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Team USA defeated Russia 21-12 Friday in Dubai, advancing to the cup final against Olympic champion Australia at 8:15 a.m. ET. It’s the team’s first final appearance in five tournaments, the last coming in Sydney last year, where the Eagles fell to Canada.
Naya Tapper committed an early turnover with an ill-advised forward pass as she tried to offload out of a tackle. But the ball was won back in the scrum. The Eagles went on attack, but struggled to meet the gainline, creating some sloppy play.
Span, though, lost the ball forward in a tackle and committed a penalty by killing the ball. The Eagles looked to be going in for the first score, but Sara Parsons attempted a no-look pass intended for Tapper, and it resulted in a knock on.
The Eagles turned the ball over in a second consecutive scrum, and Alev Kelter stepped inside one defender and slipped through the fingertips of another, scurrying under the posts. Kelter converted her own score, 7-0 with just over two minutes left in the half.
Kelter added the second score in short order. Russia couldn’t handle the restart, so the Eagles scooped it up. Kelter took a tight pass just off a ruck from Nicole Heavirland, rumbling in for her second score. She remained perfect on kicks, giving the Eagles a 14-0 lead going into the break.
Russia got on the board first in the second half when Elena Zdrokova found space between Heavirland and Ryan Caryle, sprinting through the gap and striding out under the posts. The conversion was made, slicing the lead in half.
Back-to-back self-inflicted errors led to Russia’s next score. First Abby Gustaitis was tackled into touch, turning the ball over. Then Heavirland committed a penalty in a ruck deep in the American end. Off that possession, Baizat Khamidova found room around the Eagle defensive line for a try in the corner. The difficult kick was missed, and the USA clung to a two-point lead.
The Eagles regained territory with a probing run by Heavirland off the base of a ruck, and Tapper took the out pass into the attacking five meter. Russia won the ball back, but took it into its own in-goal and grounded it, leading to a five-meter scrum for the Eagles. Off it Heavirland squirted into the try zone.
Kelter converted, putting the Eagles nine points clear with just enough time for a restart, meaning no matter if Russia scored, the game would go to the USA. Kelter managed to get her foot on a loose ball, clearing it to touch for the win.