The USA Women are into the Cup semifinals of the China 7s, having defeated Australia 17-14 in a thrilling quarterfinal. The Eagles will face IRB Women Sevens World Series leader New Zealand in the final four.
After day one, USA Women 7s coach stated that his team had to pick up the intensity in the breakdown and the tackle; the Eagles accomplished the former against a big, strong Australian team, but not the latter. When one reflects on the open-field series from the game, Australia is remembered for busting through that first-up tackle, tearing downfield, then failing to complete that finishing pass. The USA's offensive runs had the ball cycle through everyone's hands, whether it was a weakside pick from Sadie Anderson, or a fantastic, side-stepping display on the sideline from Vix Folayan.
But the USA didn't enjoy those full-field series until the second half, and Australia threatened to score with nearly every touch. From the kickoff, Folayan nearly turned over the ball deep in Australia's end, putting a big hit in and gathering the ball. But a penalty kept Australia on offense, and Nikki Etheridge rather easily broke into the midfield. Lauren Doyle halted Etheridge's run and forced the knock-on.
From the USA 40 meter, the Eagles spun the ball wide to Doyle on the wing. It appeared that her opposite, Ellia Green, was perfectly positioned for the tackle, but a subtle, little step was all Doyle needed to sneak past her, and the rest was a straight-away to the try zone, 5-0.
Every time the USA scored, Australia answered vigorously. Sharni Williams was the catalyst to such a response, and she terrorized the American defense. Already experiencing trouble in their first-up tackles, the USA continued to go high on the sturdy, determined runner, and Williams fended a slew of would-be tacklers. Most memorably, Williams ran her team out of danger after grabbing onto two defenders on separate occasions, and forcing them to run backward.
But as effective as Williams was in getting her team on the front foot, she was just as guilty of lobbing ill-advised passes to support and killing the drive.
The next score began in the USA's end, as Anderson and Doyle took a couple of picks weakside for some nice yardage. Australia committed a silly penalty, offsides on a ruck that was slowly supported but also secure, that also allowed the Eagles to continue marching forward. The USA kept the ball in tight for a few phases, and once in scoring position, sent it wide to Folayan, who was all alone. As she angled away from her support, taking on a well-formed defensive line, one cringed. But Folayan duped the defense and slipped almost effortlessly between the two outside defenders. Anderson converted for the 12-0 lead into half.
A nice little cushion for the USA, which was quickly pressured from the second half's kickoff. The Eagles received it cleanly, but a miscue on the outlet pass from the breakdown produced a knock-on. The referee played advantage, Australia walked over the ball, and spun it to Brooke Anderson, who split defenders for an easy try. Williams converted for the 12-7 scoreline.
Anderson knocked on the next kickoff, as Australia lined up for a scrum in the USA's end, one felt like this drive needed to be squashed, or the game would be in danger. The USA came through, as they stole possession, and sent the ball through everyone's hands. Christy Ringgenberg really got the ball moving through the center of the field, and Vanesha McGee, Folayan and Doyle were all in quick support as the attack moved inside the 22 meter. After two barreling runs from McGee and Folayan, Doyle picked from the base and dove over for the try, 17-7.
Australia had the last word in terms of scoring, taking the next kickoff in for a try. Anderson's kick fell between two Australians, and the onrushing Folayan's eyes lit up. She jut forward for the steal, but a fortunate bounce put the ball right into Tiana Penitani's paws. She angled away from Folayan and into empty field unchallenged. Williams hit the conversion, 17-14.
As the clock wore down, the USA held onto possession but started to get a little loose - hiking the ball out of the breakdown and risky offloads. Fortunately a penalty allowed a kick to touch and final whistle.
New Zealand advanced to the Cup semifinals with a 31-5 win over Ireland. Should the USA beat the WSWS leader, then they'll face the winner of England (defeated Netherlands 19-12 in quarters) vs. Canada (defeated Brazil 33-0 in quarters).
Tries: Doyle 2, Folayan
Tries: Anderson, Penitani
Cons: Williams 2