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The USA Eagle Women finished off the 2015 Women’s Rugby Super Series with a disappointing 14-47 loss to the New Zealand Black Ferns. However, despite the 1-2 record on the tournament, the Eagles learned a lot about their young team, according to head coach Pete Steinberg.
Despite a good start, the Eagles could not finish off New Zealand. After going into halftime up 15-14, the Black Ferns racked up 32 points in the second half on their way to a rousing victory. The Eagles just couldn’t keep up in the final 40 minutes, according to Steinberg.
“I think we had lots of opportunities in this one, but we’re a young team, and like most young teams, we struggled to capitalize,” he said. “I think if, early in the second half, we had managed to get over the line, it would have been a much different match. They took advantage of our errors, and we just weren’t able to handle it.”
Steinberg also pointed to two penalties in the New Zealand 22 that his team failed to capitalize on, including one missed penalty goal that could have given the Eagles a lead early in the second half. Also, because they couldn’t score four tries, the Eagles missed out on the bonus point, and therefore a third-place finish in the Super Series. Even with the bad result, Steinberg said that he saw a lot of improvement in this match.
“We definitely improved our defense in the first half,” he said. “We really closed them down, and we probably had the edge in that half. The players have learned that we have work to do on our skills. They were disappointed with this one because the second-half performance was poor, but I think that they’ve got a determination to win in the future.”
Throughout the tournament, Steinberg said he thought his team improved mostly on the offensive end. The Eagles have typically been a defensive-minded team, but in this Series, they instituted a more wide-open offensive style that allowed them to score more tries. Steinberg also thought his team’s scrums and line-outs looked solid, as usual.
Steinberg pointed to a lot of young players that could turn into stars someday, including Jess Wooden, who showed a lot of promise on the offensive end. He was also very happy with most of their outside pack, including Jane Paar, Nicole Heavirland, and Kelsi Stockert.
Overall, Steinberg was very satisfied with the way his young team performed.
“We are very happy and very excited,” he said. “We capped 17 new players, and that is a remarkable number. There were huge amounts of growth by the young players who had no idea what it was like to play international rugby, and by the end, know the work that they have to do to compete. Now, what we have to do is put them in environments and provide the competition that allows them to be more consistent and more skilled so that we can compete with anyone in the 2017 World Cup.”
In order to elevate USA Women’s Rugby to the next level and ensure the program’s long-term success, Steinberg said that they must increase competition at all levels in the U.S.
“We need to get these players in better environments on a regular basis, with better coaching and better strength and conditioning,” Also, in most games in America, the result is decided before they walk on the field, because one team is so much better than the other. We need to put our players in an environment where if they drop the ball, the other team scores, so they learn.”