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Friday, November 4, 2016

Recap: Maori All Blacks Beat Eagles


The Eagles were always going to face a tough road against the Maori All Blacks but they found it even tougher than expected as the visitors ran out comfortable 54-7 winners. At every opportunity the Maori All Blacks showed why they are considered one of the better teams in the world and if they were a full test team probably would challenge for a top five ranking. On offense they took their opportunities when presented and defensively stifled the Eagles at nearly every turn.

For their part the Eagles could never find much cohesion. They failed to get out of their half for most of the match and when they did put together a good movement a penalty killed the chance. Their lineout and maul were their most effective weapons but the scrum in particular was a major liability. Kicking also was a problem as they gave the Maori All Blacks chance after chance deep in Eagles territory. There were some bright spots. The substitutes, in particular Shalom Suniula and Madison Hughes played well. Folau Niua as a starter also had a nice match.

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The Eagles actually got off to a decent start. It took a little while but soon the clinical nature of the Maori All Blacks came through. Taking advantage of a kick not finding touch they eventually found the hands of James Lowe for a try in the corner. Ihaia West was on with the conversion making it 7-0 early. Akira Ioane would added to the lead just a few minutes later when he peeled off a deep lineout to stroll in for the score. It was the Eagles inability to stay on the good side of the whistle that gifted the Maori All Blacks the chance.

The U.S. continued to make small errors that cost them territory and possession. Luckily the first chance the Maori All Blacks had was called back for a double-movement. Bryce Campbell had a nice run in what was the best spell for the Eagles in the half. Unfortunately it wasn't enough as the Maori All Blacks got another try from Lowe and then Ash Dixon. The Eagles didn't help themselves having James Hilterbrand sent to the bin for cynical play. The Lowe try in particular was a thing to watch with West putting in the nice grubber only to see Ioane with hot hands to Lowe.

The second half was much more of the same. Ioane scored another try early on through a maul to increase the lead to 35-0.  The Eagles did have a couple of nice stretches in the second half, in particular when they made a slew of substitutions. Eventually they were able to pick up a try. After a Maori All Black penalty at halfway the Eagles made a good kick to earn a lineout. From that lineout they effectively used their maul to see Todd Clever push over for the score. The referee had to review it but he ruled it good and the Eagles were on the board at 35-7 after the Holder conversion.

Still, the match was all the Maori All Blacks. Kane Hames had an easy try on classic give and go play. Brad Weber also had a score that he followed up with a yellow card a little later. The last try was the most emblematic of how the Eagles played. They failed to get set up in the lineout in a timely manner and replacement hooker Joe Royal simply tossed it in and got it back to race in for the score. It was the final nail in the coffin at 54-7.

Overall, there aren't a lot of lessons for the Eagles to take away that they didn't already know. Most players were not ready to play at this level. As evidenced by players cramping up throughout the match many players haven't had a lot of rugby recently. The APC was good to get a look a players but going from playing Canada 'A' to the Maori All Blacks is a big jump.

That said, off the pitch it was a win for the program. A sellout crowd of 18,700 was on hand which is evidence once again that the Eagles have a following. Still, after a beating like this one has to wonder how much merit there was on the pitch heading into a crucial two test series in Europe.

10 comments:

  1. Eagles were awful with kicks from hand. Teo is completely overmatched at 15 at this level. He runs well with the ball in hand, but his kicking and defense leave much to be desired. He had no direction with his kicks to relieve pressure. Holder is a nice athlete, but has no creativity and a weak kicking leg. Without a 10 and 15 who can manage the game, USA was screwed from the opening whistle. Really miss MacGinty's playmaking.

    I thought our wings did well when they got the ball.

    Barrett was invisible at 8. Our center pairing never looked in sync.

    But same problems as usual: scrum is weak, failing to make the extra pass, zero creativity off set pieces.

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  2. Todd Clever was selfish for his failure to not pass that ball for the try in the 1st half. Pretty inexcusable stuff. A vet like him should not be getting try eyes against an opponent like the Maori. Granted he got his garbage try in the 2nd half so good for him. Pretty disappointing regression from 3 years ago. Bring the game back to Philly to a crowd that will chant USA vs the Haka. No energy to back the Eagles up. Couldn't ask for a better Ireland NZ match. Overall rugby won in the US.

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    1. Definitely. Clever too often backs himself and ignores the pass. Maybe he could have gotten away with it a number of years ago when he had a bit more speed and explosiveness, but at 33 he's got to be more a playmaker than a bruiser.

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    2. Clever just made a non-rugby decision there, a quick pass and it's a try. Moreover he isolated himself so the Maori's had an easy turnover. I doubt either New Zealand team last weekend would have made that mistake.

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  3. Still don't see what they see in Augspurger as a scrum half. Really slow ball, kicking is awful. No creativity in the play, no adjustments made with the Maori were easily stopping their forward crash game. It was like they were told at halftime to stop kicking and they just did the same thing over and over in the 2nd half. You could just see everything they did was a step slower than the Maori, including the decision making. Most of the tries scored by the Maori were way too easy for international level.

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    1. With you on Augspurger being much to slow. The Maori easily used their line speed to disrupt US play. Certainly running onto the ball with a bit more pace and some inventiveness would have helped, but the biggest barrier was a slow and often inaccurate pass from the #9. On the positive side, Augspurger did make a few smart moves with the box kick. The Eagles just weren't there to capitalize on it.

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    2. Couldn't agree more. Incredibly slow service from 9 the whole game, which put Holder under pressure.

      Iosefo showed some good signs and will only get better with more exposure. Unfortunately didn't get much chance in a backline that went backwards.

      Very much looking forward to the next tour games with the injection of the Euro guys which will give some much needed punch in the forward pack. It pains me to say it but Toddy C is washed up. Zero impact physically and some poor errors. With the names available going forward I struggle to see a spot for him in the side (Captaincy aside).

      Cam Dolan and Samu - 2nd row
      Lamborn, Durutalo, Barrett, Mcfarlane, Haupeakui - back row

      Palamo and potentially Brache at #12 / #13 could be an option with Taku and Scully on the wings. Big improvement!

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    3. Augspurger is very slow delivering the ball. The ball wasn't out until the defense reset, which prevented us from getting go forward ball on even simple crash plays.

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  4. Civetta and Jensen at least have some potential, but again the front row just seems to get pulverized. Without a high level program for the front row players to experience the Eagles will never have a chance. There is so much technique to the positions and it only comes with experience at a high level league. We'll be talking about these same issues at the 2019 World Cup, just different names on the jerseys.

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    1. We need to hire a good scrum coach to just come into the US to work directly with the national teams (age grade through senior) and to tour the country holding clinics and camps for tight five players. Players need exposure to high level coaching about the finer points and techniques of scrummaging. It's an art that must be perfected.

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