Burling, Team New Zealand reach match point in America's Cup

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HAMILTON, Bermuda, June 25 (Reuters) - New Zealand flew to the edge of America's Cup victory over the USA on Sunday, going 6-1 ahead in the first-to-seven final and setting themselves up to exorcise the ghost of losing in San Francisco in 2013.

It is now Match point Emirates Team New Zealand.

"Hat's off to those guys today, they sailed clean and smart", Spithill said after the race, adding that the US team bankrolled by Oracle founder Larry Ellison would fight to the end and had staged a comeback from a similar position before.

Compounding his problems, Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill took his ACC boat over the boundary up the third beat in an attempt to find some way back, incurring a two-boat length penalty in the process.

Helmsman Peter Burling and Team NZ sit on match point, within one win of lifting the America's Cup off archrivals Oracle Team off Bermuda.

“Despite the lead, we wont get ahead of ourselves because we still know we have a job to do and its still an incredibly tough ask.”.

"We talked a lot yesterday about how we had a lot of things we wanted to learn and improve on and today's no different", said Burling.

"I had my head up for that manoeuvre, we were coming down on them pretty hard and really quickly".

"This isn't over. They haven't handed over the trophy yet", Spithill said.

This was an astute tactical race by the Emirates Team New Zealand afterguard who were prepared to make sacrifices to keep it tight and controlled.

Team NZ narrowly won race seven before a dominant display in the eighth meeting for a 30-second victory to take match point. On Monday, we'll see if Spithill has the makings of another miracle up his sleeve.

Defending champions the U.S. took their first win in race six on Saturday but were again easily distanced on Sunday.

"[No-one] is going to leave anything in the tank tomorrow, we're going to be pushing every step of the way, right to the end and I don't think anyone is going to count their chickens until we cross that line first".

For Oracle Team USA, this is familiar ground, and nobody would write off the Defenders who so memorably staged one of, if not the, greatest comebacks in sport when they pulled back from an eight - one deficit to win the 2013 America's Cup nine - eight against the same rivals. On leg three there was very little between the two teams but the Kiwis extended their advantage again as they headed upwind, giving themselves a 32 second lead as they headed into leg four. "They made fewer mistakes and they deserved to win two races", Spithill said in a nod to the Kiwis.

After defending in 2000, Coutts jumped ship to Alinghi and led a five-race sweep of Team New Zealand.

"We thought we would be able to pull a maneuver off but clearly we couldn't, it was a big mistake", admitted Spithill on the poor pre-start.

Joe Sullivan has a front row seat as Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling executes a textbook hook on Oracle's Jimmy Spithill in the start box.

HAMILTON, Bermuda New Zealand lifted the America's Cup on Monday, nearly white-washing the USA holders with a revolutionary boat and a new superstar sailor avenging a humbling defeat four years ago.

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