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The dramatic Sunday at the HSBC USA 7s continued for the Eagles as they came from behind on the last play to beat France, 21-19, in the cup semifinals. The victory sets up a pool play rematch against New Zealand in the cup final at 5:30 m MT.
France scored as the hooter sounded giving the USA one last attempt to claim victory. All of Team USA worked together across the field that ended in the first ever sevens try for Alena Olsen. Alev Kelter kicked the all-important conversion and the referee whistled a win for the USA.
The USA didn’t panic on that last play and captain Nicole Heavirland said, “I think we stayed cool, calm, and collected. Things didn’t go our way sometimes but we kept a cool head and continued forth... It feels great. We’ve put in a lot of work and to be back home and have that little extra is amazing.
On the prospect of the rematch versus the Black Ferns, Heavirland responded, “Mentally, just climb back up. It’s sevens, anything can happen and continue what we have been doing."
France set the tone early with physical play and the USA defense matched them hit for hit. The USA avoided an early France score when Ilona Maher forced the French ballcarrier into touch inside the five. Soon after, Maher was in the middle of the fight running the hard meters. She offloaded to a streaking Cheta Emba for the 60-meter try. Heavirland connected on the conversion for the 7-0 lead.
With less than three minutes remaining, the teams exchanged possession until France kicked for touch to the USA 40. Successive penalties moved France inside the ten and Montserrat Amedee dove for the line and try. The subsequent conversion tied it up at 7-7 going into halftime.
France recovered the second half kickoff but the USA got the ball back on a penalty. On the set piece, Alev Kelter received the switch from Heavirland and sprinted through the middle of the defense for a 50-meter try.
The French responded with the aid of the USA penalties to tie it at 14-14 when Julie Annery scored from up close. With time ticking down, the last minute subs for both teams entered the fray and France went sideline to sideline, stretching the defense for a go-ahead try from Jessy Tremouliere. France missed the conversion giving the USA one last play to win.
As the clock blinked 0:00, the USA had one final opportunity to advance to the cup final. France kicked off deep and was very aggressive in defense. The USA got out of a few sticky situations in the sequence using the entire field. The all-out effort concluded with Olsen scoring her first ever World Rugby 7s try and Kelter kicked the conversion for the 21-19 victory.
Like they have been doing all tournament, the USA squad came together in a huddle after the match. “Three breaths that cools us, collects us. We stay connected with our eyes while we hold each other,” Heavirland said.
The USA will need everything in the cup final against New Zealand at 5:30 pm MT.