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All Blacks crack a century in tour-opening demolition of USA Eagles

By Alex McLeod

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It wasn’t perfect, but the All Blacks ran up a score reflective of the dominance many expected of them against the USA Eagles in Washington DC on Sunday [NZT].

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The New Zealanders scored 16 tries in total in their 104-14 victory at a half-filled FedEx Field, the second time they have chalked up a ton in a test this year.

After their first half showing, it looked as though they could have scored many more given the free-flowing nature in which the Americans enabled them to attack with.

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In spite of that, there will be plenty of sticking points for All Blacks boss Ian Foster as his side were guilty of a plethora of errors in the second half which nullified their scoring output.

Those mistakes will need to be addressed if they are to convince against stronger opponents like Wales, Ireland and France in the coming weeks, but a century of points is nothing to be sneezed at as the All Blacks ran rampant in front of a half-capacity crowd in the US capital.

It took just 30 seconds for the visitors to register on the scoreboard after Damian McKenzie instigated a sweeping counter-attack from the kick-off that was finished off by Luke Jacobson, who cantered over the tryline untouched.

Four minutes and a couple of scrum re-sets later, and it was young prop Ethan de Groot who scored his first test try in his first start for the All Blacks following a scintillating line break by Quinn Tupaea.

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Not long after that, Will Jordan continued his extraordinary try-scoring record in test rugby, dotting down for his 13th try in his 10th test from a wonderfully executed chip-and-chase.

Up 19-0 after just 10 minutes, McKenzie was the next to get in on the action on the back of a charging Hoskins Sotutu break down the right edge, and it took another seven minutes before the All Blacks scored again through Jacobson.

In comparison to their other tries, it took some time for the Kiwis to score their sixth try as they allowed the Americans a couple of chances with ball in hand through inaccurate passing and ill-discipline.

However, any American bid to get on the scoreboard was duly smothered by the All Blacks, who made the hosts pay with some clinical distribution and good phase play inside enemy territory in the lead-up to Richie Mo’unga’s try.

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After hoisting a chip for Jordan to latch onto, Mo’unga was on hand in a supporting role to help his teammate create a two-on-one scenario with San Diego Legion fullback Will Hooley, which was brilliantly taken advantage of.

Mo’unga still had plenty of work to do to get past three Eagles defenders from about 40 metres out, but despite losing his feet, and Finlay Christie’s best attempt to thwart his run to the tryline, his jinking and jiving ability was enough to see him take the All Blacks to 40 points after 25 minutes.

Not long afterwards, Tupou Vaa’i was denied a try through a last-gasp tackle by his opposite Nick Civetta, the Rugby United New York lock, but a high tackle was called, and the scrum five metres out laid the platform for Jordan to grab his second.

The Eagles showed a glimpse of what they were capable of on attack as the first half neared an end following a knock on by Vaa’i as USA centre Tavite Lopeti, of the Seattle Seawolves, showed good footwork to break the line and take the ball into Kiwi territory.

That was as good as it got from that sequence of play for the USA, though, as they were soon bundled into touch, and from the ensuing lineout, another line break by Jordan saw Angus Ta’avao run under the posts to score the easiest try of his career.

Tupaea was the next to score in fortuitous, and dubious, fashion from a failed intercept attempt by the Americans, with his try only confirmed after a TMO check of a potential forward pass by Mo’unga.

Down 59-0 on the stroke of half-time, the Eagles were handed a reprieve when San Diego Legion halfback Nate Augspurger  scooted past the fringes of a breakdown and stepped around McKenzie to score the USA’s first-ever try against the All Blacks.

It was cracking piece of individual brilliance, but the onslaught continued in the second half when Ta’avao bagged a brace less than a minute after the break thanks to the build-up work by McKenzie and Dalton Papalii.

Some sloppiness by the All Blacks early in the second stanza gave the USA a sniff at their second try when Vaa’i was pinged for an illegal entry at the breakdown, but the Eagles were driven back by the persistent New Zealand defence.

The back-peddling American attack was punished by Vaa’i, who made up for his previous indiscretion with a breakdown penalty.

It didn’t take much for the All Blacks to strike again after that, as LA Giltinis first-five Luke Carty booted possession away for Mo’unga and McKenzie to wreak havoc with, which resulted in a try for Papalii.

That proved to be Papalii’s last involvement in the match as the All Blacks began to bring their bench into the game, which marked the long-awaited returns of skipper Sam Cane and veteran hooker Dane Coles.

Bringing the reserves onto the park – including debutant Josh Lord, who looked at home in the second row – presented some teething issues for the All Blacks as the brand-new front row,  comprised of Coles, George Bower and Tyrel Lomax, conceded a knock on and a free kick at scrum time not long after their inductions.

The Americans didn’t need a second invitation to launch a wave of attack in search of their second try, which came in the corner for San Diego Legion wing Ryan Matyas following a string of infringements and poor tackle attempts by the Kiwis.

Normality resumed immediately afterwards, though, as a spectacular offload by Tupaea put replacement midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown away in the corner.

However, more errors by New Zealand’s replacements stifled their dominance, with TJ Perenara’s inaccurate passing, handling errors by the likes of Coles and Lomax and some more ill-discipline bringing a lengthy pause to the point-scoring.

Those are among the many sources of concerns that Foster will look to quash as his side prepare to travel to Europe, and the USA could, in fact, be considered unlucky to have bagged a third try after applying sustained pressure on the Kiwi defence.

That would have been inconceivable in the first half, but, as much as the Eagles can feel hard done by not to have scored, and they were duly punished for not doing so as Beauden Barrett restarted the scoring a whopping 12 minutes after his side’s last try.

A matter of moments later, Jordan burst through the defensive line off a deft inside ball from Coles in a set piece move to complete his hat-trick before the latter crashed over for one of his own a minute from full-time.

Perenara capped off the scoring in injury time as the All Blacks unleashed one final attack from well inside their own half to bring up 100 points.

All Blacks 104 (Tries to Will Jordan (3), Luke Jacobson (2), Angus Ta’avao (2), Ethan de Groot, Damian McKenzie, Richie Mo’unga, Quinn Tupaea, Dalton Papalii, Anton Lienert-Brown, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, TJ Perenara; 9 conversions to Mo’unga, 3 conversions to McKenzie)

USA Eagles 14 (Tries to Nate Augspurger and Ryan Matyas; 2 conversions to Luke Carty)

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All Blacks crack a century in tour-opening demolition of USA Eagles

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