The USA Women's Eagles made history on Sunday, winning the American leg of the HSBC World Series for the first time after defeating Australia 26-7 in the final.
The win now means the Eagles have taken first in the last two World Series events dating back to last year.
Though the final was smooth sailing for the United States, the road there was no cake walk.
The winner over Canada
The quarterfinal bout with Canada was an instant classic. Down 19-7, the Eagles came roaring back with tries by Alev Kelter, Kristi Kirshe, and Naya Tapper to take the lead.
But Canada answered, scoring a long try to take the lead with under 30 seconds to play and time for just one more kickoff.
But one last kickoff was all the US needed, as Cheta Emba went high in the hair to catch the hanging kick on the move, and burst right through the entire defense en route to the tryline, where she touched down with time expired to give the United States the 29-26 win.
The wild finish against New Zealand
The semifinals, against reigning HSBC champs New Zealand, weren't any easier. After taking a 7-0 lead through Alev Kelter, the Eagles conceded two tries on either side of halftime to trail 12-7.
But with two minutes to play, Kristi Kirshe scored an incredible try, busting three tackles in the process and having enough gas to reach the try line from 30 meters out. It was a sensational effort from a phenomenal player.
On the ensuing restart, Abby Gustaitis climbed the ladder to retain possession for the US, and after another break from Kirshe, the Eagles were threatening the line.
Gustaitis finished it off with a beautiful offload to Lauren Doyle, who took it well and finished off the try. The conversion, however, went astray and so at 19-12 New Zealand had one more chance.
The Black Ferns worked the ball all the way to the line, and just as it appeared they would go in right under the sticks, the Eagles dug deep and repelled them inches from the whitewash.
One phase later, New Zealand scored, but instead of an easy centered conversion, they were forced to shoot from out wide. The kick was no good, and the Eagles were on to the championship.
The finale vs Australia
Everything seemed to come together for the Eagles in the cup final.
They got cracking early, with a great team try finished off by the powerful running of Kelter. Australia responded quickly though, Elia Green scoring a great try out wide to knot the scores up. However, that's the last the Aussies would impact the scoreboard.
Right before halftime, the Eagles put the clamp down on the Australia attack, forcing them backwards into their own 22 after a series of phases under pressure.
An eventual counter ruck regained possession for the Americans, and some great teamwork ultimately freed up Ilona Maher for a 1on1 out wide, which she turned into a try, bringing the halftime score to 12-7.
Nicole Heavirland opened the second half scoring for the US, fighting her way through a tackle on the goal line to cross over and score to give the Eagles a 19-7 advantage.
Heavirland scored once again a minute later, following up well in support after the Eagles spun the ball all the way wide to the wing. Heavirland, thinking quickly, sniped around the edge of the breakdown to score in the left corner.
That would be enough for the United States, as they won with a convincing 26-7 score against the reigning Olympic gold medalists.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Though there were some outstanding individual performances from the Eagles (Alev Kelter, Kristi Kirshe), it was genuinely a total team effort that got the job done.
The United States ran powerfully all weekend long, and were excellent in support and at the breakdown. They shared the ball incredibly well, defended as a unit and, most importantly, got contributions from everyone on the roster.
It's that kind of depth and trust in each other that can take them far in the Olympics next summer.