“Replacement lock Luke Katene scored a try in the 78th minute to finally secure a 29 – 19 victory for the Maori All Blacks over a game USA Eagles side in Philadelphia on Sunday (NZT)
The home team set the capacity 18,000 home crowd alight when scoring a try to get within three points with eight minutes remaining.
However, the Maori kept their heads and pushed hard to set up the chance for Katene to claim the win.
But the home side had plenty to be pleased about by remaining competitive to the end, something that has not always been the case as they tired in the last 20 minutes against more experienced sides.
The Eagles ensured a feisty finish to the game after a tap penalty taken by wing Luke Hume five metres from the Maori line, in the 72nd minute, resulted in a try being awarded to No.8 Cameron Dolan, who looked to have grounded the ball on a Maori player but the video referee was not consulted. That pulled the home team within three points of the Maori.
Luke Braid had an impressive game in the loose with hooker Ash Dixon like an extra loose forward with his work in the tight-loose exchanges. Shane Christie was also impressive in support while prop Ben Afeaki was like a rampant rhinoceros with some of his running in the game.
Eagles loose forwards Cameron Dolan and Peter Dahl proved competitive alongside the experienced home skipper Todd Clever.
The Maori opened the scoring with a try but Siddal landed goals in the 14th, 25th and 38th minutes, the last after Maori lock Joe Wheeler was sin-binned for a ruck offence.
Taking a few plays to get their continuity working the Maori All Blacks made the most of a penalty five metres from the Eagles’ line. They took the lineout, set up a maul and while going nowhere, the ball was slipped to halfback Jamison Gibson-Park who jinked through the defence to score after five minutes.
No.8 Cameron Dolan went close to scoring in the first half when intercepting a pass from fullback Robbie Robinson in broken play. It took a determined covering tackle from the opposite wing by Kurt Baker to deny the Eagles the try.
Prop Nick Wallace also made a fine run from a ruck that tested the Maori defences and resulted in the penalty which saw Wheeler sin-binned.
The Maori absorbed a lively start to the second half and then created their own chance after 44 minutes from a scrum close to the Eagles’ line. First five-eighths Ihaia West did the double pump and in-passed to second five-eighths and captain Tim Bateman went in beneath the posts to reclaim the lead.
After injuries took their toll of the home team, the Maori scored again when Bateman was too strong in a mid-field break and touched down for his second.
Scorers: USA Eagles 19 (Cameron Dolan try; Adam Siddal con, 4 pen)Maori All Blacks 29 (Jamison Gibson-Park, Tim Bateman 2, Luke Katene tries; Robbie Robinson 3 con, pen). HT: 9-7”