PALMERSTON NORTH, New Zealand – The USA Rugby AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans began their New Zealand Tour with a tough 10-17 loss to New Zealand University Sunday at Massey University.
The rainy conditions in Palmerston North made for an interesting match, but the MCAAs could not turn possession and field position into a win.
The MCAAs learned two hard lessons against New Zealand University: making adjustments to playing within the conditions and realizing good teams will punish mistakes made.
In the first half, the MCAAs controlled the field position and spent the majority of the half with control of the ball, but were penalized for a forward pass 15 meters from the try line while on the way to scoring an assured try. They had another chance a few minutes later but the try was held up in the in-goal.
Joe Cowley put the MCAAs up by three points with a penalty nine minutes into the match, while New Zealand University took a 7-3 lead in the 17th minute with a try from an intercepted pass at midfield.
“We actually had a pretty good phase ahead of us after a counterattack,” MCAA Head Coach Matt Sherman said of the turnover which led to the New Zealand University try. “I think we just got too flat and didn’t see them shoot the line on the outside to close off the overlap. It was a tactic they used repeatedly when we got on the front foot, but we adjusted better in the second half and stepped underneath defenders shooting out of the line.”
New Zealand University closed out the half with a penalty kick to increase the lead to 10-3.
The majority of the second half was played between the 22s with both teams scoring a try each; New Zealand University’s came in the 71st minute from a few MCAA ball-handling errors and the MCAAs’ try came in the 76th minute from Pat Sullivan., bringing the final score to 17-10.
“I think we panicked with a bad ball on the second try, something we did a few times over the course of the game,” Sherman said. “A big lesson for us this game was that one mistake won’t kill us if we follow that with a conservative option and just take the ball forward into a tackle. We tended to play aggressively and loose in these situations – we want to fix that on Wednesday.”
The MCAAs will face Heartland Championship club Wairarapa Bush Wednesday in Masterton and will finish the tour with a second match against New Zealand University Saturday.
“Where we struggled and want to improve going forward immediately is in our lineout,” Sherman said. “New Zealand University competed well, but regardless our choices and execution of all facets was poor and led to an under-50% performance. Secondly, we were too loose with the ball in general, and tried to play too much rugby, especially given the conditions.
Sherman has a clear focus heading into the next match, but is confident the team will have many opportunities for players to learn and develop over the course of the tournament.
“With the depth of talent we have here, and with three games in seven days, we anticipate all players will be playing a significant role over the course of the tour.”
USA Rugby AIG Men's Collegiate All-Americans | vs. New Zealand University
1. Mike Shepherd (Hollis @ 70)
2. Glen Maricelli
3. Clint Lemkus (Parsons @ 67)
4. Michael Lawrenson
5. John Cullen
6. Danny Barrett
7. Alex Gletzer (Badia-Bellinger @ 12)
8. Ryan Roundy (C)
9. Jacob McFadden (Pati @ 60)
10. Pat Sullivan
11. Madison Hughes
12. JP Eloff
13. Zach Mizell (Haley @ 70)
14. Tim Maupin (Tucker @ 67)
15. Joe Cowley
USA Rugby AIG Men's Collegiate All-Americans | Reserves
16. Paris Hollis
17. Eric Parsons
18. Ben Landry
19. Jordan Badia-Bellinger
20. Don Pati
21. Mike Haley
22. Josh Tucker