Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the events unfolding in The Philippines.
As for rugby, we delayed our Match Review because the match was not shown until Sunday on FOX Sports 1 and we wanted to allow fans the opportunity to watch the epic performance. We also want to welcome RWU Friend Ray’s Rugby. The match review comes courtesy of his blog.
Philadelphia, PA: Rugby was the winner in Philadelphia on Saturday night as the USA Eagles and the AIG New Zealand Maori All Blacks put on a thrilling show for the more than 18,000 fans in attendance at PPL Park.
Heading into the match the Eagles had been universally panned for their poor test record this year. Nobody expected them to come close to winning and yet until Luke Katene touched down with only 2 minutes left on the clock the Americans had every chance of stealing a famous victory. The raucous crowd nearly drowned out the Timatanga war dance with chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” and were a constant source of energy for the home side throughout.
Jamison Gibson-Park opened the scoring with a bit of a soft try as he caught the Eagle fringe defense napping, with Robbie Robinson converting for an early 7-pointer. The Americans regrouped, however, and complete shut down the Maori for the rest of the half. Amazingly they headed into the break with a 9-7 lead via the boot of Adam Siddall.
Sensing his side needed to kick it up a notch, Maori captain Tim Bateman took it upon himself to inspire, scoring a cracking try as he stepped through a gap in the Eagle midfield. Ten minutes later it was Bateman again finishing off a clinical counter attack as the Americans surrendered possession through the boot.
After the two fullbacks exchanged penalty goals the Americans, inspired by huge performances from Luke Hume and Graham Harriman among others, pounded away at the Maori defense until it finally cracked. Cameron Dolan, another star performer, dove over for the score from close range with Siddall converting to reduce the deficit to only 3, and set up the final tense minutes. A final multi-phase attack brought the Eagles close, but this time the Maori turned it over and Katene scored the decisive try much to the relief of his teammates.
It was a tremendous performance from the Eagles, one of the best in their history, and came completely against their run of form. Don’t forget that this was almost an entirely amateur side, with only two of their professionals in the starting side after Scott LaValla was a late injury withdrawal. With another half-dozen of their top players set to join them on tour, could this be a watershed moment for American rugby?
Mike Tolkin will now have to find a way to keep his team at the level they’ve set for themselves over the next two weeks as they travel first to Georgia and then to London, where they face Russia in a high-profile match at Allianz Park. If they can come away with two solid victories and then carry that momentum over to the World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay in March, it could go a long way towards making professional rugby a reality in the world’s most lucrative sporting nation, a market the IRB are keenly aware of and openly intent on breaking into.
Of course this could just be a one-off; a moment in time when the rugby gods smiled upon a lesser nation out of pity, or as a cruel joke, like the one played on poor Kyle Sumsion, knocked out after surviving for only a minute in his international debut. Spare a thought for young Kyle, and pray to your rugby gods. Come the evening of the 23rd we’ll have our answer.
05 mins – J. Gibson-Park try 0-5
06 mins – R. Robinson con 0-7
13 mins – A. Siddall pen 3-7
25 mins – A. Siddall pen 6-7
37 mins – A. Siddall pen 9-7
43 mins – T. Bateman try 9-12
44 mins – R. Robinson con 9-14
55 mins – T. Bateman try 9-19
63 mins – A. Siddall pen 12-19
69 mins – R. Robinson pen 12-22
72 mins – C. Dolan try 17-22
73 mins – A. Siddall con 19-22
78 mins – L. Katene try 19-27
79 mins – R. Robinson con 19-29
CARDS 32 mins – J. Wheeler yellow (professional foul)
UNITED STATES A. Siddall; L. Hume, S. Kelly, A. Suniula (F. Niua 64), T. Maupin; T. L’Estrange (Z. Pangelinan 49), M. Petri (S. Davies 79); N. Wallace, P. Thiel (Z. Fenoglio 76), S. Pittman (T. Lamositele 47); G. Harriman, T. Tuisamoa; T. Clever (capt.) (K. Sumsion 49-50), P. Dahl, C. Dolan.
NZ MAORI R. Robinson; K. Baker (Z. Guildford 66), C. Ngatai, T. Bateman (capt.), M. Proctor; I. West, J. Gibson-Park; K. Hames (C. Eves 47), A. Dixon (J. Royal 64), B. Afeaki (N. Barrett 79); J. Hoeata, J. Wheeler (L. Katene 42), S. Christie, L. Braid, B. Thomson (E. Dixon 70).
Referee: C. Assmus (Rugby Canada) Assistants: D. Smortchevsky (RC) & A. McMaster (RC) TMO: B. Arciero (RC)
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