PHILADELPHIA, PA – The USA Women’s 7s team went 0-3 on Day 1 of the Dubai 7s with losses to Ireland, Fiji, and Canada. The loss to Ireland, 12-5, was the big surprise. At no point did the USA play like a side ready to beat the world’s best. That isn’t a good start for new coach Jules McCoy.
There were some good moments for the USA, but on a winless day, the bad moments stand out. The USA’s problems from Day 1 won’t be easy to fix. Here is a quick look at two of Canada’s tries.
The first try of the match for Canada started with a knock on by USA from the opening kick. The knock on occurred on the near side of the pitch. Canada claim the ball and move it toward the far side. USA overreact and all 7 players push toward the far side.
The first mistake (knock on) is compounded by poor defensive reaction. At the next tackle, the USA have 4 defenders between the 5 and 15 meter hashes.
But there is some shape regained, and when Canada shift the ball back to the near side, the USA have them marked up pretty well, as shown by the picture below.
Canada moved the ball with confidence from one side of the pitch to the other. In the next passage, there is a knock on by the USA (you can see the ref’s arm out for advantage). Canada recovers, and the USA is in trouble again. They have 6 defenders in the shot below. Canada have 4 attackers. That means that there is an opportunity to shift the ball back to the far side of the pitch again.
Canada’s captain, Jen Kish, recognizes where the space is and moves the ball quickly.
From there, the last USA defender has too much space to cover. The inside defenders can’t get across quickly enough and Karen Paquin goes through the gap for the try.
Canada’s attack is smart and accurate. The USA defense is in poor shape, and they are down a try before the match is a minute old.
There were similar problems for this next try. This sequence is immediately after the restart following the USA’s lone try. The USA were in the match for a moment, and then poor defense meant that Canada had all the momentum at the half.
Canada have the ball on the far side of the pitch, and things start okay. It isn’t clear, though, that all of the players are working together. Kathryn Johnson is at the bottom of the picture retreating while the players inside her are advancing. There is a player at the top of the picture who looks like she might be heading toward a sweeper’s position. If the defensive line pushes across, Nia Williams (currently in the middle of the pitch) can become the last defender in the line and Johnson can retreat to sweep. If Johnson stays in the line, then someone from the far side of the pitch needs to work hard to be in position to cover any breaks. It doesn’t look like all of the USA players are confident in their responsibilities.
Johnson stays in the line, and for a moment it looks like they have things covered. Williams takes Kish, who has just received the ball, and Johnson takes Paquin, who is just out of frame.
Williams sure seems to have Kish covered. Johnson doesn’t trust this, though, and stays tight.
With Johnson and Williams both worried about Kish, the try is all-but scored. Kish passes to Paquin just before Johnson hits her. Williams is quick, but not that quick. She can’t catch Paquin, and the player covering behind the defensive line is not deep enough or close enough to have the angle to catch her either.
The Canadians played good, confident rugby. They should be fun to watch on Day 2.
For the USA, there will need to be evidence of a clear plan on Day 2 and players understanding how they fit in to making that plan successful.
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