It was a hard-earned win, one that began shakily, but the USA Women pulled it together and defeated the Netherlands 19-5 in the Women’s International 7s Invitational in Las Vegas.
With a boisterous home crowd behind them, the USA women struggled to find their chemistry early on, committing some ballhandling errors that stalled their forward momentum.
“Anytime we come to the stadium – we’re getting used to it now – we’re a little more excited than usual, so our passes were maybe a little too hard to one another,” USA scrumhalf Katie Dowty said. “Plus this wind – we talked about staying deep because it was going to put some extra distance on the ball, and I think we still found it in our chest instead of running onto it.”
The Netherlands, however, had a little more success early on and last year’s finalist put the first points on the board, breaking weakside off a tryline ruck.
“They have a couple shifty halfbacks so we had to concentrate on keeping the midfield real tight because not many teams have the speed we do out wide,” Dowty said. “[During halftime] we re-emphasized our defense, which was our main goal the whole time. Don’t let them score and the offense will come. Stick with what we’re doing.”
Amy Daniel’s try gave the USA a two-point lead into the break and put a little more spring in the Eagles’ step. Dowty helped set up the USA’s next try in the second half, kicking ahead and chasing down the Dutch receiver inside the 22 meter.
“We watched their video and noticed they weren’t really good about keeping a sweeper,” Dowty said. “So I looked up and it was wide open, and put it down there.”
After a penalty and couple of phases later, Kelly Griffin did well to pin the outside defenders long enough to open up some space for Deven Owsiany and the try.
A nice short lineout on Netherlands’ five meter – taken by CJ Hildreth – capped off the USA’s scoring, much to the crowd’s pleasure.
“It’s packed. It’s awesome,” Dowty beamed as she checked out the full stands inside Sam Boyd Stadium. “It makes it a little hard to hear each other; I think our voices are gone a little. You can’t hear the person next to you sometimes – although I’m not complaining.”
Looking ahead to the final, the USA will take on Canada, which defeated France 21-12 in their semifinal. The last time these two teams saw each other was at Dubai, and Canada dominated.
“We’re ready to break into the top three,” Dowty said as her focus shifted to the final. “Coach didn’t let us off the hook after Dubai when we finished fourth and made it to the semis. We were a distant fourth to those top three teams. So we’re in this one to win it; we’re going to give Canada a fight. And a win like that in a stadium builds confidence.”
Canada didn’t look as smooth as they have during the rest of tournament, but one can rest assured they’ll be bringing their A-game to the title match, especially against the USA, and especially with heavy Canadian support in the stands. It’s sure to be an epic match.