You are here

Ian Muir photo

The cup chase for the USA women ended in the semifinals Saturday in front of a nearly full Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas with a 12-7 loss to New Zealand. The Eagles took the lead early and were combative throughout, ultimately earning a shot to steal the game at the death but falling short.

They’ll have one more match to determine who gets bronze against Canada at 5:40 p.m. This marks the second-straight top-four finish, which will move the Eagles solely into fourth place in the World Series standings past Russia.   

Alev Kelter secured the opening kickoff after it bounced around a bit, but the Eagles were turned over via penalty in the next breakdown. New Zealand quickly returned the favor, and Kristen Thomas plucked the ball from a ruck and sprinted up the touch line for a try. Nicole Heavirland slotted the conversion putting the USA up 7-0.

The Kiwis won possession on the restart and went on the offensive. The USA defense was organized, mostly, through several phases, as New Zealand marched slowly toward pay dirt. Heavirland even forced a turnover near the five-meter mark, but the Kiwis won it back promptly to score in the corner. The conversion was missed, leaving the Eagles up by two.

Every breakdown seemed to be a separate, heated battled, leaving the referee to pick a side more often than not. Some of those decisions went against the USA in the end of the half, putting New Zealand on the offensive. After some impressive goal line defense, the Ferns attempted a grubber through, but the ball was knocked on, allowing the USA to hold onto the lead going into halftime.  

The USA nearly stole a Kiwi lineout early in the second stanza, but it went forward off Thomas. New Zealand won the scrum and spun it wide for the easiest score of the game so far. With the conversion, it gave them the lead, 12-7.

The Eagles mounted an offensive with a series of semi-static offloads near midfield, but the last one went forward, surrendering possession near New Zealand’s 22. A big, shooting tackle from Kate Zackary helped Heavirland steal the ball back, but Nikki Snyder knocked on the pick up, keeping the ball in New Zealand’s hands with 75 seconds on the clock.

Bulou Mataitoga delivered another thunderous hit off the scrum, turning the ball over and giving the USA one last shot. A Kiwi penalty teed up that shot even more nicely in the middle of the field on the 22, but the Eagles chose a series of pick-and-goes and tight runs over spinning the ball to space, and they lost the ball in a ruck, allowing New Zealand to clear the ball to touch and seal the win.