USA fell to 0-2-1 in the final match of Wellington pool play with a 17-10 loss to New Zealand. The Eagles led early and scored late to draw within one try, but ran out of time.
The All Blacks, as they had throughout the day, made some uncharacteristic mistakes – knocking on, giving possession away and missing tackles – against the Eagles, and USA went up 5-0 when Jack Halalilo broke a tackle, garnered a second defender and offloaded to a streaking Nick Edwards. The conversion attempt was missed, making it 5-0.
The Eagles didn’t have a ton of possession in the opening half, but their defensive structure held. And when they were a pass away from conceding an overlap on a couple of occasions, rush defense pressured New Zealand into squandering the opportunity.
The USA bundled New Zealand into touch with seven seconds left in the half. The Eagles could have taken a conventional lineout and the lead into intermission, but Zack Test went quick and the Eagles were turned over in the contact area, giving New Zealand the ball back and Tomasi Cama the chance to score a converted try before the half, which he did.
Folau Niua opened the second half by booting the restart into touch, and the Eagles committed back-to-back penalties, giving the All Blacks too many set pieces and a Ben Lam try.
The Eagles then fielded the ensuing restart, but New Zealand asserted its will in the breakdown and stole possession back with great coutner rucking. Cama scored his second try of the game to extend New Zealand’s lead to 17-5.
Alex Magleby subbed on Blaine Scully and Maka Unufe between tries, and Unufe left the game with a knee injury shortly after coming on.
The Eagles showed resilience and worked multiple phases and a New Zealand penalty into a Test try with about 35 seconds remaining. Shalom Suniula missed the conversion, but did it quickly enough to get a restart off. It was all for naught, as New Zealand regained possession and cleared to touch to end the game.
The Eagles were altogether competitive on day one, aside from a toe-stubbing loss to Spain to open the day. They’ll try for their first hardware of the season tomorrow, but the schedule does them no favors, pitting them against Fiji in the Bowl Quarterfinals.
New Zealand 17
Tries: Cama (2), Lam
Tries: Edwards, Test
USA Starting Lineup