Sunday, August 7, 2016

Olympic 7s: Eagles Draw With Australia, Make Quarterfinals

The Women Eagles saved their best performance so far for their final pool play match against Australia. Although the match ended in a 12-12 tie on a late Australia try the U.S. played excellent rugby against the number one ranked team in the world and will have to think that they should have come away with the win. After an up and down day yesterday the strong performance, especially defensively, will be a boost for the team as they head into the quarterfinals. 

Going into the match the team knew they either needed a win or a draw against Australia to make the quarterfinals. They could have also made it barring an extremely lopsided loss. Knowing that seemed to allow the team to play more freely and with confidence. Also setting the tone for the match was a huge hit by Kathryn Johnson just seconds in. It let both sides know that this wasn't going to be easy and that the U.S. were here to play. 

If Johnson's hit wasn't enough to get the Eagles energized a big run from Vix Folayan just a few moments later upped the intensity. She was caught just meters short and called for not releasing but it was clear that the U.S. offense was going to find gaps on the day. 

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One aspect in particular that saw the U.S. have success early and often in the match was their work at the breakdown. Both Alev Kelter and Jillion Potter had some big steals that starved Australia of the ball. Unfortunately the U.S. weren't always on the good side of the whistle early either. Despite that strong work at the breakdown a bobbled pass from Potter to Folayan found its way into the hands of an Australia player who raced in for the try. With two minutes left in the half Australia led 5-0. 

Australia had a couple more chances to score before the half but were halted. The U.S. also had a good chance when a hopeful cross field kick was collected by Folayan. She raced down the pitch but a superb effort from the Australia defender pushed her into touch. 

In the second half it was the Jessica Javelet show as the substitute came on and made an immediate impact. After good work from Bui Baravilala to win the ball she sent a pass out to Javelet who turned on the jets and blew past the Australian defense to go under the posts. Baravilala hit the easy conversion and the U.S. led 7-5. 

That lead soon increased to 12-5 when a poor pass from Australia was scooped up by Javelet for the score. The conversion missed but the U.S. were playing with confidence and looked every bit a contender. Australia did score a try at the end of the match to see it end in a tie. If the U.S. had won they would have finished second in the pool and played Great Britain. 

The U.S. will now play New Zealand for a chance at a medal at 5:30 p.m. et/2:30 p.m. pt. 

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