The USA played confidently and aggressively during their Cup semifinal against New Zealand at the China 7s. But the Kiwis won those key one-on-one match-ups, and took the final’s bid with a 24-12 win.
From the opening kickoff, Portia Woodman hit the gainline at lightning speed and single-handedly brought her side into the USA’s 22 meter. Vix Folayan’s tackle stalled and actually drove the drive backward, until Kelly Brazier scooped up the ball. A little sidestep past Sadie Anderson and another past Lauren Doyle opened up the path to the try zone. She converted her score for the 7-0 win.
Vanesha McGee caught the next kickoff and awkwardly kicked it downfield past Brazier. McGee and Folayan’s lightning fast chase forced a penalty, which was followed by another inside New Zealand’s 22 meter. Kelly Griffin took the quick tap, freed the ball out of the tackle and hit Nathalie Marchino angling back inside for the centered try, which Anderson converted, 7-7.
A rapid exchange of silly mistakes and bobbles out of the breakdown marked the next minute of play, but Kayla McAlister put an end to the errors after pushing off Anderson and scoring beneath the posts.
McAlister repeated the effort in the second half, again fending her would-be tackler and racing toward the corner. Folayan’s chase prevented the center and consequently the conversion, making it 17-7 New Zealand.
About a minute later, Anderson tore downfield after a nicely timed switch, and then drew a diving-over penalty from New Zealand. Another penalty kept the Kiwis retreating, and in arguably the single most impressive individual play of the game, Jill Potter sent a long, backward-underhand pass out of the breakdown, as she was being dragged to the ground, to McGee, who dished to Doyle. The wing cut back inside, McGee looped, and Doyle’s pass out of contact put McGee into the try zone, 17-12.
But the Kiwis had the last word, as the final score was preceded by numerous breakaways. The final linebreak occurred after Sarah Goss pushed off Potter and was pulled down at the five meter by Folayan. But Ruby Tui was fast on Goss’ heels, took the pop, and scored unchallenged. Brazier’s conversion ended the scoring, 24-12.
A tough loss against the series leader, but a final four finish is never bad. The Eagles will have a shot at third place when they play Canada, which lost to England 19-0 in their Cup semi, at 4:48 a.m. EST.
Tries: Marchino, McGee
New Zealand 24
Tries: McAlister 2, Brazier, Tui
Cons: Brazier 2