After a win, a loss, and a draw in the first day of competition of women’s Rugby Sevens at the Rio Olympics, the United States felt hopeful after making the main draw for the quarterfinal round.
The Eagles, by virtue of their relatively low seed, had a very formidable opponent in the quarterfinal round: the New Zealand All-Blacks. New Zealand, a country whose very identity is forged by rugby football, has been a top side in the full-sided women’s game, winning the World Cup four years in a row from 1998 to 2010.
But the States were the champions for the first women’s Rugby World Cup in 1991, and threw a polyglot of athletes, including former All-America field hockey standout Jessica Javelet, against New Zealand in their quarterfinal-round game.
The Americans had held off New Zealand for most of the first half, but relaxed in the final seconds, allowing fly-half Portia Woodman about a 40-yard run for what turned out to be the lone try of the match.
Javelet came on after the interval and the American posture changed. She forced a yellow card against All-Black captain Tyla Nathan-Wong for a late tackle as both chased a long kick upfield. The States could not parlay the two-minute advantage and a New Zealand penalty late, allowing the Kiwis to run out 5-0 winners.
The States fall into the 4-8 classification round, while New Zealand join Australia, Canada, and Team GB in the medal round.