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Ian Muir Photo

The bronze medal match in the Women’s Rugby World Cup saw France defeat USA, 31-23. France started slowly but eventually found their attacking dynamism. USA, meanwhile, never found enough attacking space out wide. France was prepared for the threat of Kristen Thomas and Naya Tapper and tackled well.

It was a frenetic opening five minutes to the match with no break until a scrum in that fifth minute. USA controlled the opening kick, and much of the first quarter of the match. Hope Rogers carried often and well for the Eagles in midfield, but France was able to stifle the Americans ambitions in attack out wide. The Eagles worked through their attacking patterns reasonably well, but were not able to make many line breaks.

When France did have possession in its own half, a good tackle by Alev Kelter limited French options and led to a clearing kick. Abby Gustaitis was the player to give the USA attack momentum and put the French defense under pressure. After the strong Gustaitis run, France committed a penalty. Kelter kicked the penalty goal to put the Eagles up 3-0 after 16 minutes.

There was more good work by USA in attack after the restart until Elodie Poublan ripped the ball from Tapper and gave France its first attacking spark. That spark was blown out when the Eagles intercepted a French pass and Cheta Emba was able to kick well and relieve pressure. Moments later, however, France was back on attack. Jade Le Pesq darted from the base of a ruck and shortly thereafter, Julie Annery had a strong run. France was struggling to produce quick ball, but when the ball was moved wide, Thomas was outnumbered in defense and Lenaig Corson took the ball going forward and Thomas could not bring her down before the try line.

After 21 minutes, France took the lead, 5-3.

The spell of French-dominated possession continued, ending when Rogers committed a penalty at the breakdown. Montserrat Amedee missed the straightforward penalty goal attempt. That miss was quickly forgotten when Carla Neisen made a big, dummy-filled break that created a try for Marjorie Mayans. Amedee’s conversion was good to make the score 12-3.

A few minutes later, a USA knock-on gave France another good attacking opportunity. This time, Gaelle Mignot scored from 22 meters out when a big gap opened in front of her. Shortly before halftime, France led 19-3.

However, USA won the restart and, eventually, a five-meter scrum. Jordan Gray was stopped quickly when she carried from the base of the scrum. After several tight phases, though, Gustaitis was able to reach over the try line and score. The Kelter conversion made it 19-10 at halftime.

The USA momentum continued at the start of the second half, but France was quick to answer. Kelter scored the first points of the second half with another penalty goal. Those three points were answered with five from France.

A nightmarish sequence for the Eagles started with a knock on to end a promising attack, then an entirely dominant French scrum won a penalty, then a French lineout maul that drove downfield and put the defense on its heels, then a try to Le Pesq out wide. That try put the French lead to 24-13 and captured the flow of the match—the good moments from USA were not quite good enough, and France was quick to seize opportunities.

Not long after that French try, another good run by Rogers resulted in another penalty by France. Kelter kicked the penalty goal to make the score 24-16, with USA down by eight.

France was able to surge right back into the USA 22 after the restart. Annery scored the try that finished a move started by a strong run by Corson. Caroline Droiun kicked the difficult conversion to make it 31-16.

The Eagles continued to do well in maintaining possession, but the French defense continued to tackle well and stifle the American attack.

Several minutes after the previous French try, with France in good attacking position, a grubber was put through. Jessica Javelet was able to control the ball with her feet and then move the ball to Emba. Emba tried to kick downfield, but the kick somehow ricocheted off a French player to Kelter. Kelter was able to carry the ball all the way to the French try line before she passed to Emba to put the ball down and claim the try.

Kelter converted the try—31-23. The Eagles were down eight points with nine minutes to play.

From the restart, the Eagles immediately tore off down the field again. This time, though, France was able to recover defensively. The last several minutes saw some sloppy play from both sides and no further points.

With that loss, France claims the bronze and the Eagles finish fourth at the World Cup. This was the last match for USA coach Pete Steinberg. 

USA

1. Hope Rogers 2. Kathryn Augustyn 3. Tiffany Faaee (C) 4. Stacey Bridges 5. Alycia Washingotn 6. Abby Gustaitis 7. Sara Parsons 8. Jordan Gray 9. Deven Owsiany 10. Kayla Canett-Oca 11. Kristen Thomas 12. Alev Kelter 13. Nicole Heavirland 14. Naya Tapper 15. Cheta Emba 16. Samantha Pankey 17. Jamila Reinhardt 18. Naima Reddick 19. Nick James 20. Christine Pheil 21. Jessica Wooden 22. Tess Feury 23.Jessica Javelet

England

1. Lise Arricastre 2. Gaelle Mignot 3. Julie Duval 4. Lenaig Corson 5. Audrey Forlani 6. Marjorie Mayans 7. Julie Annery 8. Romane Menager 9. Jade Le Pesq 10. Caroline Droiun 11. Camille Grassineau 12. Elodie Poublan 13. Carla Neisen 14. Caroline Boujard 15. Montserrat Amedee 16. Caroline Thomas 17. Amaelle Deshayes 18. Patricia Carricaburu 19. Manon Andre 20. Safi N’Diaye 21. Yanna Rivoalen 22. Shannon Izar 23. Elodie Guiglion