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The 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup started on Wednesday in Dublin. The USA Eagles played Italy first, and earned the needed result: a bonus point win. The final score was 24-12, though the Eagles had plenty of chances to put even more points on the board.
The first quarter of the match was dominated by the Eagles, as the match started in close to an ideal fashion for them.
Early on, Italy kicked to Cheta Emba to give the USA its first possession. After the Eagles re-gathered a Kimber Rozier chip, the ball was shifted to Kristen Thomas who, from about 30 meters out, beat four defenders on her way to the match’s first try. Rozier converted to make it 7-0.
The build-up to the second USA try started well inside the Eagles’ half when Thomas collected a loose Italian pass. Under pressure, and back inside their own half, the Italians conceded a penalty which gave the USA an attacking lineout in good position. While there was certainly some sloppiness from the possession that followed, the Eagles held onto the ball long enough for a gap to open up in front of Rozier, who went in for the try.
Italy was only able to get into the USA 22 via a scrum penalty. From the lineout inside the 22, the Italians mauled over for their first try. Hooker Lucia Cammarano was the try-scorer, and Veronica Schiavon converted to make it 12-7.
The Eagles had a host of other chances in the first half, but turned the ball over time and again. The Eagles had no trouble advancing into the Italian 22, but had all sorts of trouble maintaining possession once there.
That pattern held early in the second half. The spark that changed things was Alev Kelter entering the match. She made a break into the Italian 22 that created an opportunity for Thomas to score her second.
After 54 minutes, the USA was up 17-7.
Several minutes later, the Eagles had an attacking scrum about 25 meters out. This time, they held onto the ball long enough for Abby Gustaitis to power over. Kelter kicked the difficult conversion to make it 24-7 with about 15 minutes to play.
The match stuttered a bit after the Eagles scored the fourth try.
A high tackle penalty led to an Italian five-meter lineout. The Eagles were able to tie the ball up and win a scrum and the chance to get out of trouble. However, an average clearing kick gave the Italians a good chance to counter. Thomas stuck a hand out to stop the ball going wide and was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock on. That penalty also gave the Italians a chance to maul from a lineout. This time, they were able to bowl over--Elisa Giordano scoring the try.
That was the final score and the match ended 24-12.
All of the USA potential was on display in this opening match. In open play, the Eagles had no trouble getting over the advantage line and shifting the ball from one touch line to the other. The forwards set enough of a platform from set pieces for the Eagles to attack on the front foot. Apart from the two driving mauls, the defense was solid with relatively few tackles missed.
Naya Tapper looked strong with ball-in-hand, as did Jordan Gray, Alycia Washington, and Catie Benson. Sara Parsons was all over the pitch and was deservedly named player of the match.
USA next plays Spain, who was dominated by England in the other Pool B match, 56-5.
England showed from the very first moments of the match why they are the favorites to win not only the pool, but also the tournament. When they had the ball, Spain showed a high degree of ambition and accuracy.
1. Catie Benson 2. Katy Augustyn 3. Tiffany Faaee (C) 4. Stacey Bridges 5. Alycia Washington 6. Sara Parsons 7. Kate Zackary 8. Jordan Gray 9. Deven Owsiany 10. Kimber Rozier 11. Kristen Thomas 12. Sylvia Braaten 13. Nicole Heavirland 14. Naya Tapper 15. Cheta Emba
16. Samantha Pankey 17. Nai Reddick 18. Hope Rogers 19. Abby Gustaitis 20. Kristine Sommer 21. Kayla Canett-Oca 22. Alev Kelter 23. Jessica Javelet
(Match Stats from World Rugby)