The New Zealand Hawks have endured a tough test, and come out victorious, beating the USA Revolution by a margin of 10.11:71 – 2.1:13.
In a match that was far closer than the scoreline would suggest, it was the superior structure and composure of New Zealand that carried the day at the Montrose Recreational Reserve.
While both teams started the match guilty of too much speculative kicking, the tall USA players were able to get above their opposition more easily. The USA were led defensively by the firm and skilled Saleh Tyebjee.
With both teams only managing one goal in the first quarter, the game hung in the balance, 1.3:9 – 1.0:6 at quarter time.
Two Michaels, Boyce and Gregson, were excellent over the first period for the Hawks. Michael Boyce was strong in defense, and Michael Gregson pinpoint with his kicking. Brendan Clark was the early Hawks goalkicker.
The 2nd quarter was where the Hawks moved up a gear, kicking out to a big lead. It began with Tim Morton, who marked beautifully off cross into the middle from Sam McKenzie. Morton slotted the set shot.
Then it was the turn of Joe Baker-Thomas to stamp his mark on the game. His first goal came through sheer skill and awareness, playing on after a free kick was awarded and soccering the ball through. His 2nd came after he marked over a defender and coolly slotted the ball through the sticks minutes later.
Kyle Smith then stepped up, scoring a goal and showing the passion with which all of the Hawks were playing. James Roughan finished the half with a well taken set shot, and suddenly the score had stretched to 6.7:43 – 1.0:6.
Throughout the first half the rovers and midfielders maintained the momentum of the New Zealanders, especially through taking possession at rucks.
The running game of the New Zealand Hawks was also on show, with Jared Court showing moments of surprising delicacy for such a big man stepping through tackles, and Te Kopa Tipene-Thomas displaying his lightning pace and agility.
The first goal of the 2nd half went to the Americans, with Levesque kicking a masterful set shot. From deep in the 50 yard circle, and at a 45 degree angle, his kick was arguably the best shot on goal by either team throughout the match.
However, Sam McKenzie stepped up for the Hawks, kicking two goals in the quarter, including a set shot after flying over a pack to take a brilliant mark.
At 8.9:57 – 2.0:12 there was little chance for the USA Revolution to get back into the game. However, throughout the 4th quarter they showed pride in their jersey, and maintained their intensity admirably.
The structure and organisation of the New Zealand Hawks was simply too much though, with Justin Clark finishing off some fine displays of patient building and teamwork, to record two goals across the quarter.
The match was watched by a large and vocal crowd at the ground, with numbers estimated to be more than 1000. Furthermore, a large audience watched the match on an online stream provided by the Eastern Football League, who hosted the match.
The EFL’s Dyson Baker estimated that the live stream was watched by ten times as many people as a regular game would have been, a testament to the support that AFL is developing in New Zealand and the USA.
A major theme of the match was the pride both nations took in representing their countries. The commentators were impressed by the rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner belted out by the Americans, and equally so by the fierce haka delivered by the New Zealand Hawks.
Following the match, Justin Davies spoke of the passion for representing New Zealand that the Hawks played with. “For a young lad growing up in New Zealand, all they want to do is pull on a black jersey and play for their country.” This statement was as true for AFL as for any other sporting code.
In other matches around the International Cup, Papua New Guinea were upset by South Africa, and Canada thrashed Sweden to move into contention for a semi-final spot.
New Zealand Hawks: 10.11:71 (McKenzie 2, Baker-Thomas 2, J Clark 2, Morton, B Clark, K Smith, Roughan)
USA Revolution: 2.1:13 (Dragus, Levesque)
Best and Fairest:
New Zealand Hawks: Miller, M Gregson, Harris, Howison, Baker-Thomas
USA Revolution: Tyebjee, Lehane, Carpenter, Kastl, Fashant, Nemeth