USA Women's Eagles look to build from lessons learned against New Zealand

Sat, May 11, 2024, 4:00 AM
by Taylor Dean
John Cowpland
John Cowpland

The USA Women's Eagles fell to New Zealand with a 57-5 loss in their second 2024 Pacific Four Series match. Despite the results, the Eagles shifted their momentum in the second half, showing some positive attacking opportunities that they can build on.

With the home crowd advantage, New Zealand powered through to their win, finding the holes in USA defense and controlling the ball. The Eagles took every handling error opportunity they could, but the Black Ferns' tireless defense kept the USA away from the try zone for most of the game.

The Eagles head to Australia in the morning, where they will prepare for their final match in the 2024 Pacific Four Series. USA v Australia kicks off Friday, May 17, at 2:55 am ET (Thursday night), live on Peacock.

Comments from Head Coach Sione Fukofuka:

"We faced the World Cup Champions and they reinforced that a fast start is so important. We were able to work into the game after that initial onslaught, but it was too late to influence the result. Our ability to change momentum and build positive actions is a focus for this week coming. Creating pressure by building the phase count and turning our half chances into point scoring opportunities, pressuring the Australia set piece and wide channel possession will go a long way toward next week's result."

Comments from Captain Rachel Johnson:

"First of all, I'd like to say thank you to New Zealand. It's a lovely country, thank you for having us here. We're a building nation. We knew playing the second-best team in the world would be a challenge, and it definitely was a challenge, so kudos to the Black Ferns. I'm really proud of my team today. We're starting to put phases together and starting to show the physical, fast rugby that we want to play. We just need to keep building to put those phases together.

As we went into the halftime, we started to get momentum. We were playing well off the transition ball. So I think we were just holding on to that momentum and trying to build off of it. We showed that our set piece can be a huge advantage for us on attack and defense. And our work on transition ball showed we can be really lethal when we put those phases together."

Tournament Recap

The Black Ferns kicked off with possession, but the USA showed their fight early on by wrestling the ball away. A knock on sent it back to the home team, who scored the first try in the opening two minutes. The Black Ferns put up another five points scoring off the wing, but a misread kickoff to restart the game gave USA their first attacking chance.

The Eagles worked through their patient phases, but New Zealand would push them back down field, hardly missing on tackles and keeping a tight defensive wall. Emily Henrich kicked for some territory, but the ball went to touch, setting New Zealand up for a line out and their third score of the game.

The USA found possession a few times and worked to build momentum, but handling errors would send it back to New Zealand. As the Black Ferns again ran down field, a try saving tackle at the line held up the opponents, giving the USA a line out, a piece that worked well for them throughout the match. The Eagles used a driving maul to draw in defenders, but a knock on sent it back to the Black Ferns, who didn't have as much success in their own line outs.

One of those off-target line outs gave USA some set piece opportunities, and they finally make their way into New Zealand territory. As Eti Haungatau headed off for injury, replacement Atumata HIngano's fresh feet gained some more territory. But New Zealand would keep the pressure, and continue to dominate the first half, not conceding one point to the USA so far.

Attacking to start the second half, the Eagles showed some renewed energy, as Gabby Cantorna broke away to gain a lot of ground. Despite losing the ball forward, the USA immediately showed promising signs out of the sheds.

The Eagles kept up the energy on defense, too, and New Zealand began to falter in the second half, conceding penalties. Erica Jarrell went up for a quick line out that shifted the ball to Freda Tafuna on the wing, and offloaded to Lotte Clapp to gain a lot of ground and play more seconds in New Zealand territory.

The Black Ferns on attack again, they kick the ball down field, putting it back in USA hands, but this time at the halfway line. Earning a penalty for another line out, the Eagles overthrew this time but Tafuna was ready to catch, giving the USA another fighting chance. A long series of phases required patience and momentum, but lost the ball forward in the last moment.

The next few minutes saw fight for possession as both sides capitalized on handling errors and penalties. New Zealand eventually scored the first try of the second half, but the Eagles successfully held them off for 15 minutes, a welcome change to their first half.

Cycling through more scrums and line outs, the USA found their footing through a driving maul, and sent the ball to Hope Rogers, who barged through defenders to get down field. The Eagles had another fight through patient phases, but this time their hard work earned them the try as Freda Tafuna finished the long attacking play.

Tafuna's score would be the only time the USA made it over the try line. Exhausted from the ongoing phases, both sides noticeably lost some steam. But the Black Ferns continued to stay connected through smooth offloads and quick feet, despite the USA going for every opportunity to go on offense. As the minutes ticked down, the Black Ferns found their way back to USA territory and ultimately ended with the win, 5-57.

USA Women's Eagles Roster | USA v New Zealand

Name Club Test Caps
1. Hope Rogers Exeter Chiefs 46
2. Kathryn Treder Loughborough Lightning 19
3. Charli Jacoby Queensland Reds 27
4. Hallie Taufoou Loughborough Lightning 16
5. Erica Jarrell Sale Sharks 8
6. Freda Tafuna Lindenwood University 7
7. Georgie Perris-Redding Sale Sharks 13
8. Rachel Johnson (C) Exeter Chiefs 28
9. Olivia Ortiz Exeter Chiefs 19
10. Gabby Cantorna Exeter Chiefs 27
11. Lotte Clapp Saracens 15
12. Eti Haungatau Sale Sharks 14
13. Bulou Mataitoga Loughborough Lightning 16
14. Emily Henrich Unattached 15
15. Tess Feury Leicester Tigers 25
16. Paige Stathopoulos Beantown RFC 7
17. Alivia Leatherman Notre Dame College 2
18. Catie Benson Sale Sharks 43
19. Jenny Kronish Beantown RFC 15
20. Tahlia Brody Loughborough Lightning 10
21. Taina Tukuafu Lindenwood University 8
22. Atumata Hingano USA Sevens 4
23. Autumn Czaplicki USA Sevens 5

USA Women's Eagles Staff | USA v New Zealand | 2024 Pacific Four Series

Head of Women’s High Performance | Brandon Sparks

Head Coach | Sione Fukofuka

Assistant Coach | Ray Barkwill

Assistant Coach | Melodie Bosman

Head of Physical Performance | Sylvia Braaten

Lead Analysis | Caitlin Singletary

Operations Assistant | Lindsay Wilson

Team Doctor | Dr. Rebecca Rodriguez

Athletic Trainer | Emily Lauer

Physiotherapist | Cerys Preston

USA Women’s Eagles 2024 Schedule

USA v South Africa

38-17 (W)

TRIES | G. Perris-Redding (3), K. Treder, E. Henrich, C. Clapp

CONV | G. Cantorna (4)

RugbyPass TV

2024 Pacific Four Series

USA v Canada

7-50 (L)

TRIES | G. Perris-Redding

CONV | G. Cantorna

Peacock TV

USA v New Zealand

5-57 (L)

TRIES | F. Tafuna

Peacock TV

USA v Australia | May 17 | 1:55 am ET (Thursday night)

AAMI PARK | Melbourne, Australia