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Huge Comeback Win for USA Women vs Australia

irish rugby tours

Huge Comeback Win for USA Women vs Australia

All celebrations for the USA.

In what is possibly one of the USA's most important victories in recent years, the Eagle women's 15s team defeated Australia 32-25 last night in Melbourne.

With the victory, the Eagles finished the Pacific Four Series 1-2, dropping Australia to 0-2 and keeping the Americans in contention for playing in WXV1 this year.

With captain Kate Zackary back in the lineup after being out for nearly two months, the USA was bolstered by the presence of their skipper, but also inarguably their best player.

Australia scored first, getting over from a scrum following a USA knock-on. Georgina Freidrichs cut through and set up Desiree Miller for the try in the corner. The Eagles answered with some offensive pressure of their own, opting for posts a penalty. Gabby Cantorna's effort bonged off the uprights, but another Wallaroo penalty was put over to make it 5-3. Scrumhalf Olivia Ortiz showed solid work rate and she was a pest on defense and took the ball up smartly, as well. 

But the USA didn't hold onto possession well and Australia had chances. Their maul was stifled by the USA, but the Wallaroos did find space out wide, with Freidrichs finding space and putting her teammates away as well. Flanker Ashley Marsters burst onto a Friedrichs pass and was over to make it 12-3 with Arabella McKenzie's conversion. Marster unleashed an superb offload to wing Maya Stewart and she was almost in. The Eagles stopped her but Friedrichs was there once more to set up a teammate, this time Stewart, and at 17-3 and the USA was in real trouble.

But there was plenty of rugby to be played and that was exactly what the USA team needed to do—play. They ran a long period of phase play, forcing penalties and driving with the maul, which put hooker Kathryn Treder over to make it 17-8. the Wallaroos ended the half with a McKenzie penalty to make it 20-8 Australia at halftime.

The second half, however, saw the USA raise their game.

They surged to the line right from the restart and while the maul didn't make it over, prop Hope Rogers was able to spin out of a tackle and go over. Cantorna converted and just a couple of minutes into the second half it was now 20-15 and anyone's game.

Keeping possession and working the phases the USA was able to wear down the Australian defense. Hard running lines and good offloads got them into Wallaroos territory and off another maul, Georgie Perris-Redding faked a pass, almost got over the line, and on the recycle Rogers was there to finish it off. 20-20, we had a tie ballgame.

The Eagles had the momentum but Australia took it back—Piper Duck powered up the middle after a lineout move, drew the last defender, and fed Friedrichs for the bonus-point try. Australia 25 USA 20.

Back game the Eagles. A kick down the field was chased down by lock Hallie Taufoou, whose work rate can go unnoticed but shouldn't, and she gathered up the ball to go over the line. No try, however, as the TMO said Taufoou had lost control of the ball. But now the Eagles were deep in Wallaroo territory and soon Taina Tukuafu set up Lotte Clapp, who beat several defenders to score the game-tying try. Cantorna was good on the kick and the USA had a slim 27-25 lead.

They iced it late as Australia, desperate to get the ball back, started to infringe. They struggled to answer the USA maul and resorted to pulling it down, which only resulted in more penalties. Finally, after a series of forward crashes, Atumata Hingano sniped down the weak side to finish it off.

USA 32
Tries: Rogers 2, Treder, Clapp, A. Hingano
Convs: Cantorna 2
Pens: Cantorna

Australia 25
Tries: Miller, Marsters, Stewart, Friedrichs
Convs: McKenzie
Pens: McKenzie

"Fantastic result for the team on the back of a challenging four weeks on tour," said USA Head Coach Sione Fukofuka. "We have worked hard on developing our set piece, our ability to layer and vary our attack, and our connection in our defensive system. It was pleasing to see the team play a fast, physical game with some great decisions tactically. It’s a brand of rugby that we want to be known for as Eagles.

"It takes 30 players in the squad to prepare each week, and 23 players to win the game ... it's important for us as a collective that all 23 players plus those that didn't get selected are represented out there. Clearly the quality of the starting group was reflected in the players that didn't start. Freda [Tafuna] had an outstanding game last week but my captain was ready to go and stepped up into that position, and Freda came on and added the impact we needed. I'm really pleased with the collective effort of everyone. It took all 23 for the 80 minutes, and that's exactly what we asked for."

"We've been together for three weeks now," added that captain, Zackary. "We've come off those two hard matches against Canada and New Zealand, but the coaches have really pushed the tempo. I think we've finally found the team that we've been looking for the last year to be frank. We finally saw that out there today. To go into halftime down and to come back, even statistically speaking, that doesn't happen often. It comes with a lot of belief, and that's why it means so much. They truly believed in themselves today to get that win."

The USA is in a good position to clinch 3rd, which would put them in the WXV1.

But, they have to wait for Australia to play New Zealand in a week. If Australia wins that game, then the USA drops to 4th. New Zealand plays Canada Saturday.

Current Pacific Four Standings:

Pacific Four 2024 W L T PF PA PD BT BL Pts
Canada 2 0 0 83 21 62 2 0 10
New Zealand 1 0 0 57 5 52 1 0 5
USA 1 2 0 44 132 -88 1 0 5
Australia 0 2 0 39 65 -26 1 0 1


Report includes words from USA Rugby and World Rugby