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The Eagles proved a pesky out for defending World Series champion New Zealand in the Cup Quarterfinals Sunday. The All Blacks won, 28-7, but had to work very hard for their first score and led by just one score at halftime. It was reminiscent of the Eagles' competitive performance against South Africa in pool play Saturday – very good first half, but the cream rose to the top in the second.
Possessions were swapped early on. The United States threatened the Kiwi line first, but Maka Unufe was reeled in after breaking the line off a penalty play. The All Blacks went the opposite direction, and it took several phases for them to find a chink in the American armor after five minutes gone. New Zealand’s second score came quicker, as Garrett Bender was stripped in a tackle by Sherwin Stowers, and Joe Webber was put away in the counter attack. Both tries were converted, and New Zealand went up 14-0.
The Eagles got one back right on halftime. A flurry of breakdown penalties on New Zealand at the end of the half saw Tim Mikkelson carded, and Isles would score during the power play, using his power. He didn’t go around the edge, like he’s become famous for doing, but he cut back inside and bowled over Ambrose Curtis.
The defense, which kept the Eagles in the game in the first half, was fractured more easily in the second. Andrew Durutalo and Unufe were swapped in the first seven minutes, and Baker came on early in the second half, around the same time Mikkelson came back on from the bin. Folau Niua simply overcommitted in a slide, allowing a break, and Iosefo was fended, letting the All Blacks score to extend the lead to 21-7.
The death knell came pretty quickly thereafter, as Gillies Kaka found space up the touch line off a lineout, putting the game out of reach at 28-7 with a minute to play. Nothing brewed in those last 60 seconds.
The United States will now play in the Plate Semifinals at 9:17 a.m.
New Zealand 28
Tries: Dickson, Kaka, Mikkelson, Webber
Cons: Kaka (4)