Women's Eagles fall to Italy in 2023 finale

Sat, Oct 28, 2023, 5:52 PM
by Calder Cahill.

The final match of 2023 didn’t fall the way of the USA for the Women’s Eagles as Italy won 30-8 in the last fixture from Cape Town.

Clinical ball movement and speed on the outside was lethal for Italy this afternoon, keeping the pace and possession from the Eagles hands. While the USA began to control the ball late leading to a 66/34 split of possession, the USA were starved of control for the majority of the match, keeping the Eagles from building a rhythm and allowing opportunities on the other side. Regardless, lots of experience and opportunity are the key focuses for the departing squad, as we look ahead to 2024.


Captain Kate Zackary looking back on the WXV experience, “We found consistency at times, but the main take away isn’t negative as this is a learning moment. For us, a lot of players will walk away recognizing that little bit they need to do at home, some are new to high performance so it’s getting used to what it takes to continue competing at the highest level.”

“In the immediate future, the goal is to get players playing consistently. Trying to continue building what we’re doing in the US, whether through the WPL or daily training environments, there is a lot of opportunity for us to create touch points. We know the long-term goal is to build something thriving and exciting for the US.”

Wrapping up his interim role as Head Coach, Milton Haig added, “Positively, I think we built experience for some players who haven’t played a lot with the USA National Team, so I think we’ve given certain players that opportunity. I think going forward the key thing for this squad is continuing competitions we can play in regularly, so internationally we can really get better. Certainly we know World Rugby are looking at that, and so we’re hoping that the future looks bright for us.”

The USA began the match with notably strong winds at their backs, wind that was apparent to all viewers during the anthems with rapidly waving flags and jerseys. With both teams refraining from the kicking game too much early, the USA were at first on top of control forcing a few penalties that would keep them in the Italian end. Territory was in the USA favor to start, however knock ons kept points off the board until the 12’ when flyhalf Gabby Cantorna went for posts and three points added. The made penalty goal would put Cantorna past the 50 career points mark, becoming the 16th USA Women’s Eagle to pass the benchmark.

The beginning of the first half was fairly split in terms of territory, Italy would strike a few times but penalties and into touch keep them from points. Big moments followed for the USA as well, with two goal line stands against their own tryline to keep Italy at bay. The Italian offense would start to wake up however, earning a try from powerful forward Giordana Duca and Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi within the last 12 minutes for a 12-3 lead at halftime.

Italy’s possession dominance continued after the break, collecting a try in the corner a few minutes into the second half – however the USA were able to respond quickly with a highlight reel breakaway from Freda Tafuna. Tafuna broke through a string of tackles up the middle with Katana Howard and Tahlia Brody clinical in support. Brody would be the passing beneficiary, dotting down under posts. Now with the heavy wind in their faces, Kristin Bitter’s conversion was blown wide, the scoreboard reads 8-17. With the USA closing the gap, the Eagles looked to slow play down and keep the ball out of Italy’s hands, however the possession battle really began to hurt. Missed touch and conceded line outs gave opportunities to the Italians which was quickly turned into points a few times late with solid ball movement and offense on the wings. As time ticked away, the USA simply didn’t have enough opportunities in possession, a lesson the squad will carry into the new year as the Women’s Eagles complete their 2023 season. Italy win at final whistle, 30-8.

The USA officially finish 1-2 in their inaugural WXV tour, however the record completes an eight test match year for the USA Women’s Eagles, and 12+ weeks of assembly for the program. As the squad’s own expectation for the standard of their game grows, the first year of consistent programing through the Pacific Four Series and WXV will start to pay dividends as the Women’s Eagles move into 2024 and beyond.

USA Women's Eagles Roster | USA vs Italy
Name Club Caps
1. Catie Benson Sale Sharks 40
2. Paige Stathopoulos Beantown RFC 4
3. Keia Mae Sagapolu Leicester Tigers 6
4. Hallie Taufoou Beantown RFC 14
5. Erica Jarrell Beantown RFC 5
6. Freda Tafuna Lindenwood University 6
7. Tahlia Brody Leicester Tigers 7
8. Rachel Johnson Exeter Chiefs 25
9. Taina Tukuafu Lindenwood University 6
10. Gabby Cantorna Exeter Chiefs 22
11. Lotte Clapp Saracens 13
12. Katana Howard Sale Sharks 17
13. Kate Zackary (C) Ealing Trailfinders 35
14. Summer Harris-Jones USA Sevens 3
15. Tess Feury Leicester Tigers 22
16. Kathryn Treder Loughborough Lightning 15
17. Alivia Leatherman Notre Dame College 1
18. Charli Jacoby Colorado Gray Wolves 24
19. Jenny Kronish Beantown RFC 12
20. Rachel Ehrecke Colorado Gray Wolves 10
21. Carly Waters Colorado Gray Wolves 23
22. Kristin Bitter Rhinos Rugby Academy 3
23. Emily Henrich Beantown RFC 12

USA Women’s Eagles Traveling Staff | WXV 2

Head Coach | Milton Haig

Assistant Coach | John Haggart

Assistant Coach | Melodie Bosman

Coach Intern | Karameli Faaee

Strength & Conditioning | Sylvia Braaten

Strength & Conditioning Assistant | Owethu Durban

Analyst | Caitlin Singletary

Doctor | Rebecca Rodriguez

Lead Physio | Katherine Henry

Physio | McKenna Medders

Media Manager | Taylor Dean

Team Manager | Tiffany Lopez

Team Liason | Jongi Nokwe

USA Women’s Eagles WXV 2 Schedule

All matches live on RugbyPass

Saturday, Oct. 14

v. Samoa | 36-26 (W)

Friday, Oct. 20

v. Scotland | 14-24 (L)

Saturday, Oct. 28

v. Italy | 30-8 (L)