Spain squeaked by France in round 3 for top-pool honors. (Dobson Images)
By Jackie Finlan
Only Spain exits the USA Women’s International Invitational wholly happy and with an unblemished record. The reigning European Women’s 7s champion played its toughest match of the day against France, both of which entered the final round with wins against Canada A and the Hawaiian All Stars.
But the day belonged to Spain, who held onto a 14-12 win to clinch the top seed in the bracket. France advances to the semifinals tomorrow and will face the Netherlands, the other pool leader.
The Netherlands followed their 21-15 win against the USA with an 89-0 drubbing of the Tyrolian Selects. The run-up was necessary, however, as both Canada and the USA sat at 2-1 heading into the Netherland’s final match.
The other semifinalist was to be determined in the USA v Canada match. The USA won 7-5 in an incredibly physical match that saw several of the players from the teams’ final 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup match face to face again. If there was any residual angst lingering after the Eagles 23-20 RWC win, the Canadians certainly excorcised, beginning with the opening hit on the kickoff. The USA was up for the challenge and worked the ball into Vix Folayan’s hands, who fended Laura Stoughton to the ground before streaking down the sideline for the score. Christy Ringgenberg converted for the 7-0 lead.
“We played five bad minutes all day,” Canada coach John Tait said, “and it was the first five minutes against the USA. We sank into our shells, and although we were aggressive on defense, we weren’t attacking on offense.”
But after five minutes, the teams began to show some fatigue, which resulted in some slower support from the USA. Heading into the break, Canada built some momentum, carving up a staggered USA defense, but unable to convert the breakaways into points.
Canada regrouped and began the second stanza with equal gusto. Canada split the defense untouched on the kickoff and their burgeoning confidence became tangible. Play was still messy as the players tapped the reserves, but Canada found itself in the USA’s half rather quickly. The ball worked to Stoughton on the wing, who turned the corner then sat Lauren Hoeck down before crossing the try line. The conversion was a difficult angle, and the try would end up being the last points of the match, 7-5.
It was a small victory for the Americans, who fell short of the semifinals by 18 points and ultimately short of expectations.
Canada A got its only win of the day in the final pool match against the Hawaiian All Stars in a 26-0 victory.
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Round 3 Results
USA 7-5 Canada
Spain 14-12 France
Canada A 26-0 Hawaii All Stars
Netherlands 89-0 Tyrolian Selects
Netherlands v France
Spain v Canada