The Runner Sports

Women’s Rugby World Cup Report: American Hopes At Bronze Finish Swallowed Up By Punishing French Defense

It was to much fanfare that the ladies of the red, white, and blue took to the pitch Saturday to take part in their final match of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017. With a record of 2-2 in the tournament so far the ladies were competing for a bronze medal to end to their time in Ireland against a French team hoping to bounce back from a loss to the English. Despite some impressive play from prop forward Hope Rogers and inside center Alev Kelter, the lady Eagles were no match for the rugby prowess from Les Bleus.

The opening points went the way of the Americans after some French foul play was spotted by referee Tim Baker. Eagle veteran Kelter capitalized on the French error and sent the ball soaring through the uprights to give the Americans the opening lead. Kelter’s boot would prove instrumental all night in delivering points through conversions and penalty kicks and she would end the match with 13 points. Stirring the proverbial possum, those points from Kelter proved the impetus behind a sustained response from the French that translated into three unanswered tries.

First on the try sheet for Les Blues was Lock Lenaig Corson. Playing the full 80 minutes, Corson lent her imposing figure to play, racking up 15 tackles and a try in the process. The French forwards were not finished and the ladies in blue furnished two more scores through hooker Gaelle Mignot and flanker Marjorie Mayans. In a game that was quickly running away from them, the Eagles seemed to have no response for the French juggernaut. A glimmer of hope appeared, however, in the form of a much-needed try from Eagle forward Abby Gustaitis. Determined to end the half on a high note, the Eagles forward pack ground their way across the tryline for a score that got the Americans within striking distance.

The second half looked to be off to a good start with another Kelter penalty kick putting the Eagles within six points. That would be the closest the Americans got to a lead in the competition. The ladies in blue matched every penalty kick from Kelter with a try of their own and in the end, it’s tries that win the games. That and a solid defense. Despite having the lion’s share of possession in the second half, the Eagles were unable to convert tries in the face of robust French resistance. Les Blues made twice as many tackles and contributed to 10 turnovers from their opponents. Finally, much to the relief of the American fans present, a moment of sloppy play saw Alev Kelter turn up with possession. Toe met turf and she spun off in the direction of the French try zone. With a defender closing fast, she offloaded to full back Cheta Emba, who dotted down for the score. Kelter then converted the try she composed with Emba and the Eagles were back to within eight points.

That would be the final flash of brilliance for the Americans who were unable to pierce the wall of blue defenders and succumbed to their French rivals 31-23. The loss puts them in 4th place in the tournament but represents the best finish since 1991.

Eric Sweigert

Eric Sweigert

Currently a teacher-athlete up in Northern California, I was first introduced to rugby in college (go Aggies) and haven't looked back. Nowadays you can find me teaching American History and writing about a sport that provided many good memories and more than enough stitches.
Eric Sweigert