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Defensive Pressure, Nifty Passing See Eagle Women 3-0 in Hamilton

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Defensive Pressure, Nifty Passing See Eagle Women 3-0 in Hamilton

Sam Sullivan on her way. Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby

The USA Women's 7s team went 3-0 in the Hamilton 7s, putting themselves in excellent position to once again reach the podium.

Despite the fact that the attack still isn't firing quite as well as it could, the Eagle game is working thanks to a hardworking defense and just enough special moments.

USA 31 Spain 12

Against Spain, a team that often causes the Eagles won fairly comfortably. They won it mostly thanks to pressure defense that got so into the Spanish minds that they started to make silly errors.

The USA opened with a Cheta Emba try that featured a series of offloads from Emba to Sam Sullivan to Kristi Kirshe, and back to Emba to finish it off.

Emba scored another, followed by a sublime given-and-go with Ilona Maher, where Emba popped an over-the-shoulder pass and circled back to get the return pass to score.

Spain really didn't get a sniff in the first half, and with the USA thinking pass first, they were able to pull away.

USA 41 Brazil 0

That approach of linking through multiple players to create tries paid further dividends against Brazil. Sullivan, whose defense has been immense, scored two quick tries and added a third in the second half. Up 17-0 at halftime they blew away the Brazilians after that.

USA 15 Ireland 7

In what was clearly going to be the toughest game of the day, the Eagles did enough, but also had to battle a tenacious defense in green. The attack devolved a little into a more simple approach—work it wide and hope there's space. Naya Tapper scored that way, and then Maher drew two defenders before setting Tapper free for her second. 

That made it 10-0 at halftime. Maher was later yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on and Ireland had to believe this was their chance to come back. But this is where the USA defense held firm, and Sullivan has been a sure thing on the edge, with the former West Point standout taking down opposing speedsters and not letting them get a head of steam up.

Yes, Ireland did eventually score, but with about 10 seconds left on the yellow card. The USA was back to full strength and still in the lead.

And they extended that lead after a break from Lauren Doyle the USA players consolidated and worked it to Kris Thomas, who is making a living scoring game-sealing tries. She did here, too.


While the USA's try frequency is lower than they normally record, and their conversion percentage is the lowest on the World Series circuit, they are getting the job done partly by still scoring enough tries, especially against teams they should beat, and partly through their defensive pressure.

Also 3-0 were New Zealand and Australia, with the Black Ferns facing Japan in the quarterfinals and Australia taking on Great Britain. Ireland meets up with France in the other QF.

Next up is a quarterfinal matchup against a very dangerous Fiji team.

This is a big chance for Fiji, which has been impressive but maybe a bit unlucky, this year. The Eagles will really want to win that one.