The USA did not have it easy against China, holding on for a 24-21 win against a very skilled, crisp opponent. The Eagles are now 1-1 in Pool B of the HSBC USA Women’s 7s tournament with 2-0 New Zealand to end pool play.
The USA started with possession but a not-releasing penalty after a semi-break handed the ball to China, which was able to hold onto the ball but not necessarily move forward. After a turnover, the ball made some short exchanges near the sideline, and Abby Gustaitis busted through for the try, which was converted by Nicole Heavirland.
Alena Olsen took the pitch, earning her first cap with the USA 7s team, and immediately made an impact, nailing the pursuit tackle on a China ballcarrier bound for the try line. Nevertheless, China held onto the ball and that possession eventually turned into a try from Ruan Hongting, converted by Keyi Chen, to end the half at 7-all.
Right after the break, Cheta Emba did a great job of getting up on the restart and coming down with possession. The ball moved to Ilona Maher, and a after a quick fend, the center considered a pass to a teammate and then put her head down and sprinted away for 60 meters, 12-7. A minute later, Maher fended her opposite of the scrum and this time didn’t hesitate when sprinting toward the try line, 17-7.
With three minutes to go, Alev Kelter was sent off and China made good on the extra space, drawing more penalties by threatening the line and eventually sending Hu Yu in for the Chen-converted try, 17-14.
When Kelter returned to the pitch, the veteran more than made up for the absence, accelerating through the pass and the defense for the centered try, converted by Kelter, 24-14.
Those points ended up being the winning margin, but it was China that had the final say. The visitors pushed to the final moments and chipped over the line for a race to the line. Naya Tapper was there but didn’t field it cleanly, and three China players were there to guarantee a pickup. Liu Xiaoqian dotted down and Chen converted, 24-21 the final.
[Interview with try-scorer Ruan Hongting is in Chinese but translation is coming]