(Palo Alto, California) Replacement flyhalf Dave Neilson stroked three second-half penalty goals to lift New Zealand Universities Under-21 to a 23-20 win over the Collegiate All-Americans Saturday at Steuber Rugby Field.
The Napier Pirates flyhalf's 73d-minute shot proved the deciding score in a second half which saw three lead changes, and capped a 16-5 rally that saw the tourists recover from July 9's wipeout to claim the last of the three-game series.
A sweep was there for the hosts, who scored three tries against two, had they converted ample first-half possession into points. Instead, the Kiwis hung around long enough to nab a 37th-minute touchdown against the run of play, and so began the second stanza with a new confidence.
'We played too many phases, especially in our end, instead of kicking the ball to back them up, and it tired us out,' All-American coach Alex Magleby said after the game.
Dartmouth's Nate Brakeley scored first with a short, bruising 3d-minute run, concluding a purposeful opening passage that demonstrated the All-Americans' edge in size and strength at the breakdown. More such phase play enabled flyhalf JP Eloff to stretch the lead to 10-0 with a short penalty goal at 11 minutes.
The Kiwis wouldn't gain an attacking possession until the 29th minute, but the Ryan Roundy-led side didn't score again in the first period. Though the visitors committed a minimum of players to the breakdown, in order to clutter the midfield, the All-Americans seemed to shy from vertical tactics to test that resolve.
Three minutes before half, center Sam Hall's weaving run made a try for Travis Larson, bringing the halftime count to 10-7.
In the second period, the All-Americans again scored right away. After a tackle by Cal's Derek Asbun caused the Kiwis to spill a ball in the backline, forwards Garrett Lambert and Brakeley combined to send wing Kyle Grossheider off for a converted try.
The New Zealanders hit back at 44 minutes, another long, openfield run, this time from Jesse Johnson, leading to seven-pointer for center Liam Steel. Then Neilson hit his first penalty, awarded for killing play at the breakdown. The 35-yarder earned the tourists their first lead, 17-15 after 49 minutes.
7s Eagle Peter Tiberio answered with a solo run that shaded the efforts Hall and Johnson. Fielding a clearance kick on the left sideline, the Arizona wing passed infield to fullback Duncan Kelm and presently took the return, skipping past three defenders on a 40-yard scoring jaunt.
Neilson sent a 55th-minute chance, given for offside at the breakdown, across the face of the posts. But a subsequent penalty for diving over the ball not only enabled the New Zealanders to tie the match, but also cost hooker Zach Fenoglio a 10-minute suspension. Happily, they conceded no points while shorthanded.
Neilson's matchwinner came in the 73d minute, after a careless high tackle in midfield. By such things are representative matches often decided.
The All-Americans mounted a laudable injury-time drive, crabbing upfield through a dozen or more phases. Yet with the goalline in sight, the attackers mistakenly went short side and the isolated ballcarrier was pushed into touch.
Notwithstanding the disappointment, the inbound tour ranks among the All-Americans' best assemblies since 2001's visit to Ireland. Beyond a clearcut series victory, two of the collegians' best, Blaine Scully and Cam Dolan, were withheld from the finale in a hint the pair may be invited to August's World Cup warmups.
It is fashionable to simply count the number of selections which advance to higher representative honors, but the basis of development success is players in camp, progressing from assembly to assembly. Moreover, several of Saturday's starters look ready for the senior club ranks.
While the full measure of 2011 class remains some years away, USARFU has commendably responded to the disaster of 2007. That year the union manifest disdain for collegiate players by requiring the contemporary squad for the first time to pay its way on tour -- despite millions of new International Rugby Board dollars flowing into Boulder. (Simultaneously, the percentage of past All-Americans in the pre-World Cup squad was slashed to 22 percent from 54 percent a year earlier.) Unsurprisingly, just two of 2007's do-it-yourselfers, Pat Danahy and Kevin Swiryn, have perservered to reach America's 50 finalists for September's World Cup.
This year's tour marks a fine conclusion for outgoing coach Magleby. With a USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship also in his 2011 body of work, Magleby will now assume responsibility for restarting the All-Americans 7s team.
New Zealand Universities Under-21 23 All-Americans 20 (halftime: All-Americans 10-7)
Tries: Nate Brakeley, Kyle Grossheider, Peter Tiberio
Conversion: JP Eloff
Penalty goal: JP Eloff
Duncan Kelm; Peter Tiberio, Seamus Kelly, Gareth Jones (Benji Goff), Kyle Grossheider; JP Eloff (Pat Sullivan), Chris Saint; Mike Su’a (Matt Crawford, Nick Mostyn), Zach Fenoglio (Ray Forrester Andrew Cooke), James Besser (Nick Mostyn Ray Forrester), Chris Parker (Mark Bonham), Nate Brakeley (Nick Civetta), Garrett Lambert (Nick Civetta), Derek Asbun (Jordan Badia-Bellinger), Ryan Roundy (captain, Dave Martini)
New Zealand Universities Under 21
Tries: Travis Larsen, Liam Steel
Conversions: Jesse Johnson, David Neilson
Penalty goals: David Neilson (3)
Hamish Northcott; Bampino Mulipola, Liam Steel, Sam Hall, AN Wright (Luke Fiso); Jesse Johnson (David Neilson), Michael Ruru (Conrad Goodhew); Shay Ashworth, Junior Manase, Jack Higgins, Matt Vellekoop, Mike Allardice (captain, Brad Kilgour), Sonny Ali'ifa'agolo, James Lentjes, Travis Larsen
Referee: Joe Androvich (Pacific Coast)
Attendance: 600 (estimate)