Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
UNITED STATES V CANADA!
What an amazing weekend on The Rugby Channel!
Samoa nearly upset Wales, Fiji got their first win over Scotland in almost two decades, the United States and Canada battled to a thrilling draw, and the USA played six exciting matches on their way to a sixth-place finish in the 2017 HSBC Women’s Sevens Series.
And all you had to do to watch every single minute of it was Subscribe to The Rugby Channel for less than a buck a week!
If you have a few spare hours and need some oval entertainment, this is a great opportunity to see some June Tours, Rugby World Cup Qualifying, and seven-a-side action that will definitely get your rugby blood pumping.
If time is a little short right about now, then check out TRC Report #57 for highlights from all three tests, all six USA Women’s Sevens matches, plus the Cup Final from Clermont-Ferrand featuring Australia and New Zealand.
A fairly young Welsh team had to withstand a physical and committed Samoa side in slick and wet conditions in Apia to come away with a hard-fought victory. Stand-in Wales coach Robin McBryde will be happy with the effort and determination of both his youngsters and the supporting veterans.
Guinness Pro12 leading tryscorer Steff Evans of the champion Scarlets notched a brace, including the game winner inside the last ten minutes. Having sixteen players away on Lions duty has provided a fantastic opportunity for Wales’ future stars to don the red shirt and put forth their early claims to spots in the 2019 Rugby World Cup team.
Fiji wanted this one badly so they went out and took it. Scotland had a somewhat intact team with only a handful of their regulars away in New Zealand but they didn’t have enough firepower out wide to compete with the speed and power of the home side.
The stats sheet will say that the Scots missed a lot of tackles, and while it is true that they did allow lots of linebreaks because of inferior speed, what was most notable from Fiji was the number of times their ballcarriers took on the visitors’ tacklers head up and simply knocked them backwards onto their butts.
Fiji was impressive all over the park in Suva and they will have gained a huge amount of confidence after beating two Six Nations countries on consecutive weekends.
You can’t really ask for more than what the first leg of the 2019 RWC Qualification Series delivered. This was a back-and-forth, wide open extravaganza that was fully in doubt until the very last second of the match. And even more importantly, it set up a winner-take-all second leg that promises to be an even better contest on Saturday in San Diego!
Worrying aspects for Coach John Mitchell have to be centered on discipline and missed tackles with a couple of yellows in silly situations and clean breaks by Canadian runners contributing to the overall scoreline.
The Eagles never seemed downhearted and always looked for chances to sneak away possession and score points throughout the match. The USA got some good breaks – the Canadian knock on in the tryzone for one and the Te’o intercept for another – but they also showed sufficient grit and fortitude to deserve not to lose.
Both teams had to mount comebacks from serious deficits at different points in the match, which will certainly alter the psychology going into the match at Torero Stadium, as no lead can be considered safe there.
If you are only going to watch one of the three tests from last weekend with The Rugby Channel’s VOD option, make it this one and you won’t be disappointed.
You can also use VOD to pick and choose which sevens matches you want to see from France, a nice feature if you don’t have two consecutive free days to devote to watching all 34 games.
A strong showing by the Americans to get the win after falling behind 0-7 almost immediately. Richie Walker left some of his regular starters on the bench in this one but when they did come on, they made a huge impact in play, specifically Kelter and Tapper.
This was a good start to the tourney for the Eagles as they have had mixed results against the Irish in pool play.
The USA jumped out ahead of the Japanese and never looked back. Japan did score at the beginning of the second half but the USA responded by turning the match into a blowout with three second half tries.
Part of being one of the top teams in this competition means decisively beating the teams below you, hopefully while resting starters and building depth.
Another quality outing against the best team in the world at the moment. The Eagles did beat them earlier this season in a semifinal but other than that New Zealand has been dominant.
This was a match which showed that while the US women are indeed threatening when given the ball in space, they still have a ways to go in the defensive portion of the game.
The United States got off to a great start by opening up an early lead but the aforementioned defensive frailties were ruthlessly exploited by the Olympic champions.
A loss to a very experienced and savvy Australia in the Cup quarters is still to be expected but the ultimate goal has to be to learn from the mistakes committed and eventually eliminate them.
The second time around was a more satisfying experience for the USA as they hammered Ireland instead of just barely beating them.
This was one of several matches where the play of Nicole Heavirland was noticeably outstanding. As she gets more experience, she seems to be becoming one of those rare players that makes everybody around them better.
This loss stung because a victory would have given the USA fifth place in France and fifth overall in the Series. Fiji has now beaten them twice in important games and a lot of it has to do with missing tackles that probably should be made.
Fiji is a rapidly improving team and one that the USA needs to figure out how to beat if they want to challenge and then pass them next year in the final standings.
New Zealand dominated Australia in the Final and in the Series. Their communication on defense, overall athleticism, and ability to instantly turn any slight turnover or advantage into a score is mightily impressive.
Well-deserved congratulations to New Zealand for winning the 2017 crown!
Not much is riding on this one, only Rugby World Cup Qualification, additional funding, pride, rivalry, avoidance of dangerous Uruguay, and a chance to seriously begin building a squad for 2019.
If a new coach comes into the program and is already guaranteed a spot in Japan in two years time it will take a huge burden off his shoulders and allow him to concentrate on creating the best possible side instead of having to deal with the anxiety of possibly not making it to Japan at all.
All the Eagles have to do to win in San Diego is tighten up their defensive structure and improve their tackling and discipline. Crucial miscommunication and off-balance attempts at bringing down Canadian runners in Hamilton nearly cost them the match.
The two most mentioned facts about Canada this week are that they hasn’t lost a RWC Qualifier since 2009 and they haven’t beaten the United States in their last six attempts. Something has to give if the Eagles are going to secure their spot in the next quadrennial tournament.
And in case you were wondering, yes, there will be extra time if at the end of eighty minutes if the score is still tied!
You absolutely have to watch this match if you are a fan of North American rugby and the only way to do that - other than buying a ticket to Torero Stadium - is to subscribe to The Rugby Channel without further delay.
This will be a fine match to watch and enjoy because it features the very best women playing rugby in America right now. The Eagles get more competition ahead of their journey to Ireland and the WPL All-Stars get to show Coach Pete Steinberg why they should have been picked to go!
There will be more than a bit of familiarity between the opposing teams on Saturday as many of these women will have played together and against each other over the years for various clubs and representative sides.
Do you want to watch the Eagles fight their way into the 2019 Rugby World Cup? The only way you’re going to be able to do that is to become a subscriber to The Rugby Channel so take action this very instant!