Women’s Day 1 Match Recaps
The USA women’s team met Ireland to start things off at the USA Sevens. The Americans began on the right foot with an early try from captain Alev Kelter. The captain converted her own try to give the Eagles a 7–0 lead. A converted try a short while later by Ireland drew the match level. Ireland was able to strike once more before the half to take a 12–7 lead at the break.
In the second half, the Eagles took the lead after a astonishing run from Naya Tapper found the edge of the Irish defense, allowing Tapper to score in the shadow of the post. Nicole Heavirland slotted the simple conversion for the slim 14–12 advantage. The Eagles looked to be in control a short while later when Kelter added her second try of the match. Perhaps more impressive than the physical effort to cap off the try was the long-distance conversion to push the lead to two scores. Despite time winding down, Ireland had the resilience to fight back. A quick converted score drew Ireland within two. The restart came with a minute and a half left in the match. An inability for the Americans to bring in the restart kick allowed Ireland to instantly get on the front foot and dot it down in the far right corner. Ireland won a penalty in the process. Ireland was able to boot to touch in lieu of the kickoff. With just enough time for the lineout, the Irish won another penalty and was able to kick into touch to end the match: Ireland 24, USA 21.
The loss will haunt the Americans because it was a match that they could have won. Fortunately, there remain two more matches on the day, and wins in the next two matches will keep team USA on the path to return to the final as they had in Sydney last month.
Continuing the exciting play to start Day 1, Fiji and Spain played a tight match that came down to a single missed conversion. Spain struck early to take a 5–0 lead, but Fiji soon answered with a converted try to take the lead. Spain answered back with a converted try to move back in front 12–7 with a minute left in the half. Undaunted, Fiji added one more converted try to take the 14–12 lead at the break. In the second half, Fiji added a third converted try and Spain was only able to add one more converted try. In the end, Fiji held on 21–19.
In one of the most heavily anticipated matches of the morning, Sydney champion Canada squared off with Russia, the bronze medalist in Dubai. The Canadians didn’t take long to remind why they have been the recent class of the series. Canada jumped out to a 22–0 lead before Russia was able to get on the scoreboard just before the half, to pull within 22–7. The match never got closer. In the second half, team Canada added twelve unanswered points. Russia remained fierce in trying to add a consolation score, but the energy failed to pay off. Canada 34, Russia 7
Despite two nations with very proud rugby traditions, this was the first time France and Argentina had ever met in Women’s World Series play. France, a core team, proved how difficult it can be for a non-core team to compete on the Series. France pulled to a well earned 38–0 lead by purely outclassing Argentina in every phase of the game. An excellent inside move sent Argentina through for a deserved converted try, but unsound fundamentals cost Argentina on the resulting kickoff as it went out on the full. France took the free kick for a remarkably easy try. With just enough time for the restart, and recognizing that every point is important in reaching the quarterfinal, France tried to add another, but could not. France 45–7.
There is a reason that the small island nation of New Zealand is synonymous with rugby: fundamentally sound execution at a high level match after match. The match was far from the flashiest, but New Zealand took control of the match early and locked into strong defense and methodical attack to find themselves on top 24–0 at the end of the match. The Brazilians had moments where they looked poised to cut into the lead. Nevertheless, New Zealand showed a persistent ability to turn Brazil’s small mistakes into large opportunities.
England struck first, but the Olympic gold medalists were not going to go down easily. A brace for Emilee Cherry, both capping excellent team movements, propelled Australia to the 14–7 lead midway through. The second half started with a phenomenal individual effort by Ellia Green to extend the Australian lead to two full scores. Cherry’s hat trick completing try, appeared to put the match out of reach. Still, an England seven-pointer with two minutes left, followed by an Australian error in the restart, gave England some life with an attacking scrum just outside the Australia 22. Unfortunately for England’s fans, the team was unable to overcome late errors, instead yielding a second try for Green. Australia 31, England 14.
The Eagles jumped on Spain early with a try from Katherine Zackary from the stolen kickoff. With under three minutes left in the half, Spain caught the edge of the American defensive line setting up a converted score for the lead. On the stroke of halftime, American captain Alev Kelter continued her phenomenal start to the tournament with a steal and try for the narrow lead at the half. In the second half, Spain threatened numerous times but committed too many errors to add to their score line. The best opportunity for Spain ended up in a disaster ours reversal when sloppy ball carrying led to a Naya Tapper end-to-end run for a try under the post. Nicole Heavirland slotted the conversion to put team USA in front 17–7. Zackary would soon add another try for herself to extend the lead to 22–7. With only thirty seconds remaining, Spain continued to press to cut down on the margin off loss, and looked likely to do so when Kelter was sent off with a yellow card for a high tackle. Instead, despite playing a woman down, it was the Americans who looked most likely to add another score. With the board showing zeroes, a Spanish ball carrier was dragged into touch to end the match.
The victory was crucial for team USA’s hopes of reaching the quarterfinal. Boasting a plus-twelve point differential, the Eagles may still be able to advance even with a loss to Fiji to end the day.
Fiji managed an impressive 12–0 lead at the half. Tina Ravisa’s try in second half was classic Fijian magic, as a series of quick one-handed offloads managed to trip up the Irish defenders, allowing Ravisa to cap it off (19–0). With five minutes left, Stacey Flood’s pass directly Anna Maria Roqica dashed any hope Ireland had of pulling out the victory. (26–0). Flood bounced back from her mistake with a cracking run to midfield. Flood’s hard work from there paid off with a try in the corner, to prevent the shutout. Ireland looked to have one more try on offer, but Fiji showed tremendous speed to get back in defense to prevent a try that might have been thought a foregone conclusion. Fiji was rewarded for the effort with one more converted try to win by the astonishing margin of 31–5.
It took less than fifty seconds for Natasha Watcham-Roy to stroll over for the first Canadian score of the match, converted by Breanne Nicholas. After being dismantled by France, Argentina has shown a great deal of improvement, but not enough to stop the Bianca Farella try from the offload by Sara Kaljuvee. With Nicholas’s second conversion, Canada extended its lead to 14. Argentina looked destined to give up a third try after dropping the kickoff, but a remarkable intercept and score by Valeria Montero gave Sofia Gonzalez the privilege of slotting a conversion to pull within seven of the Sydney Sevens champions. The narrow margin did not hold for long, as Nicholas, clearly tired of converting the tries of others, burst through the Argentine defense for a try of her own, which she converted for the 21–7 lead at the intermission.
To start the second half, for the second time in the match, Canada’s restart pinned Argentina against the touchline causing a lineout. Argentina’s improvement over its first match was clearly evident in the second half, holding off Canada for three and a half minutes of continuous pressure. In the end, Charity Williams was too much to be stopped. The try appeared to have broken Argentina’s resolve, as Bianca Farella made easy work of Argentina in adding her second try. Not satisfied with a brace, Farella capped the match with one last try for the hat trick. Canada 38, Argentina 7. Although the scoreline does not reflect it, Argentina looked much better in this match than it had against France.
France entered the match on the back of a very impressive win over Argentina, while Russia started with a drubbing by Canada. Nevertheless, Russia struck first for the 5–0 lead. Capitalizing on a bone-crunching tackle to force a turnover on the restart, Russia added a second try for the 10–0 lead. A third unconverted score before the half place France under tremendous pressure. Instead of rising to the challenge, France surrendered a fourth try and conversion to fall behind 22–0 on halftime.
France finally showed signs of life in the second half, resulting in a try for captain Fanny Horta, and a conversion for Clemence Gueucier. Some confusion in the Russian defensive line led to a second try for France; this time from Gueucier. Montserrat Amedee added a third try and the conversion with almost three minutes remaining to pull within three. France looked to narrowly avoided another try for Russia with an interception, but was called back for a penalty. With no time remaining, France was awarded a scrum on its own twenty-two. A penalty a short while later, looked to give France a chance, but a knock on inside the Russian five meter, preserved the Russian victory.
England started pinned back by a deep kickoff. Despite retaining possession for more than a minute, the New Zealand defense eventually forced a turnover and crossed for the five-pointer. An error on the kickoff gave England a free kick. The advantageous field position resulted in an England try from Emily Wood to level the match a quarter way in. New Zealand retook the lead a couple minutes later when Portia Woodman managed to twist up two defenders with a jab step to clear her path. With no time remaining in the half, England was awarded a scrum inside its own ten-meter line. England won the scrum but worked the ball wide. New Zealand’s Theresa Fitzpatrick forced a turnover, soon leading to a try by Alena Saili courtesy of a perfectly executed pass by captain Sarah Goss.
Both sides battled early in the second half, but it was New Zealand to strike first when Kelly Brazier broke through the English ranks for a try under the post. Finally gifted with an easy opportunity, Tyla Nathan-Wong added the conversion. A second New Zealand try in the half, and an early contender for try of the tournament, came for Michaela Blyde after she slammed through a tackle and dragged a second tackler for a try in the corner. A second consecutive changeup at the restart caught England flat footed. The swarming New Zealand defense looked to force a turnover, but surrendered a scrum feed to England instead. Still, a penalty in the Scrum turned things back to New Zealand. As time expired, New Zealand tried a kick and chase without support, but England was backed up and conceded a dot down in their own in-goal to end the match. New Zealand 27, England 5.
Australia’s kickoff did not go ten, gifting Brazil a free kick to start the match. Brazil soon squandered the opportunity by conceding a penalty just inside the Australian half. Australia soon gave it back with a forward pass and a penalty in the resulting scrum. The Australians looked atypically sloppy to start the match. In the end, it didn’t matter, because the talent of Australia prevailed, leading to a converted try by Chloe Dalton. Still less than crisp, Australia added a second try by way of Emma Tonegato. A third try came after the hooter by Mahalia Murphy, fresh off the bench to spell Tonegato. Dalton made short work of the tough conversion for the comfortable 19–0 lead at the close of the first half. Still, Australia should have expected a wider margin seven minutes in after Brazil continued to gift the ball back on errors.
Brazil’s deep kickoff gave Australia a lineout deep in its own half. Australia took the lineout cleanly and looked through to score, but the Brazilian defense held strong after giving up a great deal of territory. Brazil was soon gifted by a penalty against Australia’s Ellia Green for lifting and slamming her opposite number. Green was shown a yellow, leaving her side a woman down. Even playing six on seven, Australia’s Emilee Cherry was too much for Brazil, adding the first try of the half. Sure-footed Dalton, added her third conversion of the match with just over three minutes left. The score also marked the end of Green’s yellow card. Brazil was able to take possession after the restart but a poor attempt at a quick pass fell into the hands of Charlotte Caslick ultimately setting up yet another try for Cherry. With energy reserves still full following her sin binning, Green finished the match with one last score. Australia 38, Brazil 0.
After the opening loss to Ireland, American fans had to wonder if the Eagles were resorting to the form that they saw at Dubai. At the end of Day 1, however, it looks like the team USA we saw in Sydney remains. Mind you, it certainly was not easy.
Facing undefeated Fiji, the Eagles had their hands full. From the word go, it was a back and forth match with each team demonstrating a supreme desire to win. Early on, each team looked poised to score only for a superb effort on defense to prevent the score. After four minutes of seesaw action, the Americans looked gassed. Fiji when Fiji cracked through the defense for a try under the post by captain Anna Maria Roqica. Lavini Tinai’s conversion stretched the lead to a full score. But team USA answered back when Naya Tapper saved a disastrous pass from turning into a Fijian try, instead turning it up field for great territory which ultimately culminated in a try for American captain Alev Kelter. Nicole Heavirland’s conversion drew the match level, where it stood at halftime.
The second half started inauspiciously as Kelter’s kickoff failed to travel ten meters, giving Fiji a free kick. Numerous times in the half, Fiji looked set to take the lead. Instead, indefatigable efforts by the American women, especially Tapper, avoided surrendering a single point in the second half. Ultimately, it was Tapper who found a gap in the Fijian defense and burst through for a try under the post with two minutes remaining. Heavirland’s second conversion gave the Eagles the 14–7 lead. With time winding down, Fiji picked up a penalty inside the USA ten-meter line. Fiji stretched the ball wide but the American defense stood firm. The Americans forced a turnover and Heavirland booted for touch to claim the win and close the day 2–1. The result certainly locks team USA into the quarterfinal. The only question is where they will finish in the pool.
All eyes of the home crowd fans turned to the Ireland–Spain match. A win for Spain would give team USA the top seed in the pool. A loss win for Ireland, would almost certainly mean a second seed for team USA, barring a dramatic margin of victory. Despite the early form for Ireland to start the day, the side wilted as the day wore on. A thumping at the hands of Fiji seemed to carry over into the first half against Spain. The Spanish scored first to take a 7–0 lead. After the hooter, Ireland finally looked set to get on the scoreboard but gave up a penalty inside the Spanish five-meter. Spain kicked for touch to end the half.
Ireland was much better to start the second half. A strong run by Alison Miller spurred an eventual try for Megan Williams on the other side of the field. Williams managed to turn in from the right touchline to score under the post. The conversion knotted it up. Following the kickoff, Ireland won a penalty at the Spain ten -meter line. Ireland kicked for touch to the Spanish twenty-two and won the lineout. The Irish women looked to have an angle for a possible score, but the pass was deemed forward, giving Spain a scrum at its twenty-two. Captain Barbara Pla for Spain tore up the right touch line, but her pass back inside was intercepted. Spain soon won a penalty and with it the ball. Pla’s hard work before supported her hard work after the penalty, giving her a try under the post. The conversion put Spain once more in front by a full score. With under two minutes left, Ireland took the restart kick and won a penalty inside its own half with under a minute. Ireland’s Miller found a gap on the left wing and scored to the left of the post. Unfortunately Amaia Erbina of Spain was injured in the process. The conversion tied it up with just enough time for one final restart. Spain caught it in the air and, to the chagrin of American fans, tried to run it. Ireland ended up pulling Spain to touch. The resulting draw meant that team USA holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with Fiji and will top the pool.
In the Pool A decided, Canada jumped out to a 7–0 lead, but France answered back through captain Fanny Horta and a conversion by Montserrat Amedee. France kicked the resulting restart deep directly to a quickly formed Canadian offensive line. Canada instantly charged ahead on attack, with Brittany Benn doing the lion’s share of work before captain Ghislaine Landry finished it off with a try under the post. Adding her own conversion, Canada stop in front 14–7 to start the second half.
In the second half, France fought hard but just could not do enough to crack into Canada’s lead. Instead, it was Canada to add the only second half points after Kayla Moleschi stripped a French ball carrier and shot away untouched for a try under the post. At the end of the match, Canada stood where it started the day: the class of Pool A. Canada 21, France 7.
Argentina entered the match having been on the receiving end of two harsh lessons in the skills required to compete on the Series, having lost 45–7 to France and 38–7 to Canada. In the end, the result against France was little different. Nevertheless, Argentina showed dramatic improvement throughout the day even if the scoreboard didn’t bear that out. Russia had to put in a great deal of work to pull out to a 19–0 lead at the half, although Argentina narrowly escaped another try thanks to a penalty. Argentina came up just short of breaking through for a try to end the half. The Argentines were capable of strong individual efforts but just could not gel sufficiently as a team to complete the attacking phases. In the second half, Argentina held tough for quite a while, even forcing Russia to concede a yellow card. However, despite playing six on seven, Russia was able to add a fourth try, and soon blew the match open adding a second converted try of the half and third unconverted try to end the match. Russia 36, Argentina 0. The loss leaves Argentina at the bottom of Pool A and elevates Russia to the second seed.
The highly anticipated rematch of the Olympic gold medal match, saw Australia as the slight favorites over arch nemesis New Zealand. Ruby Tui had the first good look at breaking free for a score, but Charlotte Caslik managed to close the seam. A seeming cheap shot by Australia captain Shannon Parry left Tui shaken up after the run, but New Zealand kept its poise and was justly rewarded when Portia Woodman found a gap and exploded up the middle for a try dead center of in-goal. Tyla Nathan-Wong chipped over the conversion with 2:30 left in the opening period. Australia took the restart well, but miscommunication between Caslick and Chloe Dalton led to a turnover and soon left Australia watching Portia Woodman cross for her second try from an offload by captain Sarah Goss. As the hooter sounded, Emilee Cherry finally found an opening to rid Australia of the goose egg on the scoreboard. Dalton’s conversion made it a one-score match midway through.
Australia had to battle to get the restart, but ultimately the ball got to Caslick who managed to fend a tackle and keep her balance for the leveler a matter of seconds into the second half. Dalton added the conversion. What looked to be a perfect restart from Dalton was taken flawlessly by Niall Williams. Williams was dragged down just shy of the line, but managed to toss the ball to the boot of Michaela Blyde trailing who was able to get a hand on the ball in-goal for the try to move back in front by A full seven points. In the end, New Zealand would hold on for the win but not before a serious injury to an Australian player and a trip through the concussion protocol for New Zealand’s Kelly Brazier. With New Zealand prevailing, it will top Pool C, setting up a date tomorrow for Australia against the surging USA Eagles.
As pool play in the women’s competition wound to a close, England took the pitch against Brazil. The heavily favored English contingent wasted no time scoring a try in the first sixty seconds. Another first-half score pushed the lead to 12–0 late into the half. With a minute remaining in the half, came a third call in the last two matches for the physios to address a potential neck/head injury. Despite playing for over a minute down a woman, due to the injury, Brazil managed to power into the England ten-meter and win a penalty. At that point, the match was paused to allow attention for the injured player. Brazil kicked to set up a lineout, but England stole it away. A slight knock on by England ended the half with Brazil threatening at the England five-meter line.
Brazil took the kickoff and pressed up the right touchline before being forced out. England took the lineout quickly, but soon gave the ball back with a penalty at the Brazil ten-meter. Brazil kicked for touch just inside the England ten-meter line. Having won the throw, Brazil probed the English defense and continued to keep good attacking structure and space. Moving the ball from one touchline to the other, Brazil systematically moved inside the England twenty-two. Once inside the twenty-two, however, an ill-advised pass resulted in a turnover, and England was quickly inside the Brazilian twenty-two, but once again unable to finish it off. The resilient South Americans managed to work back into the England twenty-two earning a scrum feed ten meters out of the goal line. Although Brazil won the scrum, a poor pass and poorer decision to wait on the ball to arrive led to a reversal of fortune, giving England a scrum just shy of its own twenty-two. As before, Brazil refused to make things easy for England, and soon won the ball back, stick deep in England territory, winning a penalty just outside the England twenty-two with the hooter sounding. A missed reception led to a knock on to end day 1 and leave Brazil winless.