The United States looked set to beat New Zealand for the first time ever and threaten for a Cup Quarterfinal berth in their last pool match of the World Cup. They were fantastic for the first nine minutes or so, taking a two-score lead over the All Blacks early in the second half, but a monumental collapse saw New Zealand win 26-19.
New Zealand struck first with a Sherwin Stowers try in the second minute. The All Blacks got possession when Tim Mikkelson ripped the ball from the Eagles in the tackle. The conversion was missed.
The United States replied immediately, going through two phases off the restart before Nick Edwards took a gap, backed himself and ran half the field for a try. Shalom Suniula’s conversion attempt was missed, leaving the score tied at 5-5.
The Eagles kept pressuring on the next kickoff. Zack Test went in the air and tapped the ball back to Andrew Durutalo, who fended off Mikkelson and offloaded to a streaking Matt Hawkins. The captain slid under the posts to put the USA up 12-5, following Suniula’s successful kick.
Brett Thompson cleanly won the next restart, taking the ball to near the attacking five meter before being brought down. The All Blacks knocked on in the breakdown, giving the Eagles a great attacking platform. The out pass wasn’t clean, though, and Maka Unufe knocked on. New Zealand took that possession 90 meters and nearly leveled the score before the half, but some feisty defense with their heels on their own try line saw the Eagles win possession back and take the lead into intermission.
The kickoff continued to go the Eagles’ way in the second half. Thompson tapped the restart back to Edwards, who fended off one tackle and ran in cleanly. Suniula converted, making it 19-5.
New Zealand then climbed closer with a penalty try. The Eagles put the ball in on a scrum following a try-saving cover tackle from Test resulted in a knock on. Both Test and Sam Dickson were hurt on the play, and the injury time seemed to suck all the momentum away from the US. When play was restarted the ball popped out of the scrum wildly, and Suniula was called for playing the man instead of the ball. Conversion good, New Zealand trailed by just seven.
Not for long, though, as Maka Unufe lost the ball in contact on the first touch of the next possession, and Mikkelson scooped and scored. Conversion made, the game was tied with about two minutes to play.
The Eagles continued to stub their own toes, losing pattern and purpose in attack. After a few pick-and-gos deep in their own end, New Zealand held the ball up and won a scrum. Off the set piece David Raikuna ran in to put New Zealand ahead 26-19.
The baffling downfall continued on USA’s last possession, when Suniula made the odd decision to kick an up-and-under following a penalty, instead of spin the ball wide. New Zealand happily accepted the gift and cleared to touch to take the win.
The loss drops the Eagles to 1-2 and third place in the final pool standings. They'll play for either the Plate or the Bowl on Day Three, pending the rest of the pool results.
Tries: Hawkins, Edwards (2)
Tries: Stowers, Mikkelson, Raikuna