New Zealand must settle for third in Vegas

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Campbell Burnes     04 Mar 2019     Getty Images

In a stirring Cup semifinal, host USA edged New Zealand 24-19, mainly thanks to a hat-trick by speedster Carlin Isles. It gave USA a fifth straight Cup final appearance but it looked like New Zealand would trump them in the early exchanges, racing to a 12-0 thanks to a Sione Molia try from a clever switch from the opening kickoff just 20 seconds in. Some sweet long passing sent Kurt Baker but that merely sparked the hosts into life.


Three tries in three minutes to Isles (x2) and Folau Niua saw USA take a 19-12 lead. Tim Mikkelson tied the scores, crossing from a slick lineout move with Vilimoni Koroi.

Joe Ravouvou then made a trysaving tackle but was soon afterwards shown yellow. The USA spurned an easy penalty shot at goal, which looked to have been the wrong call until Isles darted round the side of an unguarded ruck for his third and the victory. USA coach Mike Friday was jubilant at the final whistle, along with the vocal Vegas crowd.

New Zealand coach Clark Laidlaw rang the changes for his starting line-up in the bronze final, and his charges responded with a gritty comeback to head Argentina 26-19.

An early Ravouvou try was countered by three unanswered tries to German Schulz, with a brace, and Rodrigo Etchart.

But New Zealand rallied in fine style, reeling off three tries in as many minutes. Mikkelson set up the first, to Tone Ng Shiu, who showed a big fend. Then Molia recorded a brace, the first from a loose Argentina tap-down from a kickoff and then the second going straight up the middle of the ruck. He scored seven tries in the tournament, continuing his sterling form.
The Cup final saw USA clean out Samoa – Sir Gordon Tietjens’ men were in their first Cup final – by 27-0 in fine style for its first Cup silverware of the season, successfully defending its Las Vegas title from 2018. The upshot is that USA leads the series on 98 points, five clear of New Zealand in second on 93.

The sixth leg of the World Series takes place this weekend in Vancouver.

Cup semifinal:
USA 24
(Carlin Isles 3, Folau Niua tries; Madison Hughes 2 con) New Zealand 19 (Sione Molia, Kurt Baker, Tim Mikkelson tries; Baker 2 con) HT: 14-12 USA

Bronze final:
New Zealand 26
(Sione Molia 2, Joe Ravouvou, Tone Ng Shiu tries; Vilimoni Koroi 2 con, Kurt Baker con) Argentina 19 (German Schulz 2, Rodrigo Etchart tries; Santiago Mare con, Francisco Ulloa con) HT: 14-7 Argentina

Cup final:
USA 27
(Ben Pinkelman 2, Matai Leuta, Madison Hughes, Maceo Brown tries; Hughes con) Samoa 0 HT: 10-0 USA