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It didn’t look pretty early on, but the United States banked the needed win and bonus point against Kazakhstan Tuesday in Marcoussis, France to keep quarterfinal hopes alive. Kazakhstan scored first and looked menacing early on, but the Eagles found their form later in the second half and eventually cruised to victory.
The Nomads’ blitz defense puzzled the USA’s offense in the early stages, with the ball often getting stuck in the centers. The American backs continued to try and go wide, nonetheless, and flyhalf Anna Yakovleva picked off a Kittery Wagner pass and ran in comfortably for the game’s first try. Converted, the score put the Nomads up 7-0.
The Eagles dominated possession and territory throughout the entire first half, and the Eagles’ constant offense finally wore the Nomads enough for Nathalie Marchino to find some space on the wing and run around the defense for the USA’s first try near the 20th minute. Hannah Stolba missed the conversion, leaving Kazakhstan up 7-5.
The United States found some space again on the opposite edge following a Kazakhstan penalty and an attacking American lineout. The Eagles went hands out, sending one dummy runner in the midfield, and Bui Baravilala punched the ball up towards the try line. Quick ball was dished to Vanesha McGee, who snuck in at the corner to give the Eagles a 10-7 lead with 10 minutes to play in the half. The difficult conversion was missed.
Just a few minutes later, Marchino made a big play, cutting against the grain of the Nomad defense and evading a couple of defenders before offloading to Wagner for the try, putting the Eagles up 15-7 going into halftime.
Three minutes into the second half the USA secured the necessary bonus point when lock Sharon Blaney broke through the Nomad defense and passed to Stolba, who ran in untouched. Stolba converted her own try, putting the USA up 22-7 and opening the floodgates.
Shortly thereafter, Lynelle Kugler made a break a phase after a lineout and put Emilie Bydwell away for the USA’s fifth try of the game. Stolba slotted the conversion, making it 29-7.
The scrum provided the platform for the Eagles’ next try. They went right off the attacking 40-meter set piece, then left, and Sylvia Braaten found enough space in the corner to dive in. Stolba missed the conversion, making it 34-7 with about 25 minutes to play.
Braaten scored her second off a stolen lineout. Kazakhstan struggled in the set pieces all day, and they gave away possession deep in their own end this time. Meya Bizer made a big break off the turnover, and Braaten was there for a crash ball after the 20-year-old Nittany Lion was brought down. The conversion attempt was missed, leaving the USA up 39-7.
Perhaps just to give Stolba some confidence back after missing a flurry of difficult conversions, the Eagles chose to go for posts in the 71st minute. Stolba hit the chip shot, extending the lead to 42-7.
Bizer joined the scoring party with a try in the 75th minute. Deven Owsiany took a crash ball hard through the Kazakhstan defense, and she offloaded to a streaking Bizer from the deck. Stolba missed the conversion, and it was 47-7.
The Eagles are guaranteed just one more match in this tournament, the final pool showdown with mighty New Zealand Saturday Aug. 9 at 10:30am EDT. They need to beat the Black Ferns to advance.
Tries: Marchino, McGee, Bizer, Braaten (2), Stolba, Bydwell, Wagner
Cons: Stolba (2)