You are here
The United States fell 23-17 to Ireland Friday in the first round of the Women’s Rugby World Cup. The Eagles matched Ireland’s two tries, but three Niamh Briggs penalties to one from Kimber Rozier proved the difference. The loss will make it very difficult for the USA to get out of pool play, with an upset of defending champ New Zealand likely needed.
Ireland got on the board in the third minute, when a breakdown penalty on the Eagles allowed Briggs a clear shot at goal, which she converted to give the Irish a 3-0 lead.
The USA went on the offensive immediately off the restart, however, with big runs through the forwards helping the Eagles deep into the attacking end. A kickable penalty was booted to touch, setting up a five-meter lineout for the USA. After an effective maul, Lynelle Kugler stepped one Irish defender and dove in for the try. Rozier slotted the conversion, putting the Eagles up 7-3 after seven minutes.
Vanesha McGee fielded the ensuing restart cleanly and charged forward, but a poor attempt at clearing the American lines from fullback Meya Bizer and a failed box kick from scrumhalf Jocelyn Tseng gave Ireland supreme field position, and after an American penalty, Briggs stroked over three more points to make it 7-6.
The Eagles had another attacking lineout in the 20th minute, but a misfire on the throw saw Ireland steal possession. The Eagles turned the ball back over right away, but a knock-on again stymied the opportunity.
The Irish driving maul was problematic for the USA all day, and it helped Ireland take the lead late in the first half when lock Sarah Walsh was sent to the bin for infringing on one. Ireland kicked the penalty to touch, won the point-blank lineout, and Ailis Egan crashed over. Briggs converted, putting the Eagles down 13-7 with just over eight minutes to play in the half.
Prop Hope Rogers helped put the US back on the front foot with some powerful runs, and an Irish penalty saw the Eagles penetrate the 22. Ireland’s Claire Molloy was pinged for hands-in at the ruck right in front of the posts, and sent off, and Rozier slotted the easy shot at goal to cut the deficit to three at 13-10.
The United States’ inability to clear its lines again proved costly, as the Irish charged down two kicks to keep the ball in their attacking end. A series of slow balls right on halftime saw Briggs touch down for Ireland’s second try. She converted it herself, and the Irish took a 20-10 lead into the break.
The Eagles took momentum back at the onset of the second half. The restart was knocked on by Ireland, and the Eagles easily won the scrum inside the Irish 22. Meya Bizer gashed the defense off the set piece, driving the ball close to pay dirt, and a couple of phases later Carmen Farmer crossed the line for the Eagles’ second try. Rozier converted, and the USA trailed 20-17 a couple of minutes into the second half.
The next 15 minutes was spent with neither team giving or taking much, until Ireland strung together some possession and got into the attacking end. Reserve Shaina Turley, who had been very lively after coming on, was yellow carded at a breakdown near the USA’s defensive try line. Briggs teed up the penalty and extended the lead to 23-17.
The United States didn’t threaten the Irish line the rest of the second half, which was filled with more Irish possession, a stagnant American offense and lack of go-forward. Briggs had a chance to seal the win in the 79th minute with a long shot at goal, but missed, giving the Eagles a sliver of hope and a 22-meter dropout.
Possession needed to be retained on the kick, but Bizer kicked long, and into touch, giving the ball back to Ireland with under a minute to go. The Irish milked the clock and kicked to touch to move to 1-0.
The remaining pool games are must-win for the United States if the Eagles are going to advance to the knockout stages. Up next is Kazakhstan Tuesday Aug. 5 at 7am EDT. Then it’s New Zealand Saturday Aug. 9 at 11am EDT.
USA (10) 17
- Tries: Kugler, Farmer
- Cons: Rozier 2
- Pens: Rozier
IRELAND (20) 23
- Tries: Egan, Briggs
- Cons: Briggs 2
- Pens: Briggs 3