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Eagle Women Fall 35-12 to NZ

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Eagle Women Fall 35-12 to NZ

Portia Woodman scored two tries in New Zealand's win over the U.S. (Ian Muir photo)

The USA Women needed to be clinical in its opening match at the Sao Paulo 7s today, and it wasn't. Unforced errors and an overmatched defense allowed New Zealand to score five tries in the 35-12 loss.

The first two-and-a-half minutes stayed in the USA's end, as a couple of handling errors put the ball in both teams' hands. The Eagles were absorbing the Kiwi attack well, remaining composed but pressuring the breakdown to disrupt flow. But New Zealand was eager, too, and when Katie Johnson flew over a tackled Vix Folayan, it was a quick step-over and poach that set a hard-charging Kiwi offense into attack mode. The ball worked to Hazel Tubic for the try, while Tyla Nathan-Wong added the first of her four conversions for the 7-0 lead.

Johnson righted her wrong on the very next play. The leggy prop received the subsequent kickoff and tore down the sideline. She found herself on a 2-on-1 with captain Kelly Griffin, and the duo worked their opposite perfectly. A final pass from 15 meters out saw Johnson dive into the corner, 7-5.

But the half ended on a New Zealand high. After a USA scrum, Folayan tested the defense a bit before popping to Griffin, who went into the tackle pretty quickly. But Folayan and Dana Meschisi needed extra help in the ruck, and seeing that New Zealand was about to steal possession, Griffin rolled the ball back toward her teammates. As soon as the ball saw sunlight, however, the Black Ferns pounced, and Kayla McAlister tore away. She sat Johnson down before switching with Portia Woodman for the try, 14-5, into the break.

The situation worsened on the restart, when a long pass connected with Woodman on the wing. A hard in-and-out on Johnson, and she was gone. Jessica Javelet gave it a valiant effort in the chase, but there was no stopping the try, 21-5.

The game was getting away from the Americans, and New Zealand was making the Eagles pay for every lost possession. Near midfield, Javelet sent a very forward pass to Megan Bonny to set up a Kiwi scrum. A USA penalty put New Zealand into scoring position, and while the defense attempted to shut down the ballcarrier, McAlister waited out wide, unguarded, for the long pass and easy try, 28-5.

Some fresh legs had joined the pitch, and Joanne Fa'avesi and Kristen Thomas made an immediate impact. Fa'avesi came on at scrumhalf, and hustled around the ball as a couple of penalties kept the USA on attack. A couple of hard runs later, another penalty saw Johnson tap through and pop from the ground to an on-running Thomas for the try. It was series debutante's first-ever cap and try. A nice conversion from Johnson made it 28-12.

There was a minute left on the clock, and that was enough time to score again. The kickoff moved to McAlister, who beat Griffin and Lopez, but not Volayan streaking across. The USA was awarded a scrum deep in its end, and as the Eagles attempted to run the ball out of danger, the sense of impending doom hung in the air. The U.S. gave up a penalty, and New Zealand moved the ball to Gayle Broughton for the easy try that Selica Winiata converted, 35-12.

The Eagles will look to rebound against France, which looked strong in its 28-7 win over Spain in the opening round. That game streams live at 11:50 a.m. ET.