Saturday, January 28, 2017

Wellington 7s: New Zealand Bests U.S., Eagles Miss Out On Cup

Thanks to France's win over Samoa in the previous match the Eagles needed a win or a draw against New Zealand to make the Cup quarterfinals. Unfortunately, despite a chance at the end, it didn't work out for the team as they fell 24-12 and will now play Japan in the Challenge Trophy quarterfinals tomorrow at 5:22 p.m. et/2:22 p.m. pt.

Playing the hosts is always a difficult task but the Eagles didn't help themselves early on by allowing New Zealand a lot of possession. However, their defense was firm and it led to the first try of the match. The All Blacks threw away possession cheaply allowing Danny Barrett to grab the ball. A few passes laster Folau Niua made a break before passing to Martin Iosefo who offloaded to Steve Tomasin for the try. The conversion was good and the Eagles were off to a bright 7-0 start.

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Still, the long stretches possession for New Zealand was always going to be big. Soon they turned that possession into a try when they stayed patient and found the gap in the defense. Their conversion was always successful knotting the match at 7-7.

Iosefo nearly gave the Eagles another lead when he made a break toward the line but Perry Baker couldn't handle his offload. Had the Eagles scored on that possession it would have been a completely different match.

The Eagles did catch a break as Tim Mikkelson was shown a yellow for tackling Niua on the ground. With the last play of the half the Eagles were able to take advantage as Danny Barrett trucked over a couple of defenders for the score.

Both teams were searching to start the second half but once New Zealand were back to 7s men they began to turn it on. More pressure led to another try and after Barrett was called for holding on they took a quick tap and went in again for the score. Suddenly New Zealand found themselves up 19-12.

Knowing they needed a converted try to make the Cup quarterfinals the U.S. tried finding Carlin Isles out on the wing but the New Zealand defense did well to limit his space. Eventually that resulted in a turnover and a final try for the All Blacks.

It's definitely not the way the Eagles wanted to end the day and they have to be disappointed at missing out on the top eight two out of three times on the season. Still, the last time they were in the Challenge Trophy they won it and that will be their goal tomorrow.


  1. Didn't help when Isles psyched himself out and ran himself into a corner. Went the whole match without seeing one of our speedsters confidently back themselves (or have much space for confidence). NZ spotted the weakness in our style (long passes trying cover the entire width), coming up quick and giving the wings little room to run. I'm no coach but might it be better to narrow up the offense a bit to give room at the corners and try more varied running angles?

  2. Eagles are proving to be notoriously inept in opening matches. It seems like every tournament (including the Olympics), they under-perform in the opening match and are chasing points the rest of the weekend.