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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dubai 7s: Eagles Women Go Winless On Day One


The Women Eagles came into Dubai with a lot of promise after a solid second half of last season. However, that wouldn't play out on the day as the U.S. slumped to three straight losses, none of them good, and find themselves in the Bowl competition. It's probably the worst way they could have started their season. With some players in new positions and general rust the Eagles made a number of errors--tactical, handling, discipline--that allowed their opponents to dominate possession. The few opportunities they did have to attack were mostly cut short with mistakes. Maybe it's the back-of-the-mind knowledge that they've already qualified for the Olympics but if the Eagles continue to show the form they did today panic buttons should go off across the country, especially with only five stops on the women's Series this year (Clemont was added today).

Eagles 5-12 Ireland

The day began in a disappointing fashion for the Eagles as they lost to an organized Ireland side. As would be a theme throughout the day the Eagles saw small mistakes cost them. A combination of penalties and handling errors saw Ireland gain possession 22 meters from their try zone and soon they converted to lead 5-0. Discipline continued to haunt the Eagles gifting Ireland opportunities time and time again. Exclusively those opportunities came in the U.S. half as the U.S. weren't able to get to the other side of the half before halftime.

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The second half didn't begin well as Alev Kelter was sent to the bin just a minute in. When they finally did get an opportunity when Ireland committed a penalty they immediately turned it back over when the first pass from the tap was knocked on. That immediately led to Ireland pumping in their second try. Suddenly, rather than finding themselves back in the match the Eagles were down 12-0.

The Eagles did finish the match off on a high note. Jessica Javelet showed some show and go to work her way down the pitch. She was caught and after it looked like they would have a break on the other wing they had to work before Richelle Stephens finally scored. That put the score at 12-5 with a couple of minutes to play. Still, Ireland did a good job of winding down the clock and more mistakes from the Eagles killed any opportunity to even the match before time ran out.

Starters: Bonny, Potter, Thomas, Doyle, Kelter, Paar, Williams

Eagles 19-24 Fiji

Coming off their loss to Ireland the Eagles needed to get off to a bright start against Fiji to keep their hopes of making the Cup quarterfinals alive. Unfortunately for the Eagles Fiji picked up right where they left off against Canada with a series of nice offloads and line break to go up 5-0 only thirty seconds in.  It took a couple of minutes but they soon picked up their second try. Off a penalty for tackling a player without the ball Fiji used simple passes and a couple of missed tackles from the U.S. to work it in for an easy try and a 10-0 lead.

Fiji continued to dominate possession the first half and the first real stretch with the ball for the Eagles came with two minutes remaining. That was quickly cut out with a penalty and it was made worse with Nia Williams being sent to the bin for throwing the ball away. That almost let Fiji pick up their third only to be saved by a tackle from Alev Kelter. Just to show how dominant Fiji were in the half they once led passes completed 24-2.

All that said, the half did end on a positive note. Finally being able to keep possession and with safe runs from Lauren Doyle, Kristen Thomas was able to break through a couple of tackles for the try. That cut the lead in half at 10-5 at the break.

A mistake on the second half restart put the Eagles on the front foot early. A heads up play from Nia Williams to collect a popped up ball at the breakdown saw the Eagles take their first lead of the match at 12-10 after the try was converted. Another Fiji mistake at the restart nearly gave the U.S. another chance before Fiji earned a penalty. With the possession it was only a matter of time before Fiji retook the lead on a long break that saw the Fijian player only touched by one defender.

The U.S. hit right back. Collecting the restart the ball was feed quickly out to Megan Bonny who zig-zigged her way through a couple of players to go over. It all came thanks to a offload from Kelter who then hit the difficult conversion. With two minutes left the Eagles led 19-17. But the nature of the match held and more creative offloads from Fiji saw them return to the advantage at 24-19. They then held on after the U.S. knocked on the restart.

Starters: Bonny, Potter, Thomas, Doyle, Kelter, Stephens, Williams

Eagles 5-35 Canada

Canada were always expected to be the toughest opponent in the pool and prior to the tournament the U.S. had hoped to have this match as a showdown for the top spot in the pool. Instead it became a fight for survival to see if the Eagles could grab a Cup quarterfinal spot. Things didn't go according to plan as Canada pumped in three first half tries on their way to the win. It began with the Eagles being forced to defend for a long period of time yet again. Eventually that led to a gap that Karen Paquin exploited for the first try. Canada picked up their second try with solid work at the breakdown to earn a turnover and then a few phases later they were in with Magali Harvey.

The U.S. did rebound with a couple of minutes left in the half when Nia Williams put in a nifty move to get through the defense. However, that momentum quickly disappeared as straight from the restart Canada kept their composure and found numbers out wide for Paquin to pick up her second. In the second half Jen Kish and Harvey scored to finish things off.

Starters: Johnson, Potter, Thomas, Javelet, Kelter, Stephens, Williams

Overall the Eagles looked out of their depth on the day. While other countries looked to have made a lot of positive changes on the offseason, at least for today, the Eagles looked disjointed and like a team re-tooling, despite qualifying for the Olympics and a team that finished in the Cup semi-finals the last two stops of last season. They will have a chance to rebound in the Bowl where nothing less than a win will suffice. Then they will have a long break to think about day one in Dubai until the Sao Paulo 7s in late February.


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