks.
1. Paris Hollis, Life University
2. Michael Shepherd, Utah
3. Angus MacClellan, Davenport
4. Michael Lawrenson, Kutztown
5. John Cullen, Utah
6. Danny Barrett, Cal
7. Kyle Sumsion, BYU
8. Ryan Roundy (capt.), BYU
9. Jake McFadden, Life
10. Pat Sullivan, Arkansas State
11. Jake Anderson, Cal
12. Michael Haley, St. Mary’s
13. JP Eloff, Davenport
14. Madison Hughes, Dartmouth
15. Joe Cowley, Life
16. Glen Maricelli, Life (for Shepherd at 64)
17. Eric Parson, Cal Poly (for MacClellan at 64)
18. Shaun Potgeiter, Arkansas State (for Roundy at 68)
19. Jordan Badia-Bellinger, Claremont Colleges (for Lawrenson at 62)
20. Randy Pati, Utah (for McFadden at 62)
21. Stephen Tomasin, San Diego State (for Sullivan at 61)
22. Josh Tucker, Cal (for Hughes at 59)
|New Zealand Universities|
1. Morgan Poi, Old Boys University
2. Ben Murtha, Napier Pirates
3. Zek Sopaga, Old Boys University
4. Regan Hunt, Old Boys University
5. Marcel Renata, Auckland University
6. Tom Hughes, Massey University
7. Alex Wilson, Napier Pirates
8. Josh Dickson, Otago University
9. Aaron McPhee, Napier Pirates
10. Jes Verstegen, North Harbour Marist (Massey)
11. Andrew Jones, Canterbury University
12. Joel Duffy, Lincoln University – Captain
13. George Vance, Otago University
14. Jonathan Ruru, Napier Pirates
15. Clayton Stewart, Massey University
16. Jake Holmes, Waikato University; 17. Rob Sullivan, Canterbury
University; 18. Sam McCahon, Waikato University; 19. James Raea,
Auckland University; 20. Tim Smith, Old Boys University; 21. Jonte
Lexmond, Otago University; 22. Broc Hooper, Lincoln University