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After dropping its first match of the HSBC USA Women’s 7s in Glendale, Colo., the USA rebounded to beat China, 24-21. Following a 7-7 first half, reserve Ilona Maher made her presence known scoring back-to-back tries to open up a 17-7 lead. China bounced back with a try, but Alev Kelter’s try after returning from the sin bin sealed the match for the Eagles.
“After the first game against England, we wanted to come out and use our strength which was our defensive effort,” Alev Kelter said. “We had a great individual runs from Ilona Maher and we have a lot more work to clean up. We are excited for that shot against New Zealand.”
This is Kelter’s first tournament back from injury and she showed why she is an asset on the team. “It’s good to be back making tackles and having the support there to do that. [On the try,] I saw the defense sliding and there was an open gap. If there is a gap and I can go through untouched, I have free reign to do so.”
The USA got the first crack at the ball following a penalty on the kickoff but gave it right back. As seen in the first match, the defense was strong and when Keyi Chen broke free, Kelter brought her down easily. Following the tackle and turn over, Lauren Doyle passed to Gustaitis who slipped a tackle for the 20-meter try.
China responded with a lengthy offensive possession that constantly probed the defense for holes. It finally found one and Hongting Ruan took a gap for the 60-meter run to tie the game at 7-7.
After a knock-on on the restart, China set up shop at the 22 of the USA. A big tackle by Kelter and a try-saving hit by Nicole Heavirland prevented China from scoring at the end of the half and the game was tied going into the break.
Maher was subbed in at the end of the first half and she immediately took over the game when the whistle sounded. Following a contested restart, Maher out-sprinted her counterpart for a 50-meter try and then piled on with another 50-meter try a minute later.
Up 17-7, Kelter was sent off with a yellow card and China took advantage. After a TMO review, Yu Hu was awarded a try under the posts. The conversion closed the gap to 17-14 with less than two minutes remaining.
Kelter came back on the pitch after the Chinese try and found daylight through the middle of the defense for the eventual game-winner. China’s Xiaoqian Liu scored a try late, but the Eagles prevailed 24-21.
USA’s final match of Day 1 is at 5:04 pm MST against New Zealand, who is 2-0 with wins against China and England.