USA Rugby photo
Fifth-ranked USA drops to 0-2 at the Women’s Super Series after losing 33-0 to New Zealand today in Chula Vista, Calif. The Eagles have the bye through round three and will resume on July 10 against Canada, which beat France 36-19 in Les Bleus’ first outing of the tournament.
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New Zealand dictated the first 25 minutes of the match, leaning on its dominant scrum and driving lineout to pull the USA into penalty trouble. The opening score followed two front-row infractions and two penalties in the driving maul. From 10 meters out, flyhalf Ruahei Demant angled toward the try line through Alev Kelter’s tackle and connected with Carla Hohepa for the score. Kendra Cocksedge kicked the first of four conversions for the 7-0 lead.
Cocksedge’s boot as always was very influential on the day, and a smart cross-field kick – which Katana Howard fielded well and returned for a short gain – set up another try. Kate Zackary, who showed well on both sides of the ball from No. 8 – got under the first grounding attempt, but two not-rolling away penalties kept the Black Ferns on attack. Hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate took a short-side pass from in close for a 14-0 lead after 14 minutes.
At this point, the USA scrum had found its footing and there was little trouble in that set piece. The lineout however never found its groove, with the throw-ins going long and missing the jumper, or New Zealand pinching the ball. As such, the Black Ferns didn’t mind kicking to touch and the Eagles would eventually lean on its scrum for penalties.
The USA deployed more a kicking game in round two but No. 8 Pia Tapsell was able to block one of Kelter’s clearances in the USA’s end. A penalty followed shortly afterward and Cocksedge went quickly through the mark. The scrumhalf went wide to wing Nathalia Moors, who stepped her way in for the score, 19-0, after 25 minutes.
The restart went deep and scrumhalf Ashlee Byrge blocked an attempted clearance to keep play in scoring position. At 28 minutes, Kelter lined up what looked like an easy penalty but the kick sailed wide. But play stayed in favorable position and the intent of the forwards continued in earnest to push their attack farther from the ruck. There was improvement from game one, but there were still lots of knock-ons – whether in contact or from a flat-footed receiver – that stymied phases.
The half ended with New Zealand up 19-0 but the final 10 minutes saw play even up. Highlights included a solid performance from Howard at 10, who attacked the line well and could become a good partner with Kelter at inside. Bulou Mataitoga was also very good on defense, coming up into the line and making big tackles on the backs before the ball could move wide. Zackary, too, seemed more at home from No. 8, was a good distributor and found ground off the base of the scrum.
USA knock-ons kicked off the second half and another botched lineout set up New Zealand for a fourth try. Tapsell, who was so good over the ball, did the honors with the dive-over, 26-0 with Cocksedge’s extras.
The Eagles had some more attacking opportunities through the third quarter, and Bui Baravilala did really well to get those going. The fullback was sure under the ball and a dangerous counter-attacker, and was equally as effective at flyhalf when reserves moved the back line around.
The Black Ferns were committing penalties under pressure as well, but overall, its defense was resilient enough to withstand the Eagles’ bursts of possession. The USA was able to piece nice, quick phases along its 22, but New Zealand was patient and thorough in pushing the attack sideways. USA knock-ons followed.
The bench started to clear with the onset of the fourth quarter, and New Zealand added one more score to kick it off. The Eagles had done well to turn over possession in its 10 meter, but a knock-turned-penalty (for an offsides pickup) set up a driving lineout for the Kiwis. The full pack and then some drove the pile to the try line and Eloise Blackwell dotted down. Cocksedge kicked the extras, 33-0, and exited the match as the flags rose.
Neither side was very consistent in the final quarter, but the USA had its highlights – a finger-tip grabs, a linebreak, a collected kick return – just none that built into a steady campaign.
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