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It’s been two months since the USA lost to New Zealand in the cup semifinal in Langford, British Columbia and the Eagles have been itching for some payback ever since. On Saturday on the biggest stage of the Rugby World Cup 7s in San Francisco, Calif., the USA got its shot at redemption and unfortunately failed to advance to the final with a 26-21 loss to the Black Ferns.
After New Zealand took the lead with a Michaela Blyde try, the USA answered with a score from Naya Tapper around the corner. On the ensuing restart, USA’s aerial attack proved fruitful and Tapper added to her try count to lead 14-7. The Black Ferns had the last laugh though as Ruby Tui scored in the corner following a restart penalty to close the half only down by two points.
New Zealand clamped down the defense in the second half and took the lead on an 95-meter scamper by Gayle Broughton. After back and forth penalties in USA territory, Portia Woodman made her mark scoring on the wing. Lauren Doyle added a try at the end for the Eagles, but the time expired before her team could get any closer.
“We took it to them [in the first half], took it to the contact area. We made them a little comfortable and played to our strengths,” Cheta Emba said. “The mistakes [in the second half] were unfortunate, but we just have to roll with it and keep climbing. We did that as much as we could and unfortunately the clock ran out.”
Although the USA lost, Heavirland was proud of how her team played. “We played like a team, we keep rising, we keep getting better, and we’ll be just fine... We want to represent our country and all the female athletes to want to play rugby and male athletes included.”
Defense was paramount for New Zealand and how it played in the second half proved that. “Going into this tournament in the first place was that defense was going to win us games,” Portia Woodman said. “I thought if we could stay connected, make them get out wide as that’s where they like to score.”
“Once we got into the second half, we had to stick to our basics, stick to our core roles. Me as a striker being out wide was to get the ball and run as hard as I could. Once we got up in the second half, it was realizing basics are going to win this game.”
It’s not the end for the USA as the Eagles will play Australia for third place at 7:22 pm PST.
“The game of 7s is so quick and that’s not our last game,” Emba said. “It happened and it’s on to what’s next. We have to get back, recover, and take it to it to the next game.”
“It’s rugby. Everyone understands that you forget real quick because the next one is coming right up,” Heavirland concluded.