For the first time ever the eyes of the rugby world were on the United States this afternoon as the USA National Team, the Eagles, hosted the top ranked team in the world, New Zealand All Blacks. The All Blacks are the raining Rugby World Cup champions from 2011 and are the favorites to repeat in 2015. New Zealand has won a remarkable 84% of their games(better than any national or professional team in any sport in the world) throughout their history dating back to 1884. The Eagles hosted New Zealand iconic Soldier Field in Chicago. The “kiwis” came into the match as the heavy favorites and they did not disappoint the sell out crowd of 61500.
The All Blacks started the scoring in the 2nd minute with a try from hooker Nathan Harris. After a Cory Jane try for New Zealand and 2 Adam Siddall drop goals the Americans trailed the All Blacks 12-6 in the 17th minute. The the onslaught began. The visitors from New Zealand scored 12 unanswered tries to bring the final score to 74-6. Rugby greats Israel Dagg, Sam Crane, Aaron Cruden, Sonny Bill Williams and Dan Carter were among the 11 point scorers for the All Blacks while Siddall scored all 6 of the U.S points.
But this particular match was never about the score. everyone one in the stadium knew that New Zealand was going to win. The fans knew it, the All Blacks knew it and the Eagles knew it. What this game was about was sharing rugby with America. Rugby,along with soccer, is the fasted growing sport in the United States and this contest on live, national TV seemed to do what USA Rugby officials intended, showcase their sport to the nation. While the outcome was no where near in favor of the home team, hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions of people were exposed to the predecessor of American football. And they got to see the best sports team on the planet show them how the game is played.
England hosts the Rugby World Cup next year in 2015. The USA qualified earlier this year with a win over Uruguay and sits in pool B with traditional powers South Africa and Scotland as well as upstarts Samoa and Japan. Advancing past pool play looks like a long shot for the Eagles but they are expected to put on a god show in the tournament. USA Rugby is known world wide as a “sleeping giant.” The Eagles are still obviously not on the same level as the likes of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England and so on, but they are on the rise(currently ranked #18 in the world) the future looks very bright. With more exposer and more athletes joining the sport, the USA might not be too far off from joining the discussion of World Cup contenders.