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Ian Muir photo

A seesaw affair featuring eight tries, four from each team, would be decided by conversions, with England slotting two more than the USA for a 28-24 win in the Pool B opener. The Eagles got off to a slow start, not winning a single restart in the first half, but a try from Naya Tapper, her first of three, kept them in it. The second half was nip and tuck, but England scored all its tries in the center and the Americans didn’t.

England took possession first when Alev Kelter’s opening kickoff was inches short of the 10-meter mark. They methodically went through the phases until a gap opened up, resulting in Heather Fisher’s try. The conversion was successful, making it 7-0 to England.

England won the second kickoff, but Nicole Heavirland and Abby Gustaitis worked hard in the breakdown to turn the ball over. On that possession, Heavirland spilled the ball forward in a tackle, and Holly Aitchison wasted no time in splitting two American defenders and darting in under the posts. She nailed her own conversion, putting the Eagles down 14-0.

After an exhausting series of back-and-forth runs, the USA were awarded a scrum when England knocked on. From the midfield set piece, the ball found its way into Tapper’s hands, in space, for the first time. She shrugged off her opposite and strode over for the USA’s first score right on halftime. The kick good, England led by just seven at the break.

The Eagles won the opening kickoff of the second half, their first such victory in the game. Heavirland made a run up the left touch line, but Jordan Gray knocked on in the next phase. The Eagles stole the ball back in the next ruck, and Cheta Emba managed an offload to a switching Tapper, setting her free up the middle of the field for her second score. The successful kick knotted the game at 14-14.

The next kickoff was not successful for the Eagles, though. It went too deep, allowing England to play in the open field. Aitchison’s fancy footwork put the USA under pressure, and England’s speedster was found on the edge for its first score of the half. Converted, it put the USA down seven with just over three minutes to play.

Hope Rogers came on during the conversion, and she made an immediate impact. She bludgeoned up the touch line, plowing over one defender and popping back to her feet unheld. She charged forward, was brought down again, released, got to her feet and legally regathered the ball. Then she pushed well into the attacking 22 before offloading to Kelter for a try.

The conversion was no good this time, leaving the USA down 21-19. Unfortunately, that meant that when momentum swung back England’s way with a fourth converted try, the game was too far gone. Tapper did score again at the death, but it was inconsequential.