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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sydney 7s: Eagles Lose To New Zealand In Fiery Match

It was testy and it was thrilling but in the end the clinical nature of New Zealand in punishing simple mistakes was too much as they beat the Eagles 24-7 in the Cup quarterfinals in Sydney. Both teams had their energy levels up all match with and uncharacteristic heavy amount of trash talking, big hits, and ill-tempers throughout. The U.S. will now play the loser of Kenya vs. Fiji at 11:13 p.m. et/9:13 p.m. pt.

The Eagles started brightly as Will Holder earned a turnover to put the U.S. on the attack. Unfortunately for the U.S., New Zealand were solid on defense and shut down any U.S. opportunity for a good minute. It nearly looked like the U.S. would score when Tim Mikkelson was shown a yellow card for cynically killing the ball with the U.S. just meters out but the defense forced the U.S. into an error.

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The match then entered a wild phase with each team having several chances only to come up empty. New Zealand had the best chance when the ball was booted down the pitch. It would have been a try if Zack Test hadn't tracked back to save the try. Still, Madison Hughes was lost to the bin for tackling a kicker. That gave New Zealand and opportunity but a poor pass allowed Perry Baker to push the New Zealand players into touch.

Unfortunately it was just a matter of time before New Zealand would take advantage of their superior numbers as Ben Lam scored. Augustine Pulu would add a second try just before halftime on a U.S. error to extend the lead to 12-0.

To start the second half the Ioane brothers combined to give New Zealand a quick third score. All it took was one missed tackle and they were through. They then picked up another try when a big hit from Augustine Pulu on Carlin Isles jarred the ball loose and it found its way to Mikkelson for the score. Pulu also did a bit of a whitewash to Isles on the possession leading Isles to chatter back and forth with the team. Tempers only increased with Danny Barrett getting involved in handbags on multiple occasions.

As much as the U.S. pushed they couldn't crack the New Zealand defense until the final minute when Folau Niua scored a consolation try. The Eagles will now move on toward trying to claim the Plate.

Starters: Barrett, Test, Holder, Niua, Palamo, Hughes, Baker

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