The USA Women’s Eagles fell 18-38 in a rainy test match against Wales on Saturday, but had positive moments on both sides of the ball to take into WXV2 in October.
Ball handling in the rain proved to be a small challenge, however young star Freda Tafuna continues to excel in the forward pack and the USA have now set their markers for the three upcoming matches in South Africa.
With Atumata Hingano withdrawn for an injury, Eti Haungatau was moved to the starting 15. Emily Henrich was called in as a replacement, returning to the USA pitch for the first time since June 2022. Meya Bizer became the 13th Eagle to earn her 30th cap, and Paige Stathopoulos had a breakthrough first match.
Interim Head Coach Milton Haig on the game, “The weather was pretty wet, and the ball was reasonably slippery. When we got the ball in our hands and we made gain line we looked good. When we made ruck speed, we looked really good. We’ve got some things to work on, Wales obviously scored a couple more tries and set piece scrum tries. That’s something we need to work on and can fix quite easily as we haven’t really done a lot of work on that. For a lot of parts I was really pleased about some of our areas. Our defense around the edge when they were on our line was fantastic. There was great heart shown by our forwards. There’s some work we can do defensively around our edge defense. If we can get those things fixed, then I’m pretty happy going into WXV2 in two weeks’ time. Not quite the result we wanted to get, but there are certainly enough positives to get out of it.”
With heavy rain in the forecast, both teams needed to be as clinical as possible from the start, but the slippery ball and soaked field forced mistakes that would add up. The USA had early momentum with the first set piece of the match, but Wales took over control quickly to get to their own line out at USA’s 10 meter line. The Eagles stole the ball on the try line, but Wales defense pinned them in the corner and took back possession, pushing through for the first match points and setting up a dominant theme for themselves in the first half.
The Eagles kept up resolute defense, keeping Wales off scoring opportunities to try and fatigue their offenses. A kick to touch gave USA a chance to show their improved line out techniques, and an offsides penalty gave Gabby Cantorna a kicking opportunity. She slotted the ball to earn the Eagles’ first points of the game and only scoring chance in the first half.
Wales dominated the rest of the first half while the USA struggled to maintain possession to due small errors. A Wales knock on would have given the Eagles a critical attacking chance, but a TMO challenge called a high tackle by Freda Tafuna, sending her to the sin bin for 10 minutes. Dominant in the scrums, Wales added 18 more points to their total before the halftime whistle.
The USA was eager to get on the other side of the ball and hold possession, so they came out of the gates running into the second half. They started strong with solid carries, setting Sarah Levy up in the corner to score within the first few minutes. The early try increased the Eagle’s confidence and energy to play a little more dominantly after a scrappy first half.
The Eagles retained more possession this time and displayed a more combative nature on both sides. They kept a fast line speed on defense, but their narrow wall opened an opportunity for Wales to add more points. The USA kept up their energy, though and created more spaces out wide. Wales tried to slow down the game, but more mistakes on their end gave the Eagles set piece opportunities. They capitalized on five meter line outs, with Freda Tafuna scoring out of a rolling maul.
After a dangerous tackle sent Eti Haungatau off with a yellow card, the USA tried to play fast and strong. Wales took their own yellow card to even the playing field in the final minutes, where the USA took three rolling maul chances to finally score, this time debutante Paige Stathopoulos earning her first international try.
Wales had the final say with a big try at the end to win 18-38, but the noticeable improvements for the Eagles between the first and second halves gave them a positive look at what they need to improve for South Africa.
Captain Kate Zackary said post-match, “We’re two weeks into a six-week campaign, so I’m really proud of the team. What’s more important is the work we did today. The first half wasn’t our friend with the weather, but the second half we tightened up and came out a lot better. This team has a lot of heart, there’s a lot of potential and we have a lot of young people.”
The Eagles have a week break before traveling to South Africa, where they begin their WXV2 tour with a matchup against Samoa, kicking off Saturday, October 14, at 8am ET. Broadcast details will be communicated shortly.
USA Women's Eagles Roster | USA v Wales
|1. Catie Benson||Sale Sharks||37|
|2. Kathryn Treder||Loughborough Lightning||13|
|3. Keia Mae Sagapolu||Leicester Tigers||3|
|4. Hallie Taufoou||Beantown RFC||11|
|5. Rachel Ehrecke||Colorado Gray Wolves||7|
|6. Freda Tafuna||Lindenwood University||3|
|7. Georgie Perris-Redding||Sale Sharks||10|
|8. Rachel Johnson||Exeter Chiefs||22|
|9. Carly Waters||Colorado Gray Wolves||20|
|10. Gabby Cantorna||Exeter Chiefs||21|
|11. Sarah Levy||USA Sevens||6|
|12. Emily Henrich||Beantown RFC||10|
|13. Kate Zackary (C)||Ealing Trailfinders||32|
|14. Tess Feury||Leicester Tigers||19|
|15. Bulou Mataitoga||Berkeley All Blues||11|
|16. Paige Stathopoulos||Beantown RFC||1|
|17. Monalisa Tupou||Life West/EPA Razorbacks||3|
|18. Charli Jacoby||Colorado Gray Wolves||21|
|19. Erica Jarrell||Beantown RFC||2|
|20. Tahlia Brody||Leicester Tigers||4|
|21. Taina Tukuafu||Lindenwood University||3|
|22. Meya Bizer||Ealing Trailfinders||30|
|23. Eti Haungatau||Sale Sharks||13|
USA Women’s Eagles Traveling Staff
Head Coach (Ireland) | Rich Ashfield
Head Coach (Wales & WXV) | Milton Haig
Assistant Coach | John Haggart
Assistant Coach | Melodie Bosman
Strength & Conditioning | Sylvia Braaten
Lead Physiotherapist | Katherine Henry
Team Doctor | Rachel Sachs
Assistant Physiotherapist | Samantha Malette
Analyst | Caitlin Singletary
USA Women’s Eagles Fall Schedule
Saturday, Sept. 30
USA v. Wales | 18-38 (L)
All matches live on RugbyPass
Saturday, Oct. 14
v. Samoa | 8 a.m. ET
Friday, Oct. 20
v. Scotland | 8 a.m. ET
Saturday, Oct. 28
v. Italy | 11 a.m. ET