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Eagles Win in Tokyo Again But Work To Do

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Eagles Win in Tokyo Again But Work To Do

Kristi Kirshe takes off. Mike Lee KLC fotos for World Rugby.

The USA is 2-0 in the Women’s Olympic Rugby event, and once again they spent a large proportion of the game on defense.

The Eagles were in control for the entire game and won 17-7, giving up a try just before full tine. They have secured a spot in the quarterfinals and will play Australia in the final pool match. 

The Eagles still had trouble winning restarts, but they defended with patience and physicality. It was that patience that finally earned a scrum from a knock-on, and Ilona Maher simply took and angle, fended off any attention, and was in to make it 5-0.

The USA still couldn’t win their restart but with Laurne Doyle and Cheta Emba playing strong on defense they kept Japan pinned back.

Finally Kayla Cannet intercepted a ball and offloaded to Emba. Almost through for a try, Emba was dragged down, and after some quick ruck ball the ball was sent wide where Jordan Matyas was lurking and she was in at the corner. 

That made it 10-0 and the Eagles really should have had another but couldn’t quite connect before halftime. Japan had almost exposed the USA on a kick to the wing, but were offside. They would try that again.

In the second half it was indeed another attacking Japanese kick that put the Eagles under pressure. This effort looked like trouble for the Eagles but the bounce was kind, ending up in the hands of Kristi Kirshe. She then took off, and at midfield fed debutante Ariana Ramsey.

Ramsey had no one near her and so she cruised in at about third gear for the try under the posts. Nicole Heavirland converted and it was 17-0.

All looked fine except that the USA struggled to build on that. For that they can, in part, thank Japan’s patience on offense, and also referee Paulo Duarte of Portugal. Several very gray area penalties went against the USA, including a holding-on penalty where the Japanese poacher clearly never let go of the tackled player. 

The result was Japan worked their way into USA territory, and tried the kicking thing again. Nia Tolliver, getting her first minutes, did enough to scupper that attempt, but eventually Japan executed a nice switch move and Koidi Mifuyu was in. Conversion by Mio Yamanaka and that was almost it.

Japan’s restart didn’t go 10 meters (good news! The USA won a restart!). But after the Eagles selected a scrum the pass from Cannet to an open Tolliver was high and the resulting knock-on ended the game.

Once again the USA looked effective with the ball, but spent a lot of time without said ball. Head Coach Chris Brown started some younger players to get them time, and that will help as the tournament progresses.

But the Head Coach wasn't thrilled.

"We got the results where we're through to the Quarters, which is great, but we're pretty frustrated with the performance we just put out there," said Brown. "Some of our squad got opportunities to really do their job, which was to score tries, to go out there physically, and they held back for the first seven minutes.

"I think given the disappointment of this last game and the sense of how we carried ourselves through our standards, they'll be hurting just as much. The maturity of the group comes through a lot. They won't want to hear it from me. It's been a tough, tough year, but we're more mature for it on and off the pitch and I think that's going to set us up nicely for the end of the tour."

The USA, said Brown was #2 in the world in 2019, and they needed to start playing like it.

Round 2 Results:
Canada 12 Fiji 26 (this was a huge upset)
France 40 Brazil 5
Australia 26 China 10 (this is an indication that China is perhaps better than expected)
USA 17 Japan 7
New Zealand 26 Great Britain 21 (this was almost a huge upset)
ROC 25 Kenya 12 (ROC means Russian Olympic Committee)