Chicago, IL–On Saturday, the atmosphere around the ground was great. There were lots of rugby jerseys and jackets on display up and down Michigan Avenue Saturday morning. The Haka was met with respect, and there was no U-S-A chant as there was in Philadelphia a year ago against the Maori All Blacks.
Once Aaron Cruden started the game, things largely went according to script in the first half. The All Blacks were able to off load and create space with relative ease. The Eagles actually looked pretty good at times with ball in hand and were able to string together several phases. They were entering the breakdown with commitment in attack, still feeling some of the emotion from the build-up which left several players shaking with anticipation during the anthem.
The first All Blacks try came from a quick tap from an early penalty. Nathan Harris, in his first start, was able to score in the corner. He ended up not lasting long, and Kevin Mealamu came on relatively early.
Also with an early exit was Danny Barrett, with Tai Tuisamoa coming on when he came off.
The first pressure from the US, with Eric Fry contributing with a half break to get the Eagles on the front foot, ended with a penalty made by Adam Siddall. That penalty was part of a ten minute stretch–from the third minute to the thirteenth–when the All Blacks barely saw the ball. It was the best ten minutes of the game for the Eagles.
The next ten minutes were not so good. The All Blacks took the score from 10-3 to 31-6 from the 15th to the 25th minute, the half ended 43-6.
In the second half, the All Blacks took the lineout from the first penalty of the second half and work a move to prop Joe Moody who crashed over. It was the smae moved they used to score in the RWC 2011 final.
A bit of the sharpness seemed to have dulled from the All Black, but they still had little trouble developing overlaps and finding space. They crossed the 50 point mark 48 minutes into the match. They were clearly looking to keep the pace up and not worry about a structured, patient game when one wasn’t needed.
Dan Carter came on for Cruden and got 30 minutes of playing time. It spoke to the depth of the squad that a guy like Carter could come on late in the game.
The Eagles finally got what appeared like a good scoring chance when they had an attacking scrum inside the All Blacks 22 and it appeared they won, but Craig Joubert called a penalty against the Eagles. The All Blacks drove to the Eagles side of the field and another scrum a few minutes later resulted in another penalty for the All Blacks.
In the fifty-fifth minute, the Eagles front row was changed. The next scrum, the Eagles won, but a Clever knock on gave the ball back to the All Blacks. From a restart, a good chase earned a penalty for the Eagles for obstruction. But another opportunity lost as the Eagles couldn’t win the lineout.
Later on, the Eagles won another scrum, and this time lost the ball for holding on at the next breakdown. The pressure from the resulting lineout was met well by the Eagles for a spell before Sam Cane crossed. In the last ten minutes, the All Blacks turned the screw by opting for scrums from penalties. Ultimately, though, it was the pace and off loading skills that set the All Blacks so far ahead of the Eagles. Savea’s try at the end was a fitting conclusion to the match.
The final score: 74-6.
Positives? The Eagles lineout was pretty good. They looked in good at the restarts. They, despite being overmatched, competed pretty well. The big players for the Eagles looked like big players.
All Blacks try scorers: Harris, Jane (2), Tuipolutu, Piutau, Williams (2), Savea (2), Moody, Cruden, Cane
Eagles try scorers: none
US Eagles: Chris Wyles, Blaine Scully, Seamus Kelly, Andrew Suniula, Brett Thompson, Adam Siddall, Danny Barrett, Scott Lavalla, Todd Clever (c), Hayden Smith, Samu Manoa, Olive Kilifi, Phil Thiel, Eric Fry
Bench: Tom Coolican, Nick Wallace, Mate Moeakiola, Tai Tuisamoa, Louis Stanfill, Shalom Suniula, Folau Niua, Troy Hall
All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Charles Piutau, Aaron Cruden, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Victor Vito, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jeremy Thrush, Charlie Faumuina, Nathan Harris, Joe Moody.
Bench: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Liam Messam, Augustine Pulu, Dan Carter, Julian Savea.
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