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In a rematch from the first match on Friday, the USA Women opened their second day in Las Vegas with a cup quarter final against Ireland. In their pool play match, USA was up 21-12 in the second half before ultimately losing 24-21. On Saturday morning, though, they made no mistake and won 20-12 to advance to the cup semi-finals.
Alev Kelter’s opening kick started the match, but neither side claimed it cleanly, leading to a scrum to Ireland. From the scrum, Ireland moved the ball wide and won a breakdown penalty. Choosing to kick to touch, Ireland won the lineout cleanly; however, an unforced error resulted in a scrum for USA just outside the Ireland 22.
The Eagles moved the ball to the short side, and then wide. Kristen Thomas made half a break before delivering a great offload to Naya Tapper who sprinted in for the first try. Kelter’s conversion was no good, and USA led 5-0.
Ireland was able to control the following restart, but could not get out of their half before conceding a breakdown penalty. The ball was shifted wide to Tapper again, and she again carried well to get the Eagles well inside the Ireland 22 where they won another penalty. Ryan Carlyle took the tap quickly and dove in for the second try of the match. That made it 10-0 with just over a minute left to play in the first half.
Ireland was finally able to move the ball into the USA half after the next restart. They ended up winning a penalty just outside the USA 22, and then another just inside and the USA defense was under pressure. Stacey Flood picked the ball from a ruck five meters out and went into the try zone. That made the score 10-5 at the half.
To start the second half, USA struggled to control possession. Once they did, though, they were into the Ireland half and won a penalty. From the first phase from the tap, Thomas burst through the defensive line and went over 40 meters for the try. Nicole Heavirland missed the conversion to keep the score 15-5.
Kelter’s next restart went relatively deep, as USA backed their defense. The strategy worked as the won possession through a penalty. This time, the trip inside the Irish 22 faltered with a USA knock on. From the scrum, Ireland put together a few strong phases before another unforced error halted their progress and gave USA a scrum 45 meters out.
When the ball reached Tapper’s hands again, she made no mistake and rounded the Irish defense with apparent ease. Over the course of two matches against Ireland, Tapper was a clear standout. Another missed conversion for the Eagles kept the score 20-5.
A strong run by Flood put Ireland into a good position, and Megan Williams finished off the move, and the match, with another try for Ireland. The conversion was good, but not enough. USA won 20-12.
The Eagles will now play New Zealand, who defeated Russia in their quarter final match, for a chance to advance to the cup finals.
USA Starters: Katherine Zackary, Joanne Faavesi, Kristin Thomas, Nicole Heavirland, Ryan Carlyle, Leyla Alev Kelter, Naya Tapper. Reserves: Samantha Pankey, Kelly Griffin, Kelsi Stockert, Bulou Mataitoga, Nikki Snyder.
Ireland Starters: Katie Fitzhenry, Megan Williams, Ashleigh Bexter, Stacey Flood, Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe, Lucy Mulhall, Alison Miller. Reserves: Hannah Tyrell, Sene Naoupu, Claire Keohane, Audrey O’Flynn, Susan Vaughan.