Coming off a win in the first round of WXV2 from South Africa, the USA Women’s Eagles ran into a stout Scotland defense and set piece this afternoon, falling 24-14 in the second round affair.
The USA did well to retain possession throughout, winning the percentage battle 56/44 but weren’t able to capitalize on territory and set piece. The Scottish, coming off a 4-match win streak, were in control of the set piece, forcing scrum penalties and stealing five line outs that would set them up for offensive opportunities and be the small difference on the scoreboard. Offensively and defensively, particularly in the second half where both teams were even in points, the USA played well but will look forward to a training week focused on clinical play to limit opportunities given.
Interim Head Coach Milton Haig on the match against Scotland: "There are plenty of positives. At times when we used the width of the ball, we looked good. Certainly in the first half, there were probably a couple of opportunities that we didn't take that we talked about at halftime. I thought in the second half, we showed grit, fight, and even though we didn't get everything right in terms of our set piece, we still defended really well. Again, there were a couple of opportunities down the left-hand corner. When you look at the score, there was one try apiece in the second half. Maybe those tries, we let in probably two or three soft tries where we didn't have to actually make them work too hard for it. There are a couple of things that we can take some good out of it, some thing things we need to show, then just move on to next week. We have an eight day turnaround and we want to make sure we finish the tournament really well."
The USA began with control early, getting the first set piece but Scotland forced the error on the line out to relieve pressure. Scotland Head Coach Bryan Easson noted pregame that the plan would be to pressure the USA set piece and rely on that strength. The Cape Town wind played a factor in this fixture, with the draft blowing right to left and supporting one side attack, first favoring the Scottish direction while USA kicks to touch were against the wind early. Scotland went to the kick a few times, looking for bonus territory.
At the 11’ Scotland would quick tap off the scrum penalty, get out wide fast to Francesca McGhie for the first try. Shortly following, the Scottish boot earned a 50/22 and capitalized for a converted try. While Scotland didn’t build too many extended phases, they did well to strike in short order this afternoon, collecting a third try off the fast turnover and 50-meter dash down the right flank. 25 minutes in and the USA find themselves in a 17-0 hole.
The USA continued to do well retaining possession in the first half however, challenged to break through the Scotland defense into the opposing 22, but finally finding striking distance and consecutive 5-meter line outs. Scotland held firm for both attacks, and nearly escaped a blocked box kick try from Freda Tafuna. Remaining in the driver’s seat, Charli Jacoby scored a try just before the break, a crucial score for the Eagles needing momentum going into the sheds.
The second half was an improved showing from the USA, continuing the possession battle but this time finding better space out wide and more time in the Scotland end. Line outs were cleaner from the Eagles, both on offense and defense as they stole a few back from the Scottish. Scotland continued to dominate the scrum though, earning penalties too often and notching another try off the scrum at short yardage, opponents lead 24-7.
With fresh energy begining to substitute in, the Eagles began moving the ball out wide. Bulou Mataitoga started to shine with some play starters and we saw more opportunities to the speed of Tess Feury. Feury was on pace a few times before getting tackled into touch, and another bright moment just missing the athletic corner dot down following a charging run from Tahlia Brody. While points were hard to come by, the USA offense was waking up in the second half.
Keeping the momentum, Paige Stathopoulos repeated her maul patience from the Wales match last month, following the pack until a gap opened for her to swing off the back and find the end zone. With 15 minutes left, the USA are only 10 points down in a 24-14 affair.
Scotland were not as clinical at the breakdown, USA taking advantage for the penalties and running out more physical in the second half. The final minutes of the game would be a lot of play at midfield, with neither team pushing territory, until Scotland found space. The USA did well to defend with time ticking away, a positive to take away as intent and conditioning showed for the late game stand. The referee whistle sounds, Scotland hold on for a 24-14 victory.
Set piece mistakes will top the list of work-ons this week for the USA, as that may have been the difference in this match, but an overall good experience for this developing squad. The team now look ahead to a final fixture with Italy on October 28 at 11AM ET, an exciting rematch from last year’s Rugby World Cup pool play, and the last run out for the Women’s Eagles in 2023. Catch the replay from today and the Italy match, Live on RugbyPass TV.