In one of the most anticipated matches of women's Olympic rugby 7s pool play, the United States faced the defending gold medalists in Australia for the top seed advancing out of Pool C. The Americans were out of sync for most of the first half, but managed to pull off the 14-12 win.
The U.S. faced an early threat from Australia, but an ill-timed pass gave the Americans a chance to restart off a lineout. The U.S. was pinned behind their 22 for most of the first half, but displayed staunch defense to keep Australia from scoring early.
Australia had its best chance of the half around the two-minute mark when the Americans committed back-to-back penalties that left them backpedaling. Another bad pass by Australia bailed the U.S. out of trouble. However, substitute Cheta Emba made a costly error off the restart by not letting go of the ball, which led to Australia being awarded a penalty from 10 meters out.
With the U.S. on its heels, Sharni Williams changed directions and touched it down for the first score of the game. Both teams looked exhausted at the half, with the score 7-0 in favor or the Australians.
The start of the second half didn’t start the way the Americans wanted. The referees called a penalty against Naya Tapper near the try for not releasing. Australia quick tapped and Demi Hayes returned the ball almost 90 meters down the field, giving the Aussies a 12-0 lead.
Veteran Alev Kelter responded exactly when the Americans needed. On the ensuing kickoff, Kelter willed her way down the field, breaking multiple tackles and offloading the ball to Emba at the perfect time to get the Americans on the board.
With three minutes remaining, Australia made a costly mistake, dropping yet another pass. Kristi Kirshe recovered the dropped pass and offloaded to Abby Gustaitis. The prop took it home, giving the Americans the 14-12 lead.
After the try, the U.S. put on a clinic for how to wind down the clock, moving from ruck to ruck and finally ending the game on a penalty, kicking to touch and ending Australia’s threat.
The Americans remain undefeated in their 2020 Tokyo campaign, winning 14-12.