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Powerful Maori All Blacks pluck US Eagles

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Lynn McConnell     05 Nov 2016     Getty Images

It extended the Maoris record to four from four against the Eagles and also their record against international teams which now stands at 67 victories from 102 matches.

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They demonstrated their inventiveness in the last minute when the two replacements, hooker Joe Royal took a quick lineout throw to prop Chris Eves, near the US Eagles 10m line. The US players had tempted fate by turning their backs to the ball and were completely wrong-footed as Eves threw the ball back to Royal who cleared out, although ankle-tapped, to recover and score the eighth try of the game for the Maori.

The Eagles had an early scoring chance when a penalty was awarded in goal-kicking range but, as they did throughout the game, they played the lineout and looked set to score after a super run by left win Matai Leuta but with options out wide, flanker Todd Clever cut back in and the Maori All Blacks nabbed him.

Clearing downfield the Eagles attempted to clear the ball but first five-eighths Will Holder failed to find touch and Maoris left wing James Lowe ran the ball back. From a ruck No.8 Akira Ioane made good ground before linking in a mid-field thrust with prop Ben May, hooker Ash Dixon and lock Tom Franklin, who had an outstanding game in the lineouts.

From their inroads the ball was released to the backs where fullback Damian McKenzie was able to lob the ball over to the man who started it all Lowe, for the first try 10 minutes into the game.

In the 17th minute Eagles halfback Nate Augspurger found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as the Maori All Blacks pulled a lineout move on their 22m area.

Flanker Dixon secured the lineout ball and fed No.8 Ioane running from the back of the lineout. Moving around the front, his only opposition was the halfback and he had no chance of halting Ioane who burst through the tackle attempt to score with ease.

The set-piece advantage the Maori enjoyed taxed the Eagles at scrums while the lineout became a launching pad and in the 32nd minute a Franklin lineout win allowed West to run at the line, chip ahead where centre Matt Proctor got the favourable bounce before transferring to Lowe who was right on his shoulder and able to race in for his second try.

Losing their hooker James Hilterbrand for a cynical foul two minutes from half-time had immediate consequences when the Maori chose a lineout five metres from the US line and in the drive it was skipper Ash Dixon who crossed to give the Maori All Blacks a 28-0 lead at half-time.

Half-time offered no respite as it took only four minutes for another drive resulting from a penalty and lineout option which saw Akira Ioane power off the back of the maul to another run through unpatrolled territory for his second try.

Continuing their policy of eschewing penalty goal chances the Eagles had reward for choosing the lineout option when Clever scored from a rolling maul in the 48th minute.

But any hope of constraining the Maori All Blacks was immediately rammed home on the back of some brilliance injected by McKenzie who worked a reverse pass with Akira Ioane and then doubled around outside him to take a return pass. Making ground along the sideline McKenzie threw a long pass to prop Kane Hames and he ran 25 metres to score the seventh try.

A maul deep in the Eagles' 22 provided replacement halfback Brad Weber with the opportunity to put his speed to use on a blindside break for a try. However, he blotted his copybook nine minutes later when sin-binned for an intentional foul and the side had to play on until the end of the game reduced to 14 men.

Scorers: US Eagles 7 (Todd Clever tries; Will Holder con) Maori All Blacks 54 (James Lowe 2, Akira Ioane 2, Ash Dixon, Kane Hames, Brad Weber, Joe Royal tries; Ihaia West 6 con; Damian McKenzie con). HT: 0-28