The USA team we saw against Russia a mere three hours ago was not the team that showed up against Ireland. It took a massive second-half effort to overcome the 14-point deficit, but the Eagle 7s women pulled off the 17-14 victory to improve to 2-0 at the London 7s.
Ireland was not going to be overwhelmed at the breakdown the way Russia was, and in fact, set the tone in the first half. The USA botched the opening kickoff, and Ireland set up for a scrum in the Americans’ end. Two passes later, the Irish center slipped past Sadie Anderson and cruised into the try zone and onto the scoreboard. The conversion from Niamg Briggs would be two of her nine points overall, 7-0 after one-and-a-half minutes.
Then it was Ireland’s turn to err on the kickoff, sending the ball into touch. From a midfield penalty, scrumhalf Katie Dowty tapped and slid between two defenders. From Ireland’s 22 meter, Christy Ringgenberg sent the ball wide to Vix Folayan, who made it into the try zone easily, but then tried to center the grounding. Ireland was in Folayan’s face, and the referee ruled the ball held up.
No doubt Folayan was attempting to make the would-be conversion kick easier for Anderson and better the USA’s chances of tying the game, but that error directly contributed to Ireland’s next try. From the Ireland scrum, Briggs broke through the line and got her side well out of danger. The campaign eventually ended in a knock-on and scrum to the USA, but play was now being contested inside the Americans’ 22.
From the Eagle scrum, the ball worked out to center Bui Baravilala, who was swarmed by two Irish defenders. The USA support was there for the ruck, but then the ball skirted out the side, and Ireland pounced. They quickly recycled, and Briggs worked a two-on-one on McGee five meters out. Briggs hit the conversion for the 14-0 lead.
The Eagles got some good go-forward on the next possession, but again, the team didn’t take care of the ball well enough. Nathalie Marchino tore up the sideline after an Ireland turnover, but then chucked the ball back inbounds in attempt to keep the drive alive. Play got messy, but the USA retained possession and Ireland’s defense left some room out wide. One pass from Ringgenberg would have put McGee into space, but the long pass was high and knocked on.
And then, unbelievably, the USA had another try recalled. Marchino created another seam and had one player to beat before the try zone. A nice swerve stalled the sweeper long enough for Marchino to eye the try line unobstructed, and had she angled toward the corner, she would have gone in untouched. But McGee and the Irish sweeper were in pursuit, and McGee positioned herself between Marchino and her pursuer. There’s was the slightest of contact between McGee and the Irish sweeper, and the referee called back the try for interference.
It was a very deflating end to a disappointing half. But as ugly as the first half was, the second half marked the team’s true comeback spriit. Two-and-a-half minutes in, Folayan made up for a series of stagnant passes by beating two defenders along the sideline (14-5).
A minute-and-a-half later, Deven Owsiany tapped through a penalty meters from Ireland’s line but placed the ball poorly, causing the ball to shoot into unprotected green. Fortunately, Kelly Griffin was close enough to scoop the ball off the ground and into Kimber Rozier’s hands, who scored and converted, 14-12.
The final try was set up by Jill Potter, who creamed the Irish receiver on the next kickoff and forced a knock-on. From the scrum, a Rozier/Marchino switch put the Eagle close to the line. The ball worked to Folayan, who had only Ashling Hutchings to beat. Folayan took off for the sideline, hoping to take the corner before she ran out of room. Instead, she ducked out of Hutchings' outstretched arms and outrun everyone else for the try, 17-14.
It was a very thrilling end, but that drama evolved due to a slow, messy start. Kudos, however, to the Eagles for putting their heads down and earning the victory in the second half.
Final pool game is against Canada, which defeated Russia 17-0, at 12:50 p.m.
Tries: Folayan 2, Rozier