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U.S. Jr. Olympians Advance to Semis

National Teams

U.S. Jr. Olympians Advance to Semis

The U.S. Women have qualified for the Youth Olympic Games semifinals. The junior Olympians had to wait for the outcome of Spain vs. China before knowning their fate, but the Games' host ran out to a 45-0 victory, which propelled the Americans into 4th place on points differential.
 
The final pool game resembled the match against Australia, only this time, the U.S. was benefitting from the infractions. Tunisia relinquished penalty after penalty - from pushing early in the scrums, to not releasing, to a high tackle - and the Americans made good use of the ample possession, overall. It took a little time for the U.S. to sync up, as the first couple of minutes saw a big linebreak lose momentum in an unforced bobble and a long pass end at a player's feet for a knock-on.
 
With more than two minutes gone, Tunisia was penalized in the scrum and Tess Feury quickly tapped and sent a long, flat pass to Michel Navarro running on. It looked like the Fallbrook flyer ran out of room on the sideline, but she shimmied her way out of contact and dotted down the first try, which flyhalf Richelle Stephens converted, 7-0.
 
Shortly afterward, Tunisia was again too eager in the scrum, and the free kick worked its way to center Appau Mailau, who got to within 10 meters of the line. Navarro was there for support but the ball skirted out of her control. Stephens was there, too, scooped up the ball and darted through the broken defense for the try, 12-0.
 
In previous matches, the U.S. showed some vulnerability in their longer passes, but the build-up to the third try indicated that when the pressure subsides, the skills are there. A Tunisian penalty in the breakdown saw the ball work wide quickly, back into Mailau's hands. Big and strong, the Salt Lake City native legged out a 40-meter try that Stephens converted, 19-0.
 
There was just enough time for the restart, but the half ended when Kat Ramage bolted off the line to collide with the receiver, causing a knock-on in the tackle.
 
The second half started with another long Navarro break down the sideline, but she was caught by her pursuer and supported by Feury, who drew a penalty. The U.S. should have scored from the subsequent phase, and the opportunity looked to be lost entirely when the Americans knocked on. But the referee conferenced with her line judge and another penalty was levied on Tunisia for a high tackle. The ball got to Stephens who split the soft defense with ease. Stephens converted her try for the 26-0 lead.
 
With a comfortable margin, the U.S. started to falter a bit. The team spent the majority of the half in Tunisia's end but a bunch of handling errors kept the scoreboard from ticking over.
 
But the U.S. put in a good, try-scoring performance and was rewarded with a fourth place finish. Reflecting on pool play, it was the 19-14 loss to Canada that ended up being the difference between the medal rounds and playing for 5th place; Spain had lost 31-0 to Canada.
 
The U.S. will play tournament favorite Australia on Tuesday, Aug. 19 at 5 a.m. ET.
 
Final Standings
1. Australia (5-0) 129 PD/15 PTS
2. China (4-1) 112 PD/13 PTS
3. Canada (3-2) 108 PD/11 PTS
4. United States (1-3-1) -39 PD/8 PTS
5. Spain (1-3-1) -85 PD/8 PTS
6. Tunisia (0-5) -154 PD/5 PTS