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USA’s remarkable run to the HSBC USA 7s tournament title was stopped short as New Zealand stretched its unbeaten streak to 33 games with a 33-7 victory in the cup final at Infinity Park in Glendale. The Black Ferns’ Portia Woodman scored a hat trick in the test and their support play was unmatched all tournament long.
“[We] were playing against the best team by a long way,” USA head coach Chris Brown said reacting to the loss. “They haven’t been beaten in the last 33 times. The challenge for us is that when we play clinically in a certain aspect, they’ll finish. Unlike what we threw against Australia and France, when weren’t quite clinical, we were able to cover up, stay in the game, and fight our way into it. That wasn’t the case today.”
“There is a lot of potential here. A lot of these girls are still learning situational things on the rugby pitch and how to execute certain skill sets. We are at the beginning of a new phase and hopefully, as we continue to progress over the next three or four months, a lot of habits will start to happen.”
The USA struck first when Cheta Emba pop-passed from the ground to Nicole Heavirland. The USA lead didn’t last long as New Zealand’s Woodman beat Naya Tapper on the wing to tie it up at 7-7.
The Eagles attempted to get the offense going but were stopped by the Black Ferns’ solid defense or penalties. Once it regained possession, New Zealand went with what worked the first time by isolating Woodman on the wing. This time, she outraced Emba for the 14-7 tally.
On the final play of the first half, the Eagles endeavored to move the ball effectively but were penalized. Trying to cover wide, the USA left the middle exposed and Sarah Goss took advantage of a big hole for the 21-7 halftime lead.
In the second half, New Zealand played conservatively and emphasized ball possession. The Black Ferns, who were helped by the referee at times, showed their superior skill. Niall Williams and Woodman added tries in the second half and on the final play, the Black Ferns kicked the ball into touch for the 33-7 victory and tournament gold medal.
Coach Brown was immensely proud of how his team stepped up their play on Sunday. “I’m proud that they were willing to grow, willing to learn, willing to be vulnerable as a group. We had a great session last night just sharing how we actually thought about day one, what actually happened, and what were the emotions we went through. This morning they made a decision and wanted to stick to the plan and show what they have been working on in the last few months. That’s what I’m most proud of.”