The USA v Canada women’s Nations Cup match Sunday hinged on some huge plays in giving the Eagles the 29-17 victory, their largest margin of victory since 2006.
Each of these key plays could have resulted in the USA team folding its tent and allowing the aggressive Canadians to take control. They never did.
Key play #1. After a big run from center Emlie Bydwell the Eagles kept up the pressure and got a penalty called in their favor in front of the posts. The USA opted to go for goal, but Kimber Rozier missed. When at other times the team might have slumped, made a mistake, and allowed Canada to rebound, the USA instead kept up the pressure, and moments later sent Nathalie Marchino over in the corner for the first try of the game.
#2. All players are eager, perhaps too eager, to impress when they take the field. Often that leads to mistakes such as outside backs being too flat in the backline. This forces forward passes, or makes the recipient have to slow down for the ball. But Marchino, back in the lineup for the first time in a while, on her first real scoring chance, hung back like a pro, got a nice flat pass and burst onto it. Result – try.
#3. After giving up a try late in the first half, and leading 10-5, the Eagles came right back in the second half to score and extend their lead to 17-5. The attack was very simple, using one-off passes to onrushing forwards, and pick-and-goes. But it worked, and the USA team’s patience in using their forwards to pummel the Canadian defense helped them regain the momentum.
#4. Up 22-17, the Eagles gave up a turnover to Canadian fullback Elissa Alarie. Alarie dances and scampers deep into USA territory, but the USA scrambling defense makes several crucial tackles. Sylvia Braaten thumps Alarie to the ground. Canada recycles and they have an overlap, but somehow fullback Christy Ringgenberg makes the key tackle. Then Meya Bizer forces a knock-on. Any of those tackles miss, and Canada has the game tied up.
#5. From that knock-on in #4, the USA gets a scrum five meters from their line. Despite an almighty Canadian shove, sub loose forward Kristin Zdanczewicz, playing No. 8 gets the ball and runs weak. She links with flanker Shaina Turley, and in a movement that includes Ringgenberg, Braaten, Rozier, and finally Marchino, the Eagles go almost 95 meters. Marchino is just stopped short, but eventually the Eagles do score. That eightman pick from Zdanczewicz, along with the team support that continued the run, helped turn a threatening situation into a game-sealing try.