ATLANTA, GA – Okay, so losing 50-12 in a Cup Final is never fun. But when it’s in a World Rugby Organization HSBC World Series Sevens Series Final, that mouthful means something. It means, A) You made the Cup Final and B) You made the Cup Final. And if you had asked Team USA Head Coach Ric “Sluggo” Suggitt – and most USA fans & pundits (including ours) – if he/they would be anything but elated with a 2nd place finish on their home soil, before the tourney kicked off, you’d get a resounding, “Hellz yeah!”
To say this Women’s Eagles 7s squad was under the gun would be an understatement. They were considered underachievers, lacking continuity and either too inexperienced or raw to do any damage. Apparently, the memo with those bullet points didn’t get to the team, though. If it did, it was used as bulletin board fodder in the locker-room and inspired this beleaguered bunch.
They cruised in this leg of the race Race to Rio, knocking off South Africa, Russia twice and a hard Australian side, only losing to the Kiwis along the way. And in the name of full disclosure, those losses were dramatically one-sided.
Portia Woodman had a great deal to do with that. The NZ 7s star had 7 tries in two games against the American hosts. Five – count ’em, five – came in the Final. Along with tournament MVP Kayla McAlister (Luke’s sister and netball convert), the duo asked questions that their opponents simply could not answer. Under Captain Sarah Goss‘ leadership, NZ played near-perfect rugby… and exposed the Eagles in some key areas.
What are those areas? Support, rucking and knowing what to do at the break-down. Too many times, an Eagle would break a run and nobody was there in support as she went to ground. When there was support, NZ were simply superior and smarter at contact and either won the possession of the ball or were awarded a penalty.
The reason New Zealand won this tournament in the fashion they did, however, is more a testament to how good they were and not how poorly the rest performed. Indeed, Team USA had two of the 7 spots on the Atlanta 7s Dream Team, as Victoria Folayan and Kathryn Johnson. performed well. So did Captain Kelly Griffin, who helped mesh the eclectic Eagles. Kelly had this to say, “We’re really happy to make it to the final. We’ve been working really hard. Obviously we have work to do but we’re certainly improving from tournament to tournament.”
The bottom line for all the nations, though, is winning and earning points, and the USA put themselves back in the thick of it when many had written their obituary – our Junoir Blaber notwithstanding. A look at the table sees the newly-energized Eagles just behind France for the 4th place.
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Scheenagh Harrington, Junoir Blaber, James Harrington, Jamie Wall,Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Jamie Loyd, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter and Declan Yeats, respectively.