Rugby: U.S. women upset New Zealand

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USA captain Nicole Heavirland of Whitefish attacks against France on day one of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2018 in Dubai on Thursday. (Mike Lee/KLC fotos for World Rugby)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The U.S. women’s national rugby sevens team pulled off a last ditch try to upset five-time defending world champion New Zealand 14-12 in the quarterfinals of the Dubai 7s tournament on Friday morning.

Trailing 12-7 with no time remaining, Kelsi Stockart caught the New Zealand defense sleeping, taking the ball from a ruck and slipping past the Kiwis untouched 70 meters for a try. Alev Kelter housed the chip shot conversion to lift the Eagles to victory.

It was a stark reversal of fortunes from the last match of pool play, when the Kiwis blasted the U.S. side 45-14. Whitefish’s Nicole Heavirland, the captain for the Eagles at the tournament, scored a try in the second half of the New Zealand rout.

The U.S. split its earlier matches in pool play, falling to France 19-17 and beating South Africa 19-15 with the help of two Heavirland conversions.

The quarterfinal upset over New Zealand was the first win over the Kiwis in the last four tries, dating back to a semifinal win in February in Sydney, Australia.

The U.S. will play Russia in the semifinals early Friday morning in the U.S., with the match kicking off at 2:30 a.m. MT. The Eagles lost to Russia 26-21 in the last meeting between the squads, a fifth-place final in Canada on Memorial Day weekend.

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