Update, 2:30 a.m. Friday: Great Britain knocked the U.S. women’s rugby team out of medal contention early Friday morning with a 21-12 quarterfinal win. Great Britain jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first 2.5 minutes and the Americans never recovered.
The Americans get a chance to play for a share of fifth place in the 12-team tournament Friday afternoon. Great Britain moves on to the semifinals
Alev Kelter and her teammates knocked off the reigning Olympic champion Thursday to complete an undefeated run through pool play and win a spot in the quarterfinal round of the women’s sevens rugby tournament.
The United States rallied in the second half to beat Australia 14-12 at Tokyo Stadium to finish pool play with a 3-0 record.
Kelter, a Chugiak High graduate, played sparingly in both halfs. She made an almost immediate impact when she entered the match in the second half, busting off a big run before making a pass that led to the winning try.
The Americans will play a quarterfinal game at 1:30 a.m. ADT Friday. A victory would put them in a medal game about 24 hours later, because all four semifinal teams advance to the medal round.
The semifinals are set for 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. ADT Friday. Winners play for gold and silver at 1 a.m. ADT Saturday; semifinal losers play for bronze at 12:30 a.m. ADT Saturday.
If the Americans lose their quarterfinal match, they play for fifth place Friday afternoon. Fifth place would match the team’s finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where both Kelter and the sport of rugby sevens made its Olympic debut.
Australia captured the gold medal in 2016 and won its first two pool games decisively (48-0 over Japan and 26-10 over China).
Against the Americans, the Aussies took a 12-0 lead but couldn’t protect it.
They scored the only points in the first half for a 7-0 lead and made it 12-0 by adding another try in the opening 65 seconds of the second half. But they missed the conversion kick — and ultimately that cost them the game.
Kelter entered early in the second half and made a big run with the ball and then passed it to Cheta Emba, who took it across the goal line. Nicole Heavirland made the conversion to make it 12-7.
A little more than a minute later, Abby Gustaitis scored to tie the game. Heavirland’s kick made it 14-12 with less than three minutes left in the 14-minute game, and the Americans kept Australia scoreless the rest of the way.
“It took everything we had. We’re just thankful we got it done together,” Emba told reporters in Tokyo after the match.
The United States opened play with a 28-14 win over China and added a 17-7 win over Japan early Thursday morning.