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Both England and USA came into their final pool match of the Women's Rugby World Cup 2-0, each with the maximum 10 points claimed from the matches against Italy and Spain. Currently ranked best in the world, the matchup against England was always daunting for the Eagles. The match was never close, but the Eagles scored four tries and, therefore, a bonus point in the 47-26 loss.
Early on, Katy Mclean’s kicking helped keep the action of the match in the USA half. In contrast, the Eagles struggled to manage territory through kicking. An early Cheta Emba clearing kick was charged down, and for most of the first half, the Eagles tried to run out of their half.
An early chance for USA just inside the England half was quickly spoiled when Deven Owsiany’s pass from the lineout was intercepted cleanly by Amy Cockayne. She passed to Sarah Bern who sprinted to within striking distance. The USA defense was enough to force a knock-on. However, England stole the scrum and won a penalty. From the lineout that followed, the English maul was pulled down. While under advantage Mclean grubbered the ball into the try zone where Emily Scarratt was just able to get downward pressure on the ball and score. Scarratt’s conversion was good to make it 7-0 to England.
The next try came again through the England maul. With a lineout close to 20 meters out, England drove to within five meters before the maul was collapsed. Kathryn Augustyn was shown a yellow card for collapsing the maul and England was awarded the penalty try.
More struggles from the USA set piece put England in a good position again. From a 10-meter lineout, England were again able to maul well. Marlie Packer touched the ball down as the maul went over.
With a quarter of the match over, England was up 21-0.
Soon after, the Eagles found themselves struggling to run the ball out of their half. Despite a solid passage of possession, England was able to win a penalty which led to another lineout inside the USA 22. Packer again scored as the USA could not stop the English maul.
Down 28-0, the Eagles managed to win the ball back from the restart. When England did manage to get the ball back and tried a clearing kick, Naya Tapper fielded the kick cleanly just outside the England 22. After she was tackled, the Eagles had their sharpest attacking phase of the half which ended with Kristen Thomas being held up in the try zone.
From the five-meter scrum, lock Alycia Washington was somehow able to claim the ball and go forward. Kate Zackary then wrestled her way over to put the USA on the board. Kelter converted the try to make it 28-7 with just over five minutes left in the half.
Before the half ended, England had a scrum inside the USA 22. The scrum from the Eagles was solid, but Mclean went through a gap as the defense anticipated a pass she never needed to make.
33-7 at halftime.
At the start of the second half, a missed tackle allowed Abbie Scott to break free and deep into USA territory. The Eagles’ defense never regained its shape, and Amy Wilson Hardy went over untouched.
England scored again shortly thereafter, again from a driving maul. This time, Cokayne claimed the five points. Early in the second half, the score was 47-7.
England dropped the restart, so USA was gifted an attacking scrum from a good position. The scrum was solid enough, and Kelter and Hope Rogers carried well in the midfield. Then the ball was shifted out to Tapper who carried, was tackled, released the ball, sprung to her feet and regathered the ball, was tackled, sprung to her feet, and again regathered. After she was tackled the third time, Emba came in carried the ball over the line for the second USA try.
Up 47-12, England began making substitutions and losing some of their sharpness in attack while the USA set piece began to function properly. The last 20 minutes of the match was almost all USA.
An energized Jordan Gray continued to work hard and won a breakdown penalty that helped put the Eagles into a good attacking position. The lineout was won, though not cleanly, and when Tapper received the ball, she was able to shoot through the England defensive line and into the try zone. The third try for the Eagles, converted, brought the score to 47-19.
The Eagles had plenty of chances in the last 15 minutes to score the fourth try and the bonus point but they waited until the last play of the match. Thomas scored from a long range, swerving run. Rozier converted to make the final score 47-26.
With 11 points, they finish second in Pool B to England. They are now in excellent position to advance to the semi-finals. The only scenario which is bad for the Eagles is if France lose to Ireland but also earn a bonus point. The next round of matches is Tuesday, August 22.
1. Catie Benson 2. Kathryn Augustyn 3. Tiffany Faaee (C) 4. Stacey Bridges 5. Alycia Washingotn 6. Sara Parsons 7. Kate Zackary 8. Jordan Gray 9. Deven Owsiany 10. Kimber Rozier 11. Kristen Thomas 12. Alev Kelter 13. Nicole Heavirland 14. Naya Tapper 15. Cheta Emba 16. Samantha Pankey 17. Hope Rogers 18. Nicole James 19. Abby Gustaitis 20. Kristine Sommer 21. Kayla Canett-Oca 22. Sylvia Braaten 23. Jess Wooden
1. Vickii Cornborough 2. Amy Cokayne 3. Sarah Bern 4. Abbie Scott 5. Tamara Taylor 6. Alex Matthews 7. Marlie Packer 8. Sarah Hunter 9. Natasha Hunt 10. Katy Mclean 11. Kay Wilson 12. Amber Reed 13. Emily Scarratt 14. Amy Wilson Hardy 15. Danielle Waterman 16. Vicky Fleetwood 17. Rochelle Clark 18. Justine Lucas 19. Poppy Cleall 20. Harriet Millar-Mills 21. Leanne Riley 22. Rachael Burford 23. Megan Jones
Statistics from World Rugby: