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USA Tie France, Clinch 2nd at Nations Cup

Saturday Aug 22, 2009 in Women National Teams

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Markham, Ont. – The USA Women’s National Team battled through soggy conditions at Fletchers Field to hang onto an overall second place Nations Cup finish, following a 15-15 draw versus France on Saturday afternoon.

(Due to technical difficulties, the originally scheduled live webcast of the match will be shown on tape delay on USTREAM.) http://www.ustream.tv/channel/live-rugby

With the tie, the Eagles earned two points in the Nations Cup standings to finish in second place, behind defending champions England, and narrowly escape the grasp of cross-border rivals Canada, who lost to England 22-0.  In their debut Nations Cup showings, France and South Africa finished in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

“Overall, I’m happy with our performance over the course of the tournament and impressed by the progress we’ve made as a team,” said USA coach Kathy Flores. “We came here hoping to win at least two of our games and after achieving that goal, we would have been thrilled to earn a third win today.”

Both sides looked hungry to finish their 2009 Nations Cup campaigns with a victory and launched into a physical battle from the beginning.  The Eagles put up a strong fight against an aggressive French side, but as playing conditions continued to decline in the second half, slight skill breakdowns were magnified.

“I think France was much more physical and played a more heads up game at the breakdown. We didn’t take full advantage of our opportunities and did not capitalize on what could have been game changing chances right inside the 22,” Flores added.

France was first to strike inside the ninth minute, as flying winger Celine Allainmat scored the first of her pair of tries, sneaking into the corner to shoot the French ahead 5-0.

The USA caught a few breaks deep into French territory, but did not fit all of the pieces in the puzzle together until the 22nd minute. In a fluid team effort, the Eagles skipped the ball out wide, where Victoria Folayan stood waiting in the wings.

With some fancy stepping, Folayan juked the France defense to bring the Eagles to a level tally, 5-5, where it would hold until the break, thanks to the stiff US defense. France took its chances on a 40-meter penalty kick attempt just before the break, but it was not to be.

The skies opened up to welcome both side back for a waterlogged second half. Despite the slick field conditions, the French backline worked through the USA defense and with less than five minutes gone, had pressed in past the Eagle 22 meter line.

The Eagles defending their line tenaciously, but again Allainmat could not be contained, dotting down for her second try and giving France a 10-5 advantage following the wide conversion.

Not ready to go down without a fight, a fire ignited in the Eagles offense and the USA soon stormed downfield to retaliate. Inside minute 11, center Lynelle Kugler broke several tackles to find space on the outside and even the score at 10-10.

Less than two minutes later, Mel Denham found some running room and charged the Eagles back into French territory. The ball cycled through the backs to Christy Ringgenberg, who slid in to give the Eagles the 15-10 lead.

France continued to apply pressure as toward the USA try line as the game wound to a close, and the Eagles got a needed boost from key substitutions in the pack.

A back-and-forth battle waged for the game-clinching try and at the 80 minute mark, the French were within striking distance and scored to tie it.

France’s break came finally came as the game came to a close. A misdirection play allowing hooker Celine Barthelemy to tie the match.

The Americans defensive line put up an impressive showing to keep their opponents at bay until a knock-on by France meant the final whistle, with both teams stuck at 15 points.

USA 15, France 15 (Halftime USA 5, France 5)
USA Tries: Folayan, Kugler, Ringgenberg
France Tries: Allainmat 2, Bathelemy

1. Farrah Douglas (repl. by Baker), 2. Kittery Wagner (repl. by Lisa Butts), 3. Jamie Burke, 4. Stacey Bridges, 5. Beckett Royce, 6. Mel Denham, 7. Kristin Zdanczewicz (repl. by Phaidra Knight), 8. Blair Groefsema, 9. Kim Magrini, 10. Stephanie Bruce (repl. Amy Daniels), 11. Victoria Folayan (repl. by Ashley English, 12. Mel Kanuk, 13. Lynelle Kugler, 14. Ashley Kmiecik, 15. Christy Ringgenberg


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