Capacity crowd witnesses compelling 19-29 Eagles loss in Philadelphia

Capacity crowd witnesses compelling 19-29 Eagles loss in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – The Men’s Eagles captivated a sold-out crowd of 18,500 people at PPL Park Saturday night with a hard-fought 19-29 loss to the visiting New Zealand Maori All Blacks.

Energized from the fans’ response to the Maori All Blacks’ Haka with chants of “USA,” the Eagles kept the All Blacks on their own side of the field in the opening minutes. In the sixth minute, the Eagles committed a penalty, giving the All Blacks a lineout with good field position following a kick to touch. Jamison Gibson-Park received the ball from a maul and juked the last defender to open the scoring. Robbie Robinson converted for the 7-0 lead.

The Eagles settled down following the try but still fell into penalty trouble. Mike Petri fed Andrew Suniula for a good run in the middle of the field before another penalty. After kicking into touch again, Eagles captain Todd Clever stole the All Blacks’ lineout and, a few phases later, drew a penalty. Fullback Adam Siddall stepped up for a 25-meter kick and sent it through the posts to diminish the deficit by three.

The Maori All Blacks showed why they should not be mistaken as a New Zealand “B side,” breaking through the gain line well and keeping possession in contact. The speed of the visitors was combated by the Eagles’ size and determination, which was rewarded just after the midpoint of the first half.

Peter Dahl caught an All Black in the middle of receiving a pass and kicked the ball from him, then chased it down with support. The Eagles drew another penalty in the ruck and Siddall kicked his second penalty goal of the night to make the score 6-7.

Following the restart, the Maori All Blacks made their way down the field and were almost tackled into touch. A misplaced pass hit a retreating Cameron Dolan in the leg and the Eagles recovered. A minute later, a box kick intended for Luke Hume on the wing at midfield was caught by an All Black, but he was tracked down by Hume and Dolan. Dolan turned the ball over and ran half of the field before being tackled two meters from the try line.

The Eagles regained possession within 10 meters again as Nick Wallace showed his mobility with a sneaky run from a ruck at the 22 to put the Eagles within scoring range. Joe Wheeler was sent to the sin bin, giving the Eagles a man-up advantage for the final 10 minutes of the half.

The All Blacks won their own lineout and cleared it, but Siddall caught the ball and gained ground with a nifty run between defenders. After another phase, he received the ball again and broke another two tackled and set up a scrum for the Eagles. The Maori All Blacks committed a subsequent penalty and Siddall gave the Eagles a 9-7 lead with a successful kick.

Seamus Kelly brought an All Black down into touch and took a quick lineout to catch the All Blacks off guard. The ball went wide to Hume, who grubbered the ball into a defender and tackled him into touch.

The halftime whistle came too soon for the Eagles, who were wearing down the visitors with the passion a sold out crowd can only expect from an American national team.

The Eagles relinquished the lead in the 44th minute after Maori All Blacks captain Tim Bateman received a pass off of the switch and caught two Eagles on the wrong foot for a try between the sticks. Robinson made his second conversion to put the All Blacks back in front 14-9.

Dolan thought he had a response a minute later after the All Blacks turned the ball over but the referee had blown the play dead. Toby L’Estrange was replaced by Zach Pangelinan due to injury, while Kyle Sumsion replaced Clever as a blood sub.

Not a minute later, Sumsion – in his first appearance for the Eagles – attempted a tackle on a speeding All Black and took an arm to the face, causing him to go to the ground. The time it took for the medical staff to make sure he was okay allowed a head-wrapped Clever to re-enter the match.

The Maori All Blacks began to chip away at the Eagles with multiple phases not far from the try line, but hard work from players like Hume and Nick Wallace kept them from scoring. The All Blacks ended up committing a penalty with possession and the Eagles cleared.

In the 56th minute, Bateman scored his second of the match. The Eagles cleared a dangerous possession and the All Blacks decided to keep the ball. They were rewarded by moving the ball wide and setting up Bateman to break through once again. Robinson kicked his conversion just wide to keep the Eagles within two scoring plays.

Following the try, it was the Eagles’ turn to knock on the door. Multiple rucks were stuffed by the defenders, but another penalty gave the Eagles options. Clever opted for points and Siddall nailed a tough-angled kick for a 12-19 score line. Robinson kicked the All Blacks’ first penalty goal in the 69th minute to extend their lead to 22-12.

In the 73rd minute, a stingy Eagles defense forced a turnover and – after being stuffed several more times on the wrong side of the try line – Dolan finished the play by dotting down to put the Eagles within three at 19-22.

The All Blacks caught the restart but were hit hard by a resurgent Eagle. With plenty of time remaining, the Eagles went to work and moved down the field. Despite multiple downed players, the home team did not stop until a misguided pass fell into the hands of an All Black.

With just four minutes remaining and the threat of their first loss in years a possibility, the All Blacks sealed their win through Luke Katene after an Eagles turnover.

The Eagles were one possession away from snatching victory from the Maori All Blacks, and the players’ effort cannot be underscored.

“We gave it our all for 80 minutes and we came up short,” Man of the Match Dolan said.

Even the New Zealand Maori All Blacks felt the game could have gone against them.

“It was a really tough win tonight,” Bateman said. “They brought what we expected. They’re strong athletes. You look at Todd after the game with his kit off and bloodied; he was really indicative of the way they played. They put everything into it.”

The city of Philadelphia impressed both sides with its hospitality and ability to host sporting events, with the Maori All Blacks having witnessed a 76ers game the week leading up to the match.

“[Philadelphia] is just so good at entertaining,” New Zealand Maori All Blacks Head Coach Colin Cooper said. “I’ve been all over the world and the USA’s ability to entertain and get people packed in is outstanding. I think the USA really brought it. If we hadn’t the spirit that we had, we would have lost the game.”

“Coming here in front of a packed crowd with the chant of ‘USA’ really helped us out,” Clever said.

“Any time you get a sold-out in the United States for rugby it’s a phenomenal honor,” Dolan said.

The Eagles’ November Tour continues Saturday, Nov. 16, in Tbilisi, Georgia, against a Georgia team the Eagles defeated 36-20 last summer. Follow @USARugby on Twitter for live match updates.

Men's Eagles | v. New Zealand Maori All Blacks
1. Nick Wallace
2. Phil Thiel
3. Shawn Pittman
4. Graham Harriman
5. Tai Tuisamoa
6. Todd Clever(C)
7. Peter Dahl
8. Cameron Dolan
9. Mike Petri
10. Toby L'Estrange
11. Tim Maupin
12. Andrew Suniula
13. Seamus Kelly
14. Luke Hume
15. Adam Siddal

Men's Eagles | Reserves
16. Zach Fenoglio
17. Titi Lamositele
18. Olive Kilifi
19. John Cullen
20. Kyle Sumsion
21. Shaun Davies
22. Zach Pangelinan
23. Folau Niua

Men's Eagles | 19
Tries: Dolan
Conversions: Siddall
Penalties: Siddall (4)

New Zealand Maori All Blacks | 29
Tries: Gibson-Park, Bateman (2), Katene
Conversions: Robinson (3)
Penalties: Robinson

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Comments (25)

  • Guest - OldHat

    In reply to: Guest - ash

    The All-Blacks playing an invitational team is hardly interesting - they beat most international teams who have weeks to prepare, never mind a squad just thrown together of players who are likely not first choice for their country anyway.

    Don't get me wrong, I love the All-Blacks, but I don't see how this helps rugby in the USA, nor the national team. Seems like a moneygrabbing move similar to the NFL playing games in London. The Churchill cup in Red Bull a few years back could barely get in a few thousand supporters for THREE games.

    Bring the Maori back to Philly next year again and hoepfully the US will have kicked on and get the win nxt time.

  • Guest - Mr. V

    The whole entire clan were at the game and I believed we witnessed the best ...the best of US Rugby so far. Just doing the little things right. Making the tackles, getting the possesion and retained it, stressed the opposition the entire 80 minutes and got physical. If they work a bit on support play and speed in all aspect of the game, US is going to be force to rekon with come the next world cup. Awesome to see so many rugby fans came to support this great sport. GO THE EAGLES!!!

  • Guest - Joe Van Ender

    In reply to: Guest - Mr. V

    Completely agree, Eagles played out of their skins this evening and was a most enjoyable game. I think our set piece has improved a lot, where we are right there with the skill set of the larger nations in terms of line outs and scrums and how we can attack from these. I do not, however, think we will be competitive for the next world cup, I think it is to soon. Sides like the All Blacks, Australia and South Africa will still put 60+ points on us in 2015

  • Guest - Mr V

    In reply to: Guest - Joe Van Ender

    I may over speculating there a bit but love the way our boys played that evening. I wrote in one of my earlier posting some way back how boring US have been playing lately but what they showed on Sat. was completely breathtaking and paint a great picture of how rugby in the US could be in the future. If we were Olympic gold medalist once we can do it again. Just getting the basics right and do or die attitudes. GO EAGLES!!!!

  • Guest - Geoff Bennett

    That was one amazing match and the NZ Maori were fortunate to come away from this with the win. The Eagles are gifted athletes and if they continue to play as well as they did and use their aggressive, physical approach will soon be climbing the world rugby rankings. It would be interesting to see how they might go against the All Blacks themselves and maybe in 2014 we just might see that. Rugby in the US is on the cusp.

  • Guest - Mike (invercargill, New Zealand)

    I think the Eagles are a bit away from competing with the All Blacks yet, the best they could hope for at this point is similar to the game Japan had a couple of weeks ago when the AB's fielded pretty much a development team, however saying that, they should be seriously eyeing the likes of Scotland, Wales, Italy even the Island teams like Fiji or Samoa. I really think it would be a huge achievement if one day the USA & NZ could play in front of 100,000 in one of your great stadiums.

  • Guest - Mike ( Invercargill NZ)

    Also remember, believe it or not the USA are current Olympic Champions from 1924.

  • Guest - Keep it real

    Common chaps USA losing 4 tries to 1 - a close call ? From Wikipedia " The Māori All Blacks team is a selection of the best of New Zealand's Māori rugby players and boasts a proud history of defeating national sides " - hardly New Zealand's second side.

  • Guest - Neil

    Worst ref I have ever seen, Americans were poor and flattered by the shocking incompetence of the ref!

  • Guest - Kiwi

    In reply to: Guest - Neil

    While there is more than a bit of truth to your comment, you cannot discount the passion and gusto with which the Americans played the game. They came to play and play they did!

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