New Zealand ends USA medal hopes at Rio 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO -- A medal will elude Team USA's Rugby Sevens squad in the sport's first appearance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, with a lone try the difference in the 5-0 Quarterfinal loss to New Zealand Sunday.

Richie Walker's side kept the defending Rugby World Cup Sevens and three-time World Rugby Women's Sevens Series champion to minimal time on attack until late in the game at Deodoro Stadium, and kept New Zealand to its lowest scoring output of the Olympics.

"They are true Olympians," Walker said of the team that kept Series champion Australia from a win earlier in the afternoon. "They represented the USA really well. We played the No. 1 and No. 2 nations in the world today, but I saw no fear all day.

"They've got to be proud of the experience. I thought we played some of the best rugby today than we ever have."

The U.S. now enters the placing round for a best-possible fifth-place ranking achievable Monday. Fiji lost its own Quarterfinal to Team GB to set up a rematch with the Americans. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

Alev Kelter, the nation's first try-scorer in the Rugby Sevens competition, kicked the perfect restart to the 10 to open the game. The team recovered possession and benefitted from a New Zealand penalty, but an offload from Jillion Potter to Kathryn Johnson was dropped forward.

Continuing on from a strong defensive performance in which they kept Australia to 12 points, the Americans swarmed the Kiwis throughout the game. Kelter and Victoria Folayan did not allow extra meters for Kayla McAlister and Portia Woodman in the third minute, before the U.S. gained sustained possession from a kick Woodman could not beat to the touch line.

But Baravilala and Kelter led a patient attack in the fifth minute, bringing New Zealand towards one side of the field before Potter raced to space out wide to receive a long pass. The pass was dropped for a New Zealand scrum, and Woodman scored after a few quick passes for a 5-0 score line.

Jessica Javelet's role as a super-substitute has paid dividends in earlier matches in Brazil, and the flyer more than played her part on the defensive side of things. After chasing a kick in the ninth minute, she took Folayan's spot in the matchup with Woodman and made the tackle.

Javelet chased a kick from Richelle Stephens in the 11th minute, beating Tyla Nathan-Wong to the ball to toe it forward further. The two collided, and the match official conferred with the assistant referee. Nathan-Wong was deemed to have tackled Javelet with her leg, necessitating a yellow card, and subsequent two-minute player advantage for the U.S.

In a series of infractions and handling errors, New Zealand was able to wind down the remaining minutes on the game clock without having to leave its own half. A final set piece as time expired was contested by the U.S. and forced the ball to fall loose, but the Kiwis managed to kick the ball into touch to secure their Semifinal place.

"The team continued to improve but the ball did not bounce our way," Walker said. "These women showed today where women's rugby is in America - we can play with the best in the world."

Though they will not play for a medal, the U.S. will still play two games Monday for the opportunity to be ranked fifth in the world at the Olympic Games. The next opponent, Fiji, had previously handed the Americans a 12-7 defeat in pool play. Monday's Placing Semifinal will kick off at 1 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

"I'm going to let them relax tonight," Walker said. "They know I'm around. It probably hurts right now, but we still have something to fight for. We want to go and finish No. 5."

Team USA Rugby Sevens Squad | v. New Zealand
1. Jillion Potter
2. Kelly Griffin
3. Kathryn Johnson
4. Alev Kelter
5. Bui Baravilala
6. Lauren Doyle
7. Victoria Folayan
8. Carmen Farmer
9. Joanne Fa'avesi
10. Richelle Stephens
11. Ryan Carlyle
12. Jessica Javelet

Team USA Rugby Sevens Squad | Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games
v. Fiji - L 12-7
v. Colombia - W 48-0
v. Australia - D 12-12
Quarterfinal v. New Zealand - L 5-0
Fifth-place Semifinal v. Fiji - Monday, Aug. 8 @ 1 p.m. ET