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U.S. Women Tie 1st Youth Olympics Match

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U.S. Women Tie 1st Youth Olympics Match

The U.S. Women tied Spain 12-12 in the opening round of the Youth Olympic Games. Two Fallbrook High School players - flyhalf Richelle Stephens and wing Michel Navarro - accounted for the tries.
 
In the opening minute, the U.S. surrendered an attacking opportunity when Spain's scrumhalf forced a knock-on in the game's first scrum. But the U.S.'s #9, Tess Feury, made amends by stealing the subsequent scrum and skirting up the weak side. The ball worked out to Stephens, who sent a skip pass to Navarro on the wing. The high school junior fended her opposite and circled to the center of the try zone. Stephens slotted the conversion for the 7-0 lead.
 
The U.S. was winning the territory battle during the first half, but handling errors prevented fluidity on offense. Spain was also very good at getting in the passing lane - although their interference, in the first half, was producing knock-ons and not interceptions.
 
Right before the half, the scrumhalf battle waged on, but Feury let it get the better of her as she tackled her opposite without the ball. From that penalty, some broken play followed and Amaia Arana finally took advantage of an uneven defense, taking a long-range sprint beneath the post. The conversion made it 7-7 in to the break.
 
A couple of early errors in the second half - a penalty kick that didn't reach touch, errant outlet passes that allowed the defense to swarm - helped Spain stay on the front foot, and a couple of try-saving tackles were needed from Feury and Stephens. After one such tackle, scrappy play followed, and the Spanish ballcarrier did a good job of keeping her feet while keeping Tiffany Person at bay. It allowed enough time for Raquel Godin to circle back around for the hand-off and then take on Kat Ramage on the wing. It was a mismatch in speed, and Godin won the race, 12-7. 
 
Two-and-a-half minutes remained, and the U.S. received favorable field position when Spain's kickoff didn't go 10 meters - by inches. Feury tapped from the 50, and Stephens looped into space. The ball worked to the opposite sideline, but then a soft pass to wing Danielle Walko-Siua nearly killed the drive as the defense looked to poach. But the saavy Walko-Siua scooped up the ball quickly, drove a few meters to the line, and then popped the ball to Stephens looping in support for the try. The corner conversion was out of the flyhalf's range, 12-12.
 
In the last 30 seconds of the game, Spain made another dangerous break into U.S. territory and Walko-Siua, with her team retreating to its line, smartly kicked to touch to end the game.
 
The U.S. is still in good shape. Australia defeated Tunisia 31-0, and China bettered Canada 24-10 in their opening rounds. The U.S. will play Canada at 4:30 a.m. ET in round two.
 
U.S. Starting Line v Spain
Emily Prentice, Kat Ramage, Tiffany Person, Tess Feury, Richelle Stephens, Apaau Mailau, Michel Navarro