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At Toyota Park just outside Chicago, the New Zealand Maori All Blacks comfortably defeated the USA Eagles, 54-7. The last time the two sides met, in 2013, the Maori won 29-19.
For the USA, too much of the first 40 minutes was spent inside its defensive half. Maori coach Colin Cooper said, “We made the States play inside their half. We’re blessed with the kickers that we have. That was probably the difference in the game.” USA Coach John Mitchell commented, “Our exit kicking probably wasn’t on the money.”
In the second half, a number of great runs by the Maori opened up the USA defense. The Eagles did have moments of good individual skill and stepping, but the lines being run in attack did not challenge the defensive line sufficiently.
The Eagles conceded only two scrum penalties, but both were attacking scrums in great positions.
The opening moments were dominated by kick-exchanges.
The first exchange of the match was clearly won by the Maori and ended with a USA lineout not far from their own 22. But, the Eagles won a penalty from the lineout and moved play into the Maori half.
The patient, eager-to-kick approach soon paid dividends and gave the Eagles an early chance. USA had a decent shove from a lineout 19 meters out. After two tight phases, the ball moved wide and Matai Leuta made a break. The ball was swung back the other way, and their seemed to be space, but the Eagles could not score the try.
Not long after, USA had another lineout inside the Maori 22, and again had a clean platform. This time, they were binged for going off their feet at the breakdown.
“It did take a while to settle in," according to Ash Dixon. The Eagles had the better opening ten minutes, but a poor kick by Mike Te’o gave the Maori a lineout inside the USA half.
Damian McKenzie was through a gap, but the Eagles won a turnover. When Will Holder cleared following the turnover, the Maori went right back on the attack and James Lowe ended up with lots of space out wide and scored the first try of the match in minute 11.
The conversion by Ihaia West was good, and the Maori were up 7-0.
After some back and forth, which included a good break by Danny Barrett, the Maori had another lineout inside the USA 22. From that lineout, From that lineout, Akira Ioane ran through Nate Augspurger and into the try zone. The try was converted, off the upright, by West.
After the first quarter of the match, Maori 14, USA 0.
The Eagles continued to struggle to get and keep the ball out of their own half.
The Eagles had a solid passage of defense inside their own 22, but never moved the ball outside their half. Eventually, the Maori cracked the defense. A deft chip over the defensive line by West was grabbed cleanly and moved quickly to Lowe, and he was over for another. 21-0 with just under ten minutes to play until halftime.
In minute 38, James Hilterbrand was shown a yellow card for killing the ball at the breakdown when the Maori looked likely to score.
The Maori chose to take the lineout from the penalty and Ash Dixon scored from the maul. West converted at the hooter to make the halftime score 28-0.
The second half started with a better kicking exchange by the Eagles.
Some defensive pressure won them the ball isdide the Maori half. But the passage of play ended with the Maori winning a penalty inside the USA half. That penalty turned into a lineout inside the USA 22, which turned into a simple-looking try for Akira Ioane.
With another conversion by West, the Maori lead grew to 35.
With another good run from Danny Barrett creating a little pressure, the Eagles won a penalty inside the Maori half and that led to a five meter lineout. The Eagles forwards celebrated and claimed a try from the maul. It took a video review, but eventually the referees agreed, and the try was awarded to Todd Clever.
Holder made the conversion to make it 35-7 in favor of the Maori.
Kane Hames crossed next, in a great try for a prop, but it was set up by another devastating run by Akira Ioane. Just like that, the lead was back to 35 points.
A promising Maori move ended up as another turnover, but the Eagles conceded another penalty. Another lineout inside the 22 for the Maori, but this one ends in a stifled maul, so the Eagles had a chance to win the scrum and clear. The won the scrum, but Augspurger was under pressure. A nifty behind-the-back pass by Bryce Campbell helped spring them out of trouble. After winning a penalty, it was the Eagles turn again to attack from a lineout from good position.
After stringing together what seemed to be their longest passage of attack of the evening, the Eagles again conceded a penalty at the breakdown.
Several moments later, the Maori had another five-meter lineout. The maul did not go anywhere, but Brad Weber was able to zip into the try zone from the back of the maul.
Marty McKenzie missed the difficult conversion. Maori 47, USA 7.
The Eagles had another chance with a 10 meter lineout. They won a penalty and took it quickly. Barrett was tackled short of the line, and despite maintaining possession for a number of phases, never looked close to breaking the Maori defense.
When Madison Hughes came on, his first two touches provided a spark in attack.
In minute 72, Brad Weber was yellow carded for preventing the Eagles from taking a penalty quickly.
The final ten minutes or so were played with high ambition and pace by both sides, but not everything was executed well.
The last try was scored by Joe Royal after the Maori took a lineout quickly with none of the Eagles seeming to notice.
The final score was Maori 54, USA 7. "Our expectation back home would have been to win, and to win well,” said Cooper. Reflecting on the match, Mitch said, “What did they create, and what did we give them? We gave them a good bit.”
The Eagles now travel to Europe and face Romania next weekend.
1. Titi Lamositele 2. James Hilterbrand 3. Chris Baumann 4. Nate Brakeley 5. Nick Civetta 6. Todd Clever(C) 7. Tony Lamborn 8. Danny Barrett 9. Nate Augspurger 10. Will Holder 11. Matai Leuta 12. Folau Niua 13. Bryce Campbell 14. Martin Iosefo 15. Mike Te'o
Reserves 16. Pat Blair 17. Joe Taufete'e 18. Angus MacLellan 19. Matthew Jensen 20. Al McFarland 21. Stephen Tomasin 22. Shalom Suniula 23. Madison Hughes
Maori All Blacks
1. Kane Hames 2. Ash Dixon (C) 3. Ben May 4. Jacob Skeen 5. Tom Franklin 6. Elliot Dixon 7. Kara Pryor 8. Akira Ioane 9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow 10. Ihaia West 11. James Lowe 12. Tim Bateman 13. Matt Proctor 14. Rieko Ioane 15. Damian McKenzie
Reserves 16. Joe Royal 17. Chris Eves 18. Marcel Renata 19. Leighton Price 20. Shane Christie 21. Brad Weber 22. Marty McKenzie 23. Sean Wainui