New Zealand shut out the USA 40-0 in the opening match for both teams at the Dubai 7s Friday at 7he Sevens, but the Eagles could take a few positives out of the game nonetheless.
New Zealand ran on their best lineup against the USA, and clearly wanted to get started on a good note in the Dubai heat.
They found themselves on defense early as the USA won the kickoff and moved the ball well side to side. However, the Eagles weren’t able to really break through the New Zealand line, and when Matt Hawkins was gang tackled, he was outnumbers and had the ball ripped away. The New Zealanders moved the ball quick and Tomasi Cama strolled over in the corner.
From the restart, the Eagles won the ball again, but Zack Test rolled over on the ground a bit too much, giving up a penalty, and a few passes later Frank Halai stood up Nick Edwards and cruised in at the corner.
Three and a half minutes gone and 10-0 New Zealand.
The Eagles made some promising moves, passing well and with Mike Palefau surging into the New Zealand half. But a forward pass gave New Zealand a scrum, and some excellent ball movement from the New Zealanders put Rakembula into a gap. The Americans weren’t missing tackles; the New Zealand ball movement and teamwork were just too good.
Luck seemed to be on New Zealand’s side. After a long run from Palefau, Shalom Suniula put a lofted kick wide for Matt Hawkins. It all was set up perfectly, except the ball bounced unexpectedly over the head of Hawkins, and into the waiting arms of Tim Mikkelson, who gleefully ran to the corner.
That’s how the half ended, with the USA not making any egregious errors, or missing much on defense, and behind 20-0.
In the second half, New Zealand worked their way downfield, not breaking tackles, but carrying tacklers past the gain line. But an excellent tackle on the wing by the Americans forced a penalty. The USA then showed some good play on their own. USA Head Coach Al Caravelli had subbed in all five subs in at halftime, and those subs, such as Mark Bokhoven, Tai Enosa and Miles Craigwell all got in on the play.
But just as the USA reached halfway, Cama jumped in the way of a Palefau pass and was gone untouched for the fifth New Zealand try.
Moments later, good ball movement made it 20-0 (six tries, no conversions) with less than three minutes gone.
In the second half, New Zealand started retaining the possession from their restart, and that put the USA on the back foot. Halai capped off the next attack to make it 35-0.
On the next restart Test won the kick, but Craigwell was well and truly rucked off the ball and away New Zealand went. Glen Robertson scored easily and that capped the game, 40-0.
The USA did not miss a lot of tackles, they can’t be assessed on their kickoff abilities, because they only did it once, and they only made a couple of handling errors. But New Zealand could not be contained when they had the ball. They were tackled, to be sure, but they just moved the ball to the open man, and scored eight tries.
For the USA, the big positive was that every player got at least seven minutes on the field, and there is plenty of rugby to play.
Hawkins, Hawley, Test, Suniula, Niua, Palefau, Edwards
Subs: Craigwell, Bokhoven, Tiberio, Kelm, Enosa
New Zealand 40
Tries: Halai 2, Cama 2, Arnold, Robertson, Mikkelson, Raikabula
Mikkelson, King, Forbes, Raikabula, Camada, Halai, Arnold
Subs: Souness, Webber, Marshall, Robertson, Piutau
Referee: James Bolobiu, Fiji