RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The United States was seconds away from the biggest upset of the Olympic rugby sevens tournament before Emma Tonegato and Chloe Dalton combined to earn Australia a 12-12 draw Sunday in a dramatic end to the group stage.
Tonegato scored a very late try for the world series champions and Dalton converted it after the full-time siren.
"We haven't got the loss against our name but it was definitely the kick up the pants that we needed going into the quarterfinals," Australia coach Tim Walsh said. "I sent a message out to Chloe before she kicked saying, 'This is for the gold medal, so keep your head down and slot this,' and she did. I think she really likes the pressure."
Tonegato scored the first and the last tries of the match, and Jessica Javelet scored two in between to give the Americans a 12-5 lead going into the last minute.
With the draw, Australia topped Pool A and moved into a quarterfinal match later Sunday against Spain, the last team to qualify for rugby's return to the Olympics after 92 years, leaving the Americans third in the group but into the quarterfinals as well.
The reward for such a close call against the Australians is a daunting knockout match against New Zealand, the other main contender for the first ever Olympic gold medal in women's rugby.
United States captain Kelly Griffin praised Javelet for her pace, saying "she can come into these games and make a difference."
"Australia is the No. 1 team in the world, so they put up a really good fight. In this instance, we were able to meet it and come out with a tie," she said, adding that securing a quarterfinal spot had always been the target for Sunday. "I trust these girls. These girls are my family, so we're trying to do something great together."
Britain captain Emily Scarratt scored a second-half double as her team upstaged Canada 22-0 to top Pool C, scoring four tries against a team that hadn't conceded a point in its opening two games.
In the other quarterfinals, Britain will play Fiji, which placed second in Pool A and closed with a 36-0 win over Colombia, and Canada will meet France, which lost 26-7 to New Zealand and placed second in Pool B.
Brazil won its first game of the tournament, beating Japan 26-10, but both teams missed out on the playoffs along with Colombia and Kenya, which lost 19-10 to Spain its last game.
The 12-player British squad contains 11 members of the England team which finished the world sevens series tied with Canada, which won the last stop on the tour and edged into third place and was confident of winning an Olympic medal.
Handling errors cost the Canadians dearly, though, with the British converting four turnovers into tries, including one after the halftime siren.
Brazil won its first game of the tournament, with Beatriz Futuro Muhlbauer capping the victory by diving under the posts for her second try of the match against Japan directly in front of the biggest section of local fans, triggering raucous cheering in the almost half-full temporary 15,000-seat stadium.
Australia's Elia Green, the fastest woman in world rugby, had to leave the field inside the first 30 seconds after a head clash on the sideline with an American defender. The Australian team said she had passed an initial head-injury assessment, and would undergo another test but expected she'd be cleared for the quarterfinals.