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Eagle Women Less Than Thrilled at Finish

Saturday Aug 22, 2009 in Women National Teams

image for this article
(Vix Folayan shows her scoring touch again. She scored two against South Africa, pictured, and one against France. Bill English photo.)

It wasn’t quite the note on which the Women Eagles wanted to end the Nations Cup, but it was somewhere in between. The USA tied France at 15 and earned the points to nab second place.

On the bright side, “who thought the USA was going to finish second in this tournament?” coach Kathy Flores asked. “From that perspective, I’m happy.”

As for the game, “everyone’s a bit disappointed,” Flores said. “France beat us at the breakdown – they were faster and more physical. We did an OK job getting to the ball, but not through the ball. If we were heading into training tomorrow, we’d be doing some heavy contact work.”

The USA began the game very aggressively, however. The first few times France scrumhalf Jennifer Troncy touched the ball on the scrum or base of the ruck, she was absolutely clobbered by flanker Mel Denham and scrumhalf Kim Magrini.

But once the shock wore off, France worked its way inside the 10 meter after a long break on the outside. After a USA infraction, France wheeled its own scrum, sending a quick pop to weakside wing Celine Allainmat, who dove over the line for the first of her two tries, 5-0.

The USA started finding some room on the outside, adjusting their game plan of cutting back in as France stuck with a slide defense. So the ball started getting wide, with wing Vix Folayan gaining ground up the sideline. From a USA scrum inside the France’s 22m, the Eagles stick with their strategy. The ball skipped to fullback Christy Ringgenberg inserting, and she sent a long, crisp pass to Folayan who was standing all alone on the wing.

“Usually I like to test my opposite first,” Folayan said, “but this was the first time we went head to head. I put a slow step on her, and after my second jump, I saw the corner and knew I had it.”

Folayan’s third try of the tournament tied it at 5. And that’s where the match remained for another 20 minutes.

“Our first half was better than our second,” Flores commented, “but there were some missed opportunities on attack, when ball carriers weren’t advancing to the try line and passing instead.”

At this point in the match, the slight drizzle blanketing Fletcher Field turned into a pounding rain, and while all but the diehard spectators migrated below the bleachers, the players continued on. France adjusted their play to the weather, kept the ball in hand, and kicked effectively. The USA didn’t alter their game plan, which hurt them in the end and forced a lot of red zone defense, though it held firm for the most part.

Ten minutes into the second half, France found itself inside the USA’s 10 meter. Folayan reined in a breakaway winger around the corner and held up a try, but France received the subsequent scrum. Magrini pressured the scrumhalf into bobbling the pass out, but Troncy somehow recovered the ball and spun around the weak side. One dish later to the ever dangerous Allainmat and France was over the line for the 10-5 lead.

In a fiery comeback, the USA answered with back-to-back tries beginning with the following possession. The Eagles reined in what was almost a botched lineout in French territory, then executed some forward phase ball farther downfield. The breakdowns were hotly contested and nearly lost a few times, so outside center Lynelle Kugler picked from the base of the ruck, stiff-armed past a defender and motored toward the corner for the tying try, 10-all.

Off the subsequent possession, now flyhalf Mel Kanuk got a break at midfield that brought the Eagles to just over 30 meters from the French line. It got a little messy, and fullback Ashley English kicked a loose ball downfield, where center Amy Daniels scooped it up. She cut inside and then fed now-wing Ringgenberg, who had the lane to the same corner in which Kugler scored two minutes earlier, 15-10.

France continued to pressure and most of the last 20 minutes was spent on USA soil. Subs Phaidra Knight and Daniels did well to keep the defense motivated by stifling some potentially damaging runs with brick-wall-like tackles, but they had their work cut out for them.

With about five minutes left, France kicked into the try zone, where Daniels recovered it. Instead of touching down, she attempted to run it out and sent a no-look pass to Ringgenberg, who knocked it on. That eventually led to a French attacking lineout, where the forwards mauled to the line, and prop Celine Barthelemy dotted down for, yet again, another tying try, 15 all.

When the game ended, France was inside the USA 5 meter, so the final whistle was a bit gracious.

“We knew we should have won it,” said No. 8 Blair Groefsema. “We came out tough but became wet cloth in the second half. We lacked that extra oomph. Yeah, the rain was a factor; it was messy, but both teams had to deal with it, so it’s not an excuse. It’s just disappointing to hold South Africa scoreless, beat Canada, and then not win a game we should have.”

Tomorrow morning, the women head back to their respective cities for the upcoming premier league season and will see each a week after the national championships in San Francisco. Until then, “yeah, we definitely have something to work toward,” Groefsema said. “This isn’t the way we wanted to end the tour.”

USA 15

Tries: Vix Folayan, Lynelle Kugler, Christy Ringgenberg

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

Subs: 16. Stacy Baker, 17. Lisa Butts, 18. Sharon Blaney, 19. Phaidra Knight, 20. Claudia Braymer, 21. Amy Daniels, 22. Ashley English.


France 15

Tries: Celine Allainmat (2), Celine Barthelemy

1. Nadege Labbey, 2  Laetitia Salles, 3. Céline Barthelemy, 4. Clémence Audebert, 5. Cyrielle Bouisset, 6. Amandine Vaupre, 7. Marie Charlotte Hebel, 8. Sandra Rabier, 9. Jennifer Troncy, 10. Aurelie Bailon, 11. Celine Allainmat, 12. Lucille Godiveau, 13. Sandrine Agricole, 14. ?, 15. Elodie Poublan.

Subs: 16  Cyndia Mansard, 17. Audrey Noguera, 18. Stephanie Loyer, 19. Lucie Canal, 21. Manon Andre, 22. Aurélia Cellier.

- Jackie Finlan

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