USA Rugby – The USA Women’s XVs National Team kicked off its UK tour with a 21-17 win against Scotland in Edinburgh. The Eagles have the week to recover and reload for England on Saturday, Sept. 3, the team’s final test before the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. The game in Exeter will be live-streamed for free on The Rugby Network. [Lead photo: Neil Kennedy for USA Rugby]
“It’s great for this group to get such a well deserved win,” USA WNT head coach Rob Cain told usa.rugby. “There has been a lot of hard work leading up to this in our preseason and we really started to see that come through today. Credit to Scotland, we knew the challenge they would bring and they didn’t disappoint. They were excellent and played some very good rugby themselves.”
USA and Scotland were well paired, as demonstrated by the lead-changing, single-digit decision. The home side was coming out of a six-week residency and took hold of the first 10 minutes. Scotland built off of USA handling errors and used the boot to gain big territory. Six minutes in, Scotland drove its lineout into the try zone, and hooker Lana Skeldon dotted down for the opening score. Helen Nelson kicked the first of two conversions, 7-0 to Scotland.
Overall, though, the USA outperformed Scotland in the lineout. Hooker Jojo Kitlinksi was on-point with the long throw-ins and cleaned up some Scotland overthrows. Going short was a risk for Scotland, as front jumper Hallie Taufoou – who had a great day around the park – had sticky fingers. The scrum is traditionally an asset for the Americans, and a massive shove in Scotland’s end helped set up a penalty opportunity in the 12th minute. Alev Kelter, who was named Player of the Match, added the three points: 7-3 to Scotland. But as the game progressed, the front row was pinged for multiple penalties.
Scotland sent all of its restarts deep and to the same corner of the park, and the USA’s Katana Howard or Kelter chose to clear the majority of the time. But after putting points on the board, the USA was ready to sing, and the subsequent restart saw big abusive runs from Rachel Johnson and Kelter to get to the 50. Outside center Eti Haungatau planted a defender whilst on an angled run and connected with Jennine Detiveaux on the sideline. An inside feed to Kate Zackary kept the attack rumbling on. Good quick phases moved the ball from sideline to sideline – Johnson and Lotte Clapp made more gains out wide – and then the forwards went to work at the line. Prop Hope Rogers saw a seam and darted off the back of the ruck for the try just outside the posts, 8-7 to the U.S.
Scotland answered immediately. Another deep restart was followed by a shallow exit, and the home side went to work in good attacking territory. A skip pass to Rhona Lloyd put the winger past the defense and into the corner. Nelson slotted the conversion of the game, just meters off the sideline for the 14-8 lead.
The Eagles narrowed the deficit approximately five minutes later, when another strong USA scrum sent Scotland retreating. The American defense launched into attack and a big hit from Haungatau was followed by a turnover. Phases evolved at the 22 and the Scottish defense broke composure with a not-rolling-away penalty right in front of the sticks. Gabby Cantorna converted, 14-11 to Scotland.
There the score line remained for the next 13 minutes or so. Both sides had opportunities to put more points on the board, but a Kelter poach and hands-in-the-ruck penalty snuffed out Scotland’s best chances as the clock struck 30. A Cantorna kick to touch and solid lineout set up Detiveaux for a slicing inside line that ended a couple meters short of a try. Zackary was soon over the whitewash but was held up.
The Eagles had another go, as Scotland’s goal line dropkick went straight out, but a penalty in the following ruck allowed the home side some breathing room. Soon enough, though, the Americans were back inside the 22, as Kelter and Cantorna went for big runs, and everyone was connecting through contact and teaming up outside. Taufoou and Jordan Matyas were particularly adept at finding teammates.
There was one more exchange of possession before the Eagles added their second try of the half. Howard sent the offload from the ground to Taufoou, who moved the ball to Haungatau and then Clapp on the sideline for gains. The ball moved back the other way with some flat passes in the middle, drawing the defense in, and then Cantorna kicked off fast hands through, Howard, Rogers, Kelter and then finally Zackary. Head down, the captain raced for the try line and pushed off two defenders flying across for the try, 16-14 to the U.S. after 38 minutes.
There was time for another restart, so Scotland – you guessed it – went deep. Howard cleared to the 50, where Chloe Rollie began the counterattack. After some piercing runs through the center, the ball moved wide, where a near-try was just broken up. But play returned to the middle of the field for a penalty advantage, and Nelson added the three points: 17-16 to Scotland into the locker rooms.
In the second half, Scotland scrumhalf Caity Mattinson started using the box kick to get behind the defense and test the USA kicking game. Clapp, who made a couple of over-the-shoulder catches, smartly called mark to settle down a kicking series that Scotland was winning. Hannah Smith nearly scored after a skip ball put the wing in a 1-v-1 situation, which she won, but an ankle tap from Taufoou saved the day.
The Americans made good use of the opportunity, and from a USA scrum, Zackary broke weak for a massive, evasive run. Now in attacking territory, Matyas took an excellent line through the defense, popped the ball to Taufoou running on. Rollie repaid the lock with an ankle tap that put Taufoou onto the ball while diving into the try zone. The replay showed a loss of control in the grounding, so it was ruled no try.
All of that action occurred in the opening four minutes, but the scoreboard didn’t tick over until minute 63. In between, both sides struggled to build continuity. The USA had a couple of penalties in the scrum, a not-releasing penalty here, ripped possession there. Scotland pushed the kicking game but also struggled in its lineout. The home side had an opportunity to score when a short lineout inside the USA 22 built into forward punches at the line. The Americans held up a dive-over attempt to keep the scoreboard silent.
As the fourth quarter approached, Zackary burst off the line to plant a tackle behind the gain line. Rogers was there to get over the ball and drew a not-releasing penalty, and Kelter punted the ball downfield to the Scottish 22. The subsequent lineout drove to the five meter and drew penalty advantage along the way. Once the maul halted and play reset just outside the five, Rogers just tapped through the mark and barreled over the defense for the try, 21-17.
Those go-ahead points ended up being the only ones of the second half. As the final 20 minutes evolved, impact subs like Evi Ashenbrucker brought excellent energy and work rate to the pitch. Ortiz and Zackary teamed up for an important turnover in the tackle, which allowed Kelter to kick to touch and relieve some pressure. A short lineout to Taufoou went quickly through Ortiz’s and Cantorna’s hands, landing in Kelter’s grasp for another bumping run. A grubber through the line kicked off another kicking series, and the USA put some nice, fast phases together. Matyas went on a brutal inside line that nearly snapped the Scotland defense in half.
A series of solid phases in the middle of the pitch set up an overlap out wide, and the ball moved to Taufoou, who timed the pass to Clapp on the sideline. Looked like a try in the making, until Rollie came flying across for the try-saving tackle at the try line.
The end of the game saw mounting USA penalties, so Scotland kicked for touch to make ground. When regulation expired, there was time for one more set piece, and Scotland did well to hold onto the ball for an impressive number of phases. At the USA 22, a scary skip pass to the wing was smothered by Clapp, thankfully. But ultimately the game ended with a Scotland knock-on and USA win.
“Today was about getting the win, having an improved performance from our last outing and showcasing the development in the areas we focused on in Atlanta,” Cain closed. “The multiple opportunities we created with and without the ball, but were unable to convert showcases how much there is to come from this group. There were some important lessons learnt today, but also some important statements made both individually and as a group.”
USA WOMEN’S EAGLES | USA vs SCOTLAND | AUGUST 27, 2022
|1. Hope Rogers||Exeter Chiefs||36|
|2. Joanna Kitlinski||Sale Sharks||19|
|3. Nick James||Sale Sharks||20|
|4. Hallie Taufoou||Loughborough Lightning||6|
|5. Jenny Kronish||Harlequins||4|
|6. Jordan Matyas||USA Sevens||22|
|7. Rachel Johnson||Exeter Chiefs||13|
|8. Kate Zackary||Exeter Chiefs||22|
|9. Olivia Ortiz||Colorado Gray Wolves||10|
|10. Gabby Cantorna||Exeter Chiefs||13|
|11. Lotte Clapp||Saracens||3|
|12. Katana Howard||Sale Sharks||11|
|13. Eti Haungatau||Lindenwood University||4|
|14. Jennine Detiveaux||Exeter Chiefs||10|
|15. Alev Kelter||Saracens||18|
|16. Jett Hayward||Life West Gladiatrix||Uncapped|
|17. Catie Benson||Sale Sharks||25|
|18. Charli Jacoby||Loughborough Lightning||12|
|19. Evi Ashenbrucker||San Diego Surfers||2|
|20. Georgie Perris-Redding||Sale Sharks||3|
|21. Carly Waters||Saracens||11|
|22. Meya Bizer||Beantown RFC||21|
|23. Tess Feury||New York Rugby||10|
USA WOMEN’S EAGLES TRAVELING STAFF
Head Coach | Rob Cain
Assistant Coach | Jamie Burke
Assistant Coach | Martin Haag
Head Strength & Conditioning | Sylvia Braaten
Head Athletic Trainer | Hilary Stepansky
Assistant Athletic Trainer | Meghan McKay
Lead Analyst | Callum Howells
Team Manager | Paul Santinelli
Liaison Officer | Arran Hain
Remote Support: Kate Daley, Jenny Liu, Rich Ashfield
USA WOMEN’S EAGLES UK TOUR SCHEDULE
USA vs Scotland | (W) 21-17
USA vs England | September 3, 2022 Exeter, ENG | LIVE on The Rugby Network