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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Paris 7s: Eagles Fall To New Zealand, Finish Second In Pool


The Eagles have finished second in their pool at the Paris 7s after a 27-14 loss to New Zealand. Both teams were 2-0 entering the match with the winner taking the top spot heading into the quarterfinals. The U.S. will play the winner of Pool C in the quarterfinals at 4:50 a.m. et/1:50 a.m pt tomorrow morning.

The first half was a back and forth affair with each team having their opportunities. Despite a big hit from Folau Niua it was New Zealand that would score first as they simply stayed patient to find the gap in the U.S. defense. However, the easy conversion went off the post for a 5-0 lead. The U.S. responded right away. A strong run from Ben Pinkelman sucked in the defense and then the ball was sent out to Perry Baker who used just inches to run around the defense for the try. New Zealand would add another try before the end of the half on more clinical play but overall the All Blacks had more possession in the first half and that led to their advantage. At the half New Zealand led 10-7.

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The second half saw both teams pick up the intensity. At halftime head coach Mike Friday said that Perry Baker spent too much time in the middle of the pitch and wanted him on the outside. That changed immediately paid dividends as a run from Pinkelman freed up enough space for Baker to go the rest of the way for a 14-10 lead.

Pinkelman then continued to make an impact with a big win at the breakdown to temporarily prevent a New Zealand try. However, the All Blacks were extremely clinical in the match and soon earned another try with more possession. The conversion was off again but they still led 15-14.

The U.S. had a chance to win the match at the end as slick passing saw them close to the line. Unfortunately an attempted offload from Matai Leuta went into the hands of an All Black. They turned it the other way for a score. They also scored one last try on the last play of the game after the Eagles were penalized.

There were definitely things to learn from the match for the Eagles. Despite not being able to retain the ball at the restart and having a deficit in the possession battle they still had a chance to win the match late. If they can clean that up they could see success on day two. 

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