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The Eagles fell to New Zealand 26-12 in the Cup semi-finals at the Las Vegas 7s, Sunday. Too many mistakes and good execution from New Zealand proved to be too much for the American side.
The United States took the opening kickoff and worked its way methodically down the field. Swinging the ball side to side, the Eagles showed tremendous patience in the opening moments of the game. It couldn’t have been a better start for the Eagles, who took up two minutes of game clock on the possession.
Despite several mental errors on that sequence, the United States put up the first points of the game. Carlin Isles looked to have been isolated down the left sideline but an excellent clean out from Danny Barrett saved possession for the Eagles. The ball went right and Maka Unufe looked to have a man out wide but failed to give the pass. The Americans won the ensuing ruck and Madison Hughes dummied a pass and walked under the posts for a 7-0 lead.
New Zealand showed why it is the dominant force in rugby, responding with three converted tries. Not helping the cause, was, several missed tackles from the Eagles. Off the restart, the New Zealand Player bounced off a tackle from Unufe to tie the game. Moments later, the Eagles missed several more tackles, forcing their defensive structure to falter. A well-executed miss pass found the Kiwi winger outside of Unufe and in for the score.
With less than a minute left in the first half, the Eagles received the kickoff and went immediately into a ruck. New Zealand disrupted the breakdown and managed to kick the ball out of the ruck. The ball sat near the sideline for several seconds, unbeknownst to several Eagles and the All Blacks jumped on it and went down the field for a score and a 21-7 halftime lead.
The second half started nicely for the United States forced a knock on and a scrum to the Eagles. Danny Barrett beat his defender and offloaded to Carlin Isles, but the speedster was unable to real in the pass and a walk in try went begging. A few minutes later, however, a great set piece play allowed Unufe to suck two defenders in and find Hughes for his second try of the game. Folau Niua missed the conversion and it remained a two score game.
New Zealand sealed the game with a try with less than a minute left to play. Some nifty hands from the All Blacks led to a wide-open runner for New Zealand. Perry Baker sprinted across the field to make a great recovery tackle but the rest of the United States team did not get back in position quickly enough to prevent a try in the corner off the breakdown.
The conversion was missed and the game ended 26-12 in favor of New Zealand. The United States will face South Africa in a rematch of pool play at 6PM ET.