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Job Done in Rough Hong Kong Tournament for USA Women

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Job Done in Rough Hong Kong Tournament for USA Women

Ariana Ramsey helps Cheta Emba up after a try vs France. Mike Lee KLC fotos.

Job done for the USA women at the Hong Kong 7s, but in a weird way.

In the end, the Eagles had their worst finish of the World Series season, but they did enough to qualify for the 2024 Olympics. 

Mea Culpa: We at GRR World Headquarters stupidly had been tracking the USA Olympic qualification based on how they ranked versus #5 team Ireland. But, of course, France was ranking #4 and France doesn't count—as hosts they are in anyway. As we should have been tracking Fiji. Why does that make a difference? Only that going into Hong Kong the USA needed to stay within two placements of Ireland, but to clinch over Fiji they only needed to make the quarterfinals.

Anyway, they did both. Ireland had a pretty lousy tournament and while Fiji performed well, the USA's appearance in the top eight (ultimately finishing 7th) was enough to clinc an Olympic berth.

Pool Play

The Eagles had a relatively easy pool, playing Spain, Japan, and Australia. The Americans blew away an injury-hit Spanish team; Kristi Kirshe was powerful up the middle and scored two early tries. Naya Tapper capped off a good team try, Ariana Ramsey got some space and scored, and Alex Sedrick capped it off 35-7.

Against Japan the Americans were burned early by Wakaba Hara and learned a harsh lessons about not retaining kickoffs. But it was Kirshe again who got them going forward, and some defensive intensity from Sedrick led the USA to a difficult 26-17 victory.

The final game was against France and the trouble the USA has had with them is physicality. The USA lineup has players who want to tackle, but some are just not big enough to handle the most powerful French players. 

Placement Rounds

Still, the USA was into the quarterfinals where they played a team we at GRR have warned many about—Fiji. The Eagles were ahead 14-7 with 100 seconds to go. But a moment of lack of trust hurt them. Fiji went wide and it was a two-on-two with Sedrick and Kris Thomas on defense. Sedrick was tracking her opponent but Thomas cut in to help. That left Meredani Qoro open to take the offload and score. Moments later, Kirshe went up the middle again. She was stripped of the ball and Fiji scored in the corner. Fiji 19 USA 14.

The Eagles then lost 12-7 to a Canadian team that isn't really all that strong, before edging Ireland 15-14 thanks to two late Ramsey tries.

So it wasn't perfect, by any stretch. They missed Ilona Maher and what is the right mix still seems to be a question. Sedrick, and you know we at GRR support getting her more minutes, was impressive but, weirdly, may have had her worst game in the biggest USA victory, against Spain. She made a few errors there, but was a key part of the win over Japan and showed the physicality and versatility that the USA was missing with Sam Sullivan not being available.

So this was the first tournament all year that the USA did not make the podium, and yet it's the one tournament where they achieved one of their key goals.

By qualifying for the 2024 Olympics now, they can rest players, perhaps experiment a little in Toulouse (like, maybe, a youth movement?), and spend some time figuring out not only how to perform well in Paris, but how to catch New Zealand and Australia, who are clearly the top two (and were in Hong Kong).

And finally, in a classy move, the USA players had photos of those who are in the USA program but not in Hong Kong with them when they posed for the Olympics qualified picture (see above). It was a very nice nod to all the players who work to get the Eagles where they need to be.