USA Rugby photo
USA RUGBY – Following a third-round bye, the USA Women’s Eagles came back to the fourth round of Super Series 2019 to notch a meaningful 20-18 victory over No. 3 and reigning Super Series Champions Canada. It was the first time that USA women had defeated Canada since 2015, tying the overall record at 19 wins a piece. And, as the first test match victory of 2019, a needed confidence boost for the young squad.
“The excitement was just tangible, we could feel the energy going into the game actually, in warm ups even,” said Emily Heinrich, Player of the match for her heroic efforts through the game. “We were all talking about it and it just kept our nerves calm. It’s amazing to win, especially against Canada who is such a talented team. It’s been nice, it was the build-up of the past two games going into this one to get the victory.”
The United States were impressive defensively, stopping three Canadian tries to create a second-half shutout and forcing numerous turnovers to create opportunities. Both Captain Kate Zackary and Elizabeth Cairns forced penalties at the breakdown in the first and second halves, respectively, where Alev Kelter stopped a huge Canadian line break to collect a loose ball and send it back the other way.
Kelter allowed the United States to take a threatening stance against their opposition. Kris Thomas added strong line breaks, herself, breaking tackle after tackle to keep momentum alive.
A penalty kick by Alev Kelter in the 13th minute put the first U.S. points on the board, after which Canada countered by building a 3-15 lead.
The U.S. found a comfortable drive in the second half where Alycia Washington muscled her way down field and Ashlee Byrge made a beautiful pass to Emily Henrich for Henrich’s first international try, 8-15.
After a penalty kick by Canada, the USA went into the halftime break with confidence.
Into the second half, fresh legs from the Eagles’ bench created masterful efforts to keep the Canadians out of the zone and put two more tries on the board.
Turnovers both created and saved by Alycia Washington were crucial to the USA keeping their northern rivals from taking any considerable advantage. Then, Alev Kelter turned the tide midway into the half by beating a quartet of defenders en route to a try that cut the deficit to just three points with ample time remaining.
Then finally, as fans hinged at the edges of their seats, a thrilling offensive display created the match-winning try. Emily Heinrich made another powerful run before passing to Rachel Johnson. Johnson moved the ball to Katana Howard who made a perfect kick to the corner of the try zone where Kris Thomas outsprinted Canadian defenders to spike it down in the try zone, 20-18.
As has been conveyed through the Super Series campaign, the Women’s Eagles continue to build through each matchup. Ball control, one of the major challenges when the U.S. faced the Black Ferns, was much improved; along with a spirited offense. The highlight of the game, however, was the forced defensive pressure. Alycia Washington logged three turnovers to keep the score close, adding to ones by Alev Kelter, Bitsy Cairns and Kate Zackary.
The win was a turning point for a young Eagle’s squad coming off of two tough opening matches.
“USA fans can expect more fast paced rugby, more big hits, just more exciting play,” said Emily Henrich. “We have such a deep team – a great bench – and that’s really what solidified our win today, the girls coming off the bench. You can expect a lot of fun.”
The Women’s Eagles continue their momentum against France on July 14 at 4 PM PT in the finale of Super Series 2019 at Torero Stadium. Paired with New Zealand vs. England, the matches can be seen LIVE on FloRugby and tickets are available at usarugby.org/superseries2019.