A much tighter game than expected, the USA Women won their Rugby World Cup Sevens opener 12-7 over Brazil.
The USA is favored to win Pool C, with Spain posing the biggest challenge in round three, so it did come as a surprise to see such a small point differential in the first round. The last time the USA saw Brazil (mid-May at the Amsterdam 7s), the Eagles beat the South Americans soundly, 24-0. But the stakes are higher here in Moscow, and that can elevate - or stymie - a team's game.
The Eagles got out to great start and within three minutes, the USA had piled on 12 points. Vix Folayan was at the center of it all. She’s been ignored by the IRB as a “Player to Watch,” but she is clearly a star in today’s game – not only devastatingly fast, but so strong in contact, and has the ability to create something out of nothing. She scored the first try 45 seconds in, then broke through the defense minutes later to set up Christy Ringgenberg for the second score. Kimber Rozier converted Ringgenberg’s try, and the USA was up 12-0 after three minutes.
Deven Owsiany nearly gave the USA another five points, almost getting around the corner, but she was pushed into touch. Five meter off their tryline, Brazil took the subsequent lineout and kicked to touch to end the half.
The USA was in a nice position come second half. The team got certain players with less experience – Ryan Carlyle, Emilie Bydwell – onto the field, and momentum was on their side. But Brazil wasn’t ready to lie down just yet. Some scrappy play marked the beginning of the second half, and a minute-and-a-half in, Beatriz Muhlbauer dove over the line for the try. Thais Rocha nailed the two-pointer, and suddenly it was a 12-7 game.
Brazil kept their collective foot on the gas, and Paula Ishibashi nearly crossed the line for the tying points if it wasn’t for the fantastic coverage of captain Vanesha McGee. That tackle saved the USA in the long run, as the Eagles held on for the rest of the half and close win.
Although there is no video footage available just yet, as the IRB and RWC 7s are not live streaming the first two rounds of the women’s competition, one assumes that today’s outcome was a combination of Brazil stepping up their game and the USA not playing to their full potential over 14 minutes. But a win's a win.
The other Pool C game took a similar route. Spain raced out to 14 points on two tries from Elisabet Martinez, as the heavy favorites looked to dominate newcomer Fiji. But then the Fijians joined the fight and put Suliana Batirau away for two tries to tie it up at 14-all.
With two tight games kicking off Pool C, point differential could come into play down the road, when the top two teams are moved into the Cup quarterfinals.
The USA will play Fiji in round two at 5:24 a.m. ET, and then play Spain in their final pool play game at 12:00 p.m. ET.
Tries: Folayan, Ringgenberg