USA Wins Plate in Canada Rematch
USA Wins Plate in Canada Rematch
The USA’s first win against Canada (in the '14-'15 series) couldn’t have come at a worse time for the tournament host. After falling four points shy in the teams’ pool play match, the Eagles dug deep for a 19-12 victory over Canada in the Plate final. It was an exhausting, emotional triumph over a familiar opponent, and the Eagles earned it.
The game did not start in the USA’s favor, however, as Canada captain Ashley Steacy split defenders – as she’s wont to do – while at top speed. She’d repeat the feat later in the match, but this time, the linebreak resulted in a try, 5-0.
The restart saw Britt Benn tackle receiver Bui Baravilala in the air, warranting a penalty and not a yellow card. But the ball landed in Alev Kelter’s hands and her big gain erased advantage. Canada was eventually awarded a scrum, and Steacy kicked to open space to relieve pressure. Karen Paquin dove over the ball in attempts to secure it for her side, and the penalty allowed the USA remount its attack from the 50 meter. There was little forward movement after a couple of picks off the ruck were swallowed up easily, and it looked like Vix Folayan was out of options when she received the ball flat-footed in front of a host of defenders.
But that’s a place where Folayan excels. She pushed off of Kelly Russell – usually a very sure tackler, especially in close – and tore into undefended territory for the breakaway try. Kelter converted for the 7-5 lead.
Fewer than three minutes remained in the half when Kelter restarted the ball, and some fatigue began to show on either side of the ball. Kayla Moleschi, small in stature but so strong in contact, cracked the line and Canada set up play deep in the USA’s end. Possession changed hands a few times, but a Canada penalty allowed Folayan to get her hands on the ball again, slipping past Moleschi for another long-range score. Baravilala converted the off-center try for the 14-5 lead into the break.
Canada had the opportunity to win the game in the second half. The hosts played good segments of solid 7s – spreading the field, working quick ball – and gained consistent meters. To the USA’s credit, the defense bent but did not break, and during all but one occasion, Canada did not finish it’s scoring chances – twice because of knock-ons along the sideline.
But Russell did make the USA defense pay for one misstep. During one of Canada’s campaigns to the Americans’ 22, Johnson shot off the line in attempts to stifle Moleschi – and it nearly worked, if it weren’t for the Canadian’s quick hands. She popped the ball over Johnson’s head to Russell out wide, and the prop smartly wove around the corner to center the try for the conversion, 14-12 USA.
Canada’s restart didn’t go 10 meters, but opportunity fizzled when Folayan was run into touch. Canada built toward the Eagles’ line once again, and it seemed inevitable that Ghislaine Landry, who was uncharacteristically quiet during the Plate final, would score out wide. But Landry fumbled the ball forward in the cover tackle, and the USA took the scrum on its 10 meter.
The ball moved to Doyle on the team’s five meter. One step later, she was in the open field, outlegging Elissa Alarie down the sideline for the corner try. It was a long, tough sprint, but Doyle’s eighth try of the tournament was the most important one, 19-12.
There was still a minute to play, and Canada had every intention of using it. Again the team relied on its defense-spreading tactics, and it was working well. This time, Nadia Popov couldn’t rein in that finishing pass along the sideline, and the USA kicked the subsequent scrum to touch for the win.
The win was remarkable for many reasons: It was the sixth game of the tournament against a traditionally stronger, yet familiar, opponent that was playing in front of a large home crowd. The Eagles finished out the Canada Women’s 7s with a Plate championship and loads of confidence heading into the rest of the series.