History slips away with Eagles' narrow loss to New Zealand

History slips away with Eagles' narrow loss to New Zealand

MOSCOW, Russia - The Men’s Eagles Sevens almost caused one of the biggest upsets in Eagles’ history Saturday at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens. New Zealand was forced to score in the final minute to come away with the 26-19 victory.

New Zealand - who have won 11 of the 14 HSBC Sevens World Series titles - is the only sevens team that the USA has never beaten. The Eagles looked to change that and scored three fantastic tries, leading the All Blacks 19-5, and were on the verge of making history. However, a second half comeback saw the Kiwis score near full time to win 26-19.

Head Coach Alex Magleby made two changes to his starting squad, bringing in Maka Unufe and Brett Thompson for Folau Niua and Colin Hawley.

New Zealand struck first through Sherwin Stowers with just a minute gone from the clock. Kurt Baker had made the initial break for the All Blacks, but a massive ball-and-all tackle from Eagles captain Matt Hawkins stopped his progress. Gillies Kaka missed the conversion with New Zealand leading 5-0.

Hawkins gathered possession off the restart, and the Eagles mountained a great attack with Zack Test giving an early ball to the flying Nick Edwards. The wing sensation cruised past two defenders and opened his stride until he slid over in the corner for a spectacular try. Shalom Suniula’s kick went wide, with the match tied at 5-5.

Test was clinical off the next restart, providing excellent go forward ball for the Eagles. Big Andrew Durutalo dragged two defenders with him, as he offloaded to his captain. The ‘Polar Bear’ Hawkins dove under the poles for a brilliantly worked score. Suniula chipped over the additional two points, and the USA led 12-5.

Thompson lept high and gathered a superb restart, just getting tackled 10-meters from the All Black tryline. The Eagles were awarded a scrum, but a knock-on from Unufe gave possession back to New Zealand. For the next minute the Eagles defended well, and the siren sounded for halftime with the Eagles in front 12-5.

Thompson was excellent in the aerial battle yet again, tapping the ball back to Edwards. The flying winger pushed off a defender and streaked through for the Eagles third try. Suniula’s conversion was good, and the USA stretch their lead to 19-5.

New Zealand - with memories of being upset at the last Rugby World Cup in Dubai - came to life with four minutes remaining. They looked certain to score, but an unbelievable cover tackle by Test created a knock-on and saved a try. From the ensuing scrum, the ball spilled past Suniula and was kicked through as he tried to tackle his opposite number. Unfortunately the referee Rasta Rasivhenge judged the New Zealand player to be held back and would definitely have scored, and a penalty try was awarded.

Kaka added the conversion from in front, with New Zealand trailing 19-12.

Directly after the restart, pressure on Unufe near his own goal line resulted in the ball spilling forward and the ever-present Tim Mikkelson dove over for a vital All Black try. Kaka made it 19-19 after the conversion.

Substitutes Mike Palefau and Jack Halalilo entered the match.

The restart was a very deep kick from New Zealand which kept the Eagles backed into their own half. Eventually the pressure led to David Raikuna breaking free and reaching over to score with Palefau desperately trying to dislodge the ball.

Kaka kicked the conversion and for the first time in ten minutes New Zealand took the lead, by a score of 26-19.

Carlin Isles entered the match with two movements left in the game. Unfortunately Suniula decided to chip kick the final Eagles possession. The siren sounded, and New Zealand kicked the ball into touch, winning one of the most exciting matches at the 2013 Rugby World Cup.

“We stick to the game plan and we’re a very good team,” said Head Coach Magleby.

“I can’t get my head around it, but we take turns going away from the plan and we end up putting ourselves under enormous pressure doing that. We haven’t got the skill set to get ourselves out of it yet. So we’ve got to be pretty structured, and when we do, we are able to score, maintain possession and defend. But we really struggle when we go away from that script. It’s been a lesson for the entire season”.

A disappointed Magleby continued: “There are a few guys that I am just gutted for. They worked really hard and then to go make those decisions under pressure...we’ll go back and analyse that, and make adjustments for tomorrow, which is a new tournament for us.”

Sunday’s knockout rounds will be streamed live from theIRB’s website as well as broadcast onUniversal Sports. The Eagles will play in the Plate Quarterfinals, with the opposition and time to be confirmed once all the pool matches have been completed.

Follow live updates on Twitter from the official USA Rugby account (@USARugby) and read game recaps onwww.usarugby.org/rwc2013 andwww.rwcsevens.com. Join the conversation using #RWC7s.

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Rugby World Cup 2013 | vs. New Zealand
1. Carlin Isles (s)
2. Nick Edwards
3. Andrew Durutalo
4. Shalom Suniula
5. Zach Test
6. Matt Hawkins
7. Folau Niua (s)
8. Jack Halalilo (s)
9. Maka Unufe
10. Mike Palefau (s)
11. Colin Hawley (s)
12. Brett Thompson

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Rugby World Cup 2013 | vs. New Zealand
Tries: Edwards (2), Hawkins
Conversions: Suniula (2)

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Rugby World Cup 2013 | Results
USA 26 Georgia 19 (Pool Stages, June 28)
USA 14 Canada 15 (Pool Stages, June 29)
USA 19 New Zealand 26 (Pool Stages, June 29)

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Rugby World Cup 2013 | Schedule

Men’s Eagles Sevens | Rugby World Cup 2013 | Staff
Alex Magleby (Head Coach)
Andy Katoa (Manager)
Brian Green (Athletic trainer)
Paul Goulding (Video Analyst)

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Comments (1)

  • Guest - steve

    New Zealand plays until the final whistle with a belief that they will always win! until the Eagles learn that trait ,and they may well never,they will always struggle.