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Eagles Better Much-Improved Fiji

  • 16 Apr 2016
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Richelle Stephens was clutch off the bench vs. Fiji. /// Photo: World Rugby (Mike Lee)

 

The USA Women’s 7s team earned its first win of the Langford 7s, defeatin Fiji 24-12 in the second round of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series tournament.

 

It wasn’t a complete performance, as Fiji had the ability to sever the defense and produce chaos in which it flourished. Fiji got off to a good start and used some quick hands and looping to break the defense and put former Australia international Rebecca Tavo in for the game’s first try, 5-0.

 

Fiji was offsides on the restart and the USA moved the ball wide to Christy Ringgenberg on the sideline. The flyhalf got held up and as she struggled toward the ground, Fiji wrestled the ball free. Fiji looked dangerous even as it knocked on at midfield.

 

 

The USA continued to work the width and timed its passes better so Fiji couldn’t slide as easily. A high tackle on Emily Azevedo allowed the USA to continue building into Fiji’s end, and Kristen Thomas did well to keep the campaign alive by scooping up a loose ball and powering up the sideline. On the recycle, Carmen Farmer took the ball at pace and at the line, deep into a scattered defense, fended a couple of would-be tacklers and scored beneath the posts. Bui Baravilala converted, 7-5.

 

Farmer did an excellent job of corralling the restart and keeping it in play while being shoved into touch. Another Fiji penalty saw good go-forward from Thomas and then Farmer, who hit Jessica Javelet out of contact. Javelet found Ringgenberg running on for the finishing pass and try, 12-5.

 

During that first half, Farmer stood out for her restart work and taking opportunities when they presented themselves. Ringgenberg showed good work rate, was always around the ball and well positioned for offloads. Thomas was also important in saving possession, scooping up dropped balls or moving forward while support rushed onto the scene.

 

There was a disconnect on defense, however, and it was easily split once Fiji started looping out wide. That’s how Fiji slipped through for another long breakaway, which turned into a yellow card when Baravilala deliberately knocked down a finishing pass. Fiji used that player advantage, keeping the ball alive and forcing the defense to scramble until finally Talica Vodo found the try zone. The conversion tied it up, 12-12.

 

Some personnel changes were made, and Vix Folayan’s first touch of the ball saw the wing skirt down the sideline. She was pushed to touch, and Fiji’s lineout set up a thrilling chip-and-chase into unguarded American territory. Reserve Richelle Stephens flew to the rescue but had to ground the ball in the try zone.

 

Baravilala returned to pitch as Fiji set up for its five-meter scrum. The halfback was penalized for not rolling away when tackling her opposite, but Fiji failed to tap from the mark, thus killing its best attempt at a try. The U.S. defense stepped up and when a pass hit the ground, Stephens scooped it up to relieve some pressure. A flurry of frantic possession swaps followed, but was settled once Alev Kelter secured the ball for good. It moved to Folayan, who broke all but one tackler before finding Stephens in the offload. She plucked the ball out of the air and beat her trailers for the go-ahead try, which Baravilala converted, 19-12.

 

The USA ended on a very good note. After a couple of Fiji errors, Nicole Heavirland lured a big just as she passed to Folayan, and then promptly popped to her feet to follow play. Folayan barreled forward and got the ball free for Ringgenberg, who quickly hit Heavirland out of contact for the try, 24-12. It was good, quick, aware ball, and means to momentum as the Eagles head into its final pool play game against New Zealand.

 

The U.S. is vulnerable in terms of advancing to the Cup quarterfinals. A win against the Kiwis is ideal, but if a loss is to occur, point differential must be watched. Thirty points separate the Eagles and Spain, which finishes the day against Fiji.

 

USA Starters: Carmen Farmer, Ryan Carlyle, Emily Azevedo, Bui Baravilala, Christy Ringgenberg, Kristen Thomas, Jessica Javelet

 

USA 24

Tries: Farmer, Ringgenberg, Stephens, Heavirland

Cons: Baravilala 2

 

Fiji 12

 

 

 

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