A solid second half saw the USA Women overcome a halftime deficit to defeat Spain 19-7 at the Rugby World Cup Sevens. The Eagles end pool play 3-0 and take the top seed out of Pool C into the Cup Quarterfinals. Spain, too, will advance to the round of eight tomorrow.
Spain was on the attack from the opening whistle, breaking through the USA defense until Vix Folayan chased it down and forced play into touch. Poised for their first attacking opportunity from the lineout, the Americans turned over the ball in midfield, and Maria Casado tore off for the try line. Jill Potter did well in the chase and wrapped up Casado’s ankles about 10 meters out. Spain’s Berta Garcia, Folayan and Kelly Griffin were in quick pursuit, and the Eagle duo got underneath the ball in time to prevent the grounding.
Both teams struggled to string together a solid, consistent attack, with knock-ons and missed connections requiring a lot of rucks, broken play and scrums. About four minutes in, the USA was attacking in Spain’s end when the defense was cited for offsides in the ruck. The referee was playing advantage as a couple of crisp passes worked out to Christy Ringgenberg out wide. She pushed off one defender, and Marta Cabane tapped her down a meter out from the tryline, but she wasn’t held and Ringgenberg dotted it down in the corner, 5-0.
Spain came right back. Although the USA defense kept pressing the offense backward, Spain was able to exploit some one-on-one match-ups, breaking through the line for a few long runs. On one such occasion, Ringgenberg was able to close the gap on a long breakaway and force an errant offload. However, the Spanish supporter kicked the ball off the ground, while Ringgenberg was being held from chasing the ball. Spain recovered, shipped the ball wide to Barbara Pla, who scored easily. Patricia Garcia’s conversion put Spain up 7-5 into the break.
At halftime, USA Head Coach told the players that all they needed was two quick passes and they had the space. He ended his pep talk with a simple admonition: “these last seven minutes, no one works than you guys.”
In the second half, the USA still looked a little shaky. After starting with what looked like solid possession, Kimber Rozier kicked the ball away into the try zone. Fortunately, the USA received a penalty, but then the Eagles lost that opportunity after a botched offload out wide.
There were a couple of nice, tight offloading series, as Rozier broke through a staggered Spanish defense, hitting Jill Potter and Deven Owsiany in quick support. The potential was there, but the Eagles struggled with turnovers. After this particular penalty, Spain took their scrum and ran it back to midfield. As play approached the sideline, Marchino picked up the ball from the ground, fed it back to Folayan who managed to stay inbounds and cycle it back to teammates. The ball worked out to Vanesha McGee, who read the defense perfectly to slice through the line with a fend and a sprint. Under the posts, and it was an easy conversion for Rozier, 12-7.
It was a weight off the Americans’ back and a credit to the team for staying calm and attacking when the time was right. The USA added a little cushion from the next kickoff, as Folayan kept her feet on the sideline before Owsiany arrived for the ruck. Just as it looked like the scrumhalf was going to teeter backward from the counter-ruck, Katie Johnson picked from the base and broke weak. She was corralled on the sideline, but Folayan was already on her feet and got the offload just in time. With one person to fend – done – Folayan scored her third try of the tournament. Rozier made a fantastic sideline conversion for the 19-7 win.
The USA advance to the Cup quarterfinals and will play Ireland, a team that has burst onto the scene during the first half of 2013. The Irish went 2-1 in Pool B, defeating South Africa and China, and losing to Australia 22-5.
Tries: Ringgenberg, McGee, Folayan
Conversions: Rozier 2
Conversions: Garcia, P.