Saturday July 16 saw the New Zealand Steel Blacks take to the field in their first senior men’s game in over 11 years. The Steel Blacks fell 30-10 against the American Samoa Eagles at Mountfort Park, Auckland New Zealand.
The Steel Blacks were assembled from the three regional bodies, giving Coach John Ikinepe’s side a true national representation. Coached by Ethan Lake, the Eagles were looking to build on their strong under-19 program that saw them finish 5th in the 2012 IFAF World Championships. The Steel Blacks showed up to face a talented squad of players fresh from the American Samoa National Football Federation’s inaugural Prep League.
The Eagles scored two long-range passing touchdowns in the first quarter (both 2 point conversions successful).
New Zealand rallied in the second period with a fourth down defensive stand in the red zone followed up with QB Hayden Ikinepe throwing a touchdown pass to WR Jake Hughes (PAT good, Nick Bassett).
American Samoa pulled away in 2nd half
The Steel Blacks pulled within a touchdown and closed out the half with a field goal by kicker Nick Bassett in the dying seconds.
The second half, however, saw the class of American Samoa come to the fore. Defensive adjustments saw them create seven turnovers (four fumbles, three interceptions). Their high-powered passing offense pulled the Eagles away to a comfortable victory.
The players of the game were the Steel Blacks running back #33 Tolu Pitone-Iese and the Eagles’ #16 Ryan Paaga. The running backs dominated the game with slashing runs and highlight reel catches.
Both national federations intend for this to become a regular event, with the future of football in Oceania looking bright.
Check out the New Zealand pre-game Haka and game highlights