Image Courtesy of New Zealand All Blacks
By Garrett Farrell
When I was learning how to drive, my Driver’s Ed instructor showed the class a video on how to proceed when driving over railroad tracks. The video told us that if we ever stalled on train tracks we should get out of the car immediately because a train would hit a car with the proportionate force with which a car would hit a can of soda. I think that the same reasoning works for why the USA Eagles should never intentionally challenge the New Zealand All Blacks ever again.
For reference, the worst blowout in the history of professional football was a 73-0 shellacking of the Washington Football Team by the Chicago Bears. The All Blacks exceeded that margin by almost 25% as they ran over the USA Eagles 104-14 on October 23.
The All Blacks were completely dominant in every phase of the game, as has come to be the standard in international rugby for the past several decades. The Eagles, on the other hand, looked flat-footed, unprepared, and impotent. The match is the worst defeat the Eagles have ever suffered against the All Blacks, and brings the USA’s record against New Zealand to 0-4, illustrating exactly how far the United States has to go before they can compete on the international level.
In spite of the sheer embarrassment of letting up more than a hundred points, there were some bright spots for the USA. They did manage to score the first two tries in team history against New Zealand; most teams in the world will lose to the All Blacks, but not all will score a try against them.
Another silver lining of the loss: now the USA knows what they need to fix. A team like the All Blacks will embarrass you whenever you don’t completely understand the fundamentals. These blind spots for the USA consist of tackling, endurance, and mental toughness.
Similar to American football, one of the most important parts of rugby is the ability to tackle well. The Eagles had an unacceptable number of botched tackles that basically gave the All Blacks a try. As for endurance, the USA was so gassed by the end of the match that they let up two tries in the last 10 minutes of play. Even though these tries were the equivalent of a school bully pouring soda on a kid after he’s already taken his lunch money, letting up two tries that late is entirely unacceptable. If the United States wants to be able to compete in international rugby, they need to make sure that they are prepared to go the distance against any team.
For mental toughness, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that the Eagles lost the game before it even started. The USA already knew they were facing the most dominant team in the history of world rugby, and they never recovered from facing New Zealand’s Haka (a traditional Maori warrior dance that the All Blacks perform before each of their matches). This bad attitude led to the Eagles conceding a try fewer than 30 seconds after the match had started.
While the 1874 Cup may not have gone the way the Eagles wanted it, if they are smart, they will take the loss to the All Blacks as a learning experience. The All Blacks have very little to take away from the match, but it does kick off a five-week away stint for the team. In the coming weeks, they play Italy, Wales, Ireland, and France, all of whom are presently ranked in the top 15 in the World Rugby Rankings, and three of whom are in the top 10. That being said, the United States is ranked 17th in the world currently, so it may be that the All Blacks can toy around with anyone they wish.