Sunday, May 22, 2016

London 7s: Eagles Blowout New Zealand, Move To Semi-Finals

You would have been very unlikely to find someone that would have favored the U.S. against New Zealand in their Cup quarterfinal match at the London 7s given their recent play but not only did they beat New Zealand, they crushed them 42-14 to move on to the semi-finals against Scotland.

When the kickoff didn't go ten meters New Zealand looked to be in no hurry as they slowly tried to push down the pitch. It worked as Rieko Ioane found a gap in the defense to score the opening try. The conversion was good but it wasn't all good on the series for New Zealand as they lost Sonny Bill Williams to injury.

New Zealand chose to kick deep on the restart and the U.S. sent out a couple of passes to Baker on the wing. He was caught but the U.S. quickly regained possession and after some crisp passing Baker evaded a couple of defenders for the try. When Hughes hit the conversion it was all knotted up at 7-7.

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However, a poor pass from Martin Iosefo found the hands of Lewis Ormond who went in for his easiest try in a long time. 14-7 with only seconds left in the half. There was still time for the restart, and as they did all match, the U.S. did well to keep possession. As they worked the ball back and forth across the pitch Zack Test was initially able to slip through the defense until they found Baker once again to torch the defense. 14-14 at the break.

Early in the second half the U.S. were well on the front foot testing the New Zealand defense on every occasion and when Hughes saw that there was no one home for New Zealand he collected his own grubber to push the score to 21-14.

The Eagles then quickly added another. From a scrum the U.S. ran a beautiful set play to free Baker to cut through the defense. Off another scrum set play Hughes was able to split the defense before finding Baker yet again. The rout was on with the Eagles now up 35-14. The only downside for the Eagles after that was that Baker couldn't add to his four tries as he came off for a rest.

The U.S. would add a final try with less than a minute to go. They won the restart and went through some quick phases until Ben Pinkelman stretched over to score. Overall it was a massive second half performance for the Eagles. Gaining momentum was crucial to the tournament for the Eagles, even if they didn't win, and you have to say that after a massive win over New Zealand they have it.

Starters: Pinkelman, Barrett, Test, Niua, Hughes, Baker, Iosefo

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