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Eagles Win Heart-Pounder v Russia

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Eagles Win Heart-Pounder v Russia

Doyle was in the right place at the right time for two tries. (Photo: Bill English)

With regulation well over, Bui Baravilala tapped through a penalty at the USA’s one meter and then kicked the ball into touch to seal the 17-14 win over Russia. That drama coated the entire game, as the teams traded leads, penalties, and turnovers, but the Eagles held on for their second win at the Canada Women’s 7s.

 

 

The USA had to adjust its expectations against Russia, who is just as speedy as the Americans and more physical (than first-round opponent South Africa) in the breakdown. Both of those notes were emphasized in the opening minutes, when wing Vix Folayan was pushed into touch during the USA’s first possession, and Megan Bonny was later rucked off a kickoff ball. The USA disrupted Russia’s ball as well, but the aggression produced a “leaving one’s feet” penalty about two minutes in. Russia swung the ball wide to Baizat Khamidova, who pushed off Lauren Doyle on the touchline and finished the sprint beneath the posts. The Nadezda Kudinova conversion gave Russia the 7-0 lead.

Russia won the restart but was penalized for not releasing, so Bonny hit a gap left by an uneven defense and tore into Russian territory, where the ball remained for the final three-and-a-half minutes of the half. Shortly afterward, Bonny was attacking on the 22, gaining ground and time with a good fend, and letting Alev Kelter get a little more width. The prop hit Kelter at the right moment, but the scrumhalf opted to cut back inside rather than take on Khamidova streaking across. Kelter slipped and a penalty followed. It appeared that this scoring opportunity was over.

But Russia decided to run the ball out of its end, and that decision turned out to be a mistake. Penalties followed, play got scrappy and desperate, but the ball remained in Russian territory. Finally, Doyle made good on the territory, as it looked like Baravilala was out of options with ball in hand, coming around the corner for the try. Kelter missed an off-center conversion to trail 7-5 into the break.

The USA took its first lead of the game pretty quickly after half. Russia was penalized for not releasing, and Folayan quick-tapped for some good meters. Kelter continued up the middle, getting to about five meters out, but didn’t realize the two unguarded teammates to her left. Fortunately, the ball recycled before Russia’s defense could organize, and Doyle made it into the corner, 10-7.

The USA then handed the momentum back to Russia. Three consecutive penalties – one for a high tackle, two in the breakdown – allowed Russia into the Americans’ end, and good use of the width put Alena Bogacheva down the sideline past Bonny into the try zone. Darla Fefelova hit a difficult conversion for the 14-10 lead.

The USA used the next two minutes to produce a really great team try. From a penalty in Russia’s end, Joanne Fa’avesi sucked in three defenders and wrestled the ball out for a good offload to the trailing Kelter, who then popped from the ground to the oncoming Kelly Griffin. The ball moved from Folayan to Kristen Thomas, who dotted down the go-ahead points in the corner. Baravilala, from the touchline, added in the two-point cushion, 17-14.

The restart occurred with 35 seconds left on the clock, so Russia essentially had one shot to win the game. That shot looked to dissolve when Doyle corralled Khamidova into touch with one second left. But the USA lineout soared over the top and into Russia’s hands, and play continued. Russia advanced toward the USA tryline – sometimes not realizing overload situations and allowing the Eagles to challenge for possession. The American defense withstood the onslaught until a penalty was awarded inside the 22.

The USA did not look 10 meters back when it made contact with ballcarrier Kudinova, but play continued uninterrupted until a Russian penalty on the one meter. Baravilala kicked to touch and that was game.

USA faces tournament host Canada, also 2-0, in the final game of the day at 6:50 p.m. PDT.


What happened in the USA's first game of the Canada Women's 7s? Read more.