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USA Advances to the Cup Semis

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USA Advances to the Cup Semis

Captain Kelly Griffin leads USA to a Cup semifinal appearance. (Photo: Martin Seras Lima / World Rugby)

The USA Women controlled its Amsterdam 7s Cup quarterfinal, defeating Spain 38-5 for a semis berth against Canada, which defeated France 33-0 in its knockout this morning.

For all but three instances, the ball stayed in Spain’s end and in the Americans’ hands. Spain’s opening kickoff lent a free kick, and the USA worked to the 22. A slowly supported ruck saw the ball pushed back into unguarded territory, where Spain pounced. But the turnover was short-lived, as Alev Kelter reached over the top of the ballcarrier, stripped the ball, and popped to Katie Johnson, who then hit Megan Bonny for the opening score. Bui Baravilala converted the first of her four extra-points for the 7-0 lead after a minute and a half.

The USA was back on Spain’s 22 pretty quickly, and an offsides penalty allowed the Eagles to reset its offense. Captain Kelly Griffin tapped through the mark and moved the ball to the near sideline. It then worked the width of the field to Lauren Doyle, who had two players to beat and no room. But a hop and a dart later, and she was sprinting past those two defenders for the first of her three scores, 12-0.

Katie Johnson made the third try happen. The leggy prop went up for a lofty Kelter restart and batted back a beauty, but into Spain’s hands. Spain batted back the ball again, but it then fell directly into the arms of Johnson, who was already positioned behind the defensive line. She tore away and passed out of the tackle to the on-running Bonny for the easy try, 19-0.

With about a minute remaining, Spain got its first true possession, and did well with it. Barbara Pla got around the end a little too easily for a good break, and then the ball worked to the opposite side to Ellie Martinez, who split Johnson and Bonny, and then got through Doyle for the score, 19-5.

Spain started the second half with a knock-on deep in its end, and Kristen Thomas looked like she was going to make the most of the possession with a try. But the wing was wrapped up in the grounding process, and the ball returned to the five meter for the scrum. The ball worked to Thomas again, but this time she crashed into two defenders and passed out of contact to the looping Doyle for the corner try. This sideline conversion was Baravilala’s most impressive, 26-5.

Spain continued to stifle its own momentum and followed the next restart with another breakdown. Doyle dummied off a breakdown, skirting through the channel and in for an uncontested try, her eighth of the tournament, 33-5.

With about a minute to go, Spain prevented its second-half shutout and put Vanessa Rial into the try zone after a nice series of aggressive running. But Hannah Lopez single-handedly restored the point differential by returning the restart for a try and 38-10 win.

The Eagles face Canada, which has already secured its Olympic berth, in the Cup semis. With France now relegated to the Plate, only England remains as competition for that fourth automatic qualifying spot. England, which trails the USA by two points in the standings, plays Australia in its Cup semifinal.