The Women’s Eagles accomplished their goal of a bonus-point win in the first round as they defeated Italy by a score of 24-12 at the UCD Bowl in Dublin on Wednesday. While the result keeps their semi-final hopes alive, they will rue numerous missed opportunities that could have given them a much healthier scoreline with differential of vital importance in the pool stages.
Things could not have gone better to start the match as a Kimber Rozier chip ahead was regathered by Jordan Gray to put a scrambling Italy on the back foot immediately. One quick recycle later and the ball was in the hands of Kristen Thomas on the far left, and the sevens star showed her strength to shake off two tacklers and step inside a third for a cracking score with barely a minute on the clock. Rozier’s conversion secured the full seven.
For the entirety of the opening quarter the USA had Italy in retreat, dominating possession and using their fearsome outside backs to rip through the line almost at will. Cheta Emba countered every kick that found her hands and Naya Tapper put on an attacking clinic using her power and pace to blast over and around defenders. Unfortunately for the Eagles the support couldn’t quite keep up, and combined with repeated errors yielded no further scores until Rozier touched down at the 20 minute mark.
Looking completely overwhelmed, Italy pulled up their socks and kept the ball in tight when they finally won some attacking ball. A kick to the corner gave them a lineout in striking range and they made no mistake, with hooker Lucia Cammarano wriggling her way over via the rolling maul. Veronica Schiavon was good with the extras to make it just 12-7 at the break.
The struggles continued for the Eagles as Italy were intent on playing spoilers. At last a third score came, a scintillating break by Alev Kelter making space for Thomas to slide over for her second in the 51st minute. Tapper and Thomas made inroads off a scrum some 10 minutes later leading to a score for Abby Gustaitis, the replacement lock barging her way through three players to touch down with an outstretched arm. Kelter added the conversion but it would be the last time the scoreboard ticked over for the USA.
Another well-worked lineout drive yielded a try for Elissa Giordano in the closing minutes. Maul defense will be a subject of concern for the coaching staff heading forwards with the Azzurre proving technically superior by a significant margin in that regard.
Next on the menu for the USA is Spain on Sunday. Las Leonas will pose a similar challenge to the Italians, ranked one spot higher and only slightly below the Eagles. Another bonus point win will be the bare minimum requirement to maintain their semi-final chances, but realistically a significant increase in points scored are going to be required to make the Top 4 following the pool stage.
Tries – K. Thomas 2 (1′, 51′), K. Rozier (20′), A. Gustaitis (62′)
Cons – K. Rozier (2′), A. Kelter (63′)
Yellow cards – K. Thomas (76′)
Tries – L. Cammarano (25′), E. Giordano (77′)
Cons – V. Schiavon (26′)
1 Catie Benson (17 Naima Reddick 65′), 2 Katy Augustyn (60′), 3 Tiffany Faaee (capt.) (18 Hope Rogers 60′), 4 Stacey Bridges, 5 Alycia Washington (19 Abby Gustaitis 50′), 6 Sara Parsons (20 Kristine Sommer 65′), 7 Kate Zackary, 8 Jordan Gray, 9 Deven Owsiany (21 Kayla Canett 72′), 10 Kimber Rozier, 11 Kristen Thomas, 12 Sylvia Braaten (22 Alev Kelter 50′), 13 Nicole Heavirland, 14 Naya Tapper (23 Jessica Javelet 64′), 15 Cheta Emba
1 Elisa Cucchiella (16 Marta Ferrari 59′), 2 Lucia Cammarano (3 Melissa Bettoni 28′), 3 Melissa Bettoni (17 Lucia Gai 23′), 4 Flavia Severin (18 Sara Tounesi 55′), 5 Alice Trevisan (19 Valeria Fedrighi 75′), 6 Isabella Locatelli (20 Ilaria Arrighetti HT), 7 Elisa Giordano, 8 Silvia Gaudino, 9 Sara Barattin (capt.), 10 Veronica Shiavon (21 Beatrice Rigoni 58′), 11 Maria Magatti, 12 Sofia Stefan, 13 Maria Cioffi (23 Veronica Madia 76′), 14 Michela Sillari, 15 Manuela Furlan
Not used: 22 Paola Zangirolami
Referee: Alhambra Nievas (FER)
Assistants: Sean Gallagher (IRFU) & Marie Lematte (FFR)
TMO: David Grashoff (RFU)