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USA Women 3rd In Madrid As Mojo, And Defense, Falter

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USA Women 3rd In Madrid As Mojo, And Defense, Falter

Cheta Emba was a bright spot, but there were too many gaps in the USA performances.

Nicely poised to make the final of the Madrid 7s, the USA women's 7s team in the end took 3rd, and have to wonder what might have been.

The Eagles showed flashes on Saturday—enough flashes to make you think they were good enough to win the whole thing. But they had not played the other two best teams in Madrid, and they lost to both of them on Sunday. First up was Russia, which was more physical and more direct than the Americans. Elena Zdrokova scored three tries, burning the USA on the outside when they didn't respect her speed, and cutting back against the grain when they sent too many bodies to the sideline.

The Eagles kept making little errors, perhaps the worst was when they had a Russian ballcarrier isolated and could have poached to at least forced a holding-on penalty. Instead, Kristi Kirshe made not effort to grab the ball, and just tented her body over the tackler. Penalty against the USA, and Zdrokova was soon cantering in for her second. 

The USA did score. Nia Tolliver burst through for one, and Eta Chemba broke a tackle and chugged all the way from her half to the posts. And in fact they had the lead in the second half, with Nicole Heavirland feeding Lauren Doyle for a charge up the middle.

But poor defensive organization and three conversions from Kristina Seredina sealed it 21-19 for Russia.

Next up was France, and the French dominated 26-7. At this point, Head Coach Chris Brown had made the decision to keep some of the younger players on the field to see what the standard is. It's a good coaching move and a good educational move. But it was a tough lesson for some players to absorb.

Those two losses sent the Eagles into the 3rd-4th game with Poland, a team they had beaten 40-0 on Saturday. This time it was 47-7, with Sui A'au powering over and through tacklers to score two, and Kirshe, Doyle, Abby Gustaitis all getting in on the act. Tolliver scored twice. Kayla Cannett took on the goalkicking duties and did very well.

But not every player showed that she has what it takes—at least at the moment—to fight at the international level.

Russia beat France 17-5, the second time they had beaten France, to take the tournament championship.

There's a second event next week. The Eagles will have to be better on defense against the more physical teams to succeed.