Written by Jackie Finlan
Thursday, 18 July 2013 22:41
| Peterson on the All Americans' Composure
National Teams -
“Composure” has been a key word for the USA at the U20 Nations Cup. During the Women Junior All Americans’ first game, Canada took advantage of a couple of lapses in concentration and pulled away in the second half. In game two, the Americans weathered a “spirited” South African side that indulged in a disruptive, scrappy game, but pulled off a big, unified win. Yesterday’s game against England fell somewhere in between those two performances, as the USA won the first half decidedly, 19-0, but was outscored 17-8 in the second stanza.
With that said, the 27-17 victory was a momentous one. The WJAAs not only booked their spot in the championship against Canada this Sunday, but also celebrated the program’s first-ever win over the England U20s.
That berth to the title bout did not come without a fight, both physically and mentally. Several reports of England's un-sportsman-like behavior surfaced - perhaps the hosts were frustrated by their unprecedented winless record heading into yesterday's game; perhaps the referee's interpretation of the contact area stressed both sides. Whatever the case, that tension played out in the breakdowns, which were a reliable source of sin bins, penalties and points, and tussles. The USA had anticipated as much and adjusted their game plan accordingly.
“We looked at a lot of their video footage from past games, and we saw certain areas that we could attack in the backline,” USA WJAA flyhalf Anne Peterson said. “We were trying not to attack around the rucks, because they put a lot of forwards in there. We looked to attack a little bit wider with our forwards and backs, and I think, using that, we did really well.”
Peterson indicated that the team’s greatest challenge was matching players in the ruck and not over-committing, while still building a sound defensive wall. The USA got the job done in the first half, relying on a dominant pack to set up all three tries: No. 8 Jordan Gray from a lineout, lock Chi Chi Chukwueke (who was unfortunately injured and subbed out after her score 11 minutes in), and wing Natalie Kosko who finished off a forward-produced turnover inside the 22 meter. Peterson added two conversions for the 19-0 lead, but just before half, flanker Kelsey Harris was sin-binned for not rolling away, and the USA would start the second half a man down.
“We were really composed and played our game plan, especially in the beginning of the game,” Peterson remained positive. “And it paid off: We were able to take a lead early. There were parts of the game where we broke down a little bit but we were able to come back together.
“Everyone was getting in trouble around the rucks,” Peterson added. “We weren’t rolling away from tackles, but we just need to understand what the referee is calling and change our play accordingly.”
With the man-advantage, England got the opportunity to strike after a free kick. Holly Molesworth slipped past the defense and dotted down for the try, 19-5.
The USA responded splendidly, with Meya Bizer making good on a penalty and then the pack overpowering an English scrum for Gray’s second try, 27-5. This is perhaps when the Americans’ focus blurred slightly. Although there were 22 points between the teams, the English continued the battle and found success around the edges, sending Chelsey Fuggle and Sophie Lee into the try zone. Flo Williams’ conversion made it 27-17, but the Americans’ first-half flurry proved good enough for the win.
“We were really disappointed to be 19 points down at halftime but we came back into it in the second half and scored three good tries,” England U20 coach Amanda Bennett told England RFU. “It was pleasing to win the second half 17-8 but obviously that wasn’t quite enough. The message before the game was that we were ‘going into battle’, and that’s how it proved. USA are a strong side – they’re fit and athletic, and their sevens skills really shone through.”
“We did a really good job of keeping our cool, sticking to our game plan and tried not to stoop down to their level of play,” Peterson said, reflecting on an instance when teammates had to separate her from an inciting English player. “We did a really good job of playing the game the way we wanted to play it.”
It’s safe to say that the USA team that played yesterday is better than the one that lost to Canada 25-15 more than a week ago. We’ll be able to gauge whether those changes, relative to Canada (who won 37-0 against South Africa yesterday), will be enough to overcome their North American rivals on Sunday.
“Our first game against Canada, that was our first time playing together as a group, and since then we’ve built so much,” Peterson confirmed. “Everyone’s getting comfortable with our game plan, how we play. We’re really excited to play again Canada now that we have a few more games with each other, to see what we can do. Staying composed through the whole game is our goal against Canada.”
Tries: Gray 2, Chukwueke, Kosko
Conversions: Peterson 2
Tries: Molesworth, Fuggle, Lee
Written by Alex Goff
Saturday, 15 June 2013 18:51
| Eagle Women Figured it Out Too Late
National Teams -
The USA women's game loss and series loss thanks to Friday's 18-12 defeat to France was a slightly infuriating one.
The Eagles left some points on the field, certainly, as Sadie Anderson was close but no cigar on several kicks. But they also squandered chances by being too slow to move the ball to the outside backs in space - sometimes shockingly so.
Inexperience in the backline contributed to that, but the players also found themselves being sucked into a more physical battle with the hard-nosed French team. Had the USA played keep-away more, worked fast ball, and passed much more, they could have won going away. Instead they sought out contact, and paid for it.
"I wouldn't say any national team is vulnerable anywhere," said French captain Mary-Alice Yahe. "But we knew they were very good in the outside backs, and we had to work very hard to prevent them from getting the ball outside."
They had help from the Eagles.
"We were playing their game instead of ours," said try-scorer Erica Cavanaugh, who was the Eagles' most dangerous attacker, and also contributed a try-saving tackle. "We just needed to move the ball."
Cavanaugh said her try showed what the team could do, but it came too late.
"It was a game-changer for us, as we started to pick up the pace if the game, but we didn't have enough time."
Straight-talking from the former University of Virginia wing, but you might expect a wing to say the team should run more; what about a prop?
"I feel like we played OK but we didn't play to our potential," said prop forward Jamie Burke. "When we play a faster game it gets harder for [France] to keep up with us. That was strategically done, but we made some mistakes and some penalties and didn't maintain the ball at some critical moments."
So the message was that this series loss perhaps taught some lessons. Certainly some young players who are used to breaking tackles and scoring on breakaways need to learn they should pass more and not assume anything on a line break. And if you want to play a fast game, indecision is a killer.
Owen Goff contributed to this report.
Written by Alex Goff
Friday, 14 June 2013 18:51
| French Defeat USA Women
National Teams -
France defeated the USA 18-12 in a women's test match Friday at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The USA started well after the French couldn't catch the kickoff. The Eagles pressed their advantage and looked sure to score a minute in when flyhalf Sadie Anderson ghosted through a gap. She had Lynelle Kugler on her hip but was too slow to pass, and an ankle-tap brought her down.
The USA kept up the pressure, however, and earned a penalty. Anderson just pulled her kick wide, leaving the score at 0-0.
Anderson got involved again in the next good scoring chance. After Anne Peterson maddeningly opted to take contact with three players outside her, Anderson booted a kick that Ashley Kmiecik almost ran down. The play resulted in a USA lineout ten meters out, but a poor throw and an early lift saw France take the ball and clear the pressure.
That started a long period of French ascendency, as they used their size and power to shove the American forwards back. USA mistakes in their own end, notably a free kick infraction on a scrum, helped France almost score. Massive prop Helene Ezzano was set free down the wing, but wing Erica Cavanaugh, giving up about 100 pounds in the contest, tackled her into touch.
Still France pressured, only to be held up twice in-goal.
But the inevitable finally happened. From a scrum five meters out, No. 8 Safi Ndiaye was pushed over by her teammates. Flyhalf Aurelie Bailon slotted the goal, and the USA trailed 7-0, ruing their early squandered chances.
Back on the front foot the USA had a promising run from fullback Meya Bizer, but the French defense was there. They infringed, however, and Anderson lined up another kick. This, like her first, looked good, but the flags stayed down.
More penalties, though, from France, and a warning from the referee.
This time the USA went for the lineout, and a nicely-executed back line move saw Cavanugh through for 20 meters. The try line, however, was 22 meters away, and the USA forwards piled in to keep the momentum going. Eventually they had numbers out wide, but Peterson again took contact instead of passing. She did recycle quickly, and Anderson found Kmiecik on the wing for the try. Anderson then earned a huge cheer with the touch line conversion to tie it, 7-7.
The rest of the half was a thundering physical battle in the midfield, with Sarah Chobot leading the way in defending Ndiaye and the shifty Marie-Alice Yahe.
France began the second half ramming the ball down the USA's throat. The Eagles defense held, although they did give up a penalty, which Bailon teed up and pushed wide. But Bailon was good on a second attempt after a prolonged period of kick-trading. 10-7 France with 13 minutes gone in the second half.
France had the momentum then, and even when the Eagles had chances to make something happen, they started to make mistakes. A possible USA breakaway became a knock-on, and then a penalty at the scrum. Bailon was only too happy to knock over another three points. 13-7 France.
Execution errors continued to plague the Eagles. From the restart they had every chance to make France pay, but knock-ons and more lineout woes scuttled their chances.
Another error led to the killer blow for France. Anderson kicked safely to touch, but the ball had been passed back into the USA 22. So the French took a lineout at the 22-meter-line and mauled it all the way to pay dirt - the powerful Ndiaye touching down under the pile. Now down 18-7 with 14 to go, and no momentum, the USA was in trouble. And kicking the restart out on the full didn't help.
With 12 to go the USA got a penalty and opted to run it. They had numbers but a poor pass to Kmiecik ended that almost before it began.
Anderson especially started to pass behind her backs, perhaps a function of the lines becoming too flat. Whatever the reason, they could not seem to test the French out wide the way they should.
With ten minutes to go the Eagles had a series of attacks, moving the ball the way they had needed to all game. A kick ahead and a forward drive got them within a meter, but another knock-on allowed France to hold on.
Finally the USA went wide with success, quick hands from a ruck out to Cavanaugh in space, and she beat two tacklers, cut back, and scored near the posts. Anderson missed the conversion, leaving it 18-12 France with four minutes to go.
Now the USA had something going, they won the restart and attacked. French forward Elodie Potaries got a yellow card for not retreating ten meters and tackling Jossie Tseng, and it was all down to the final minutes.
The Eagles kept at it, stole a lineout but, despite the entire 2000-strong crowd yelling "wide!" They kept going into contact. Kmiecik was waving desperately for the ball as she had no one marking her, but still the Americans went up the middle. That finished the game.
Tries: Kmiecik, Cavanaugh
Tries: Ndiaye 2
Pens: Bailon 2
1 Sarah Chobot
2 Katy Augustyn
3 Jamie Burke
4 Sarah Walsh
5 Sharon Blaney
6 Stacey Bridges
7 Lynelle Kugler
8 Shaina Turley
9 Jossy Tseng
10 Sadie Anderson
11 Ashley Kmiecik
12 Anne Peterson
13 Meghan Bonny
14 Erica Cavanaugh
15 Meya Bizer
16 Kitt Wagner
17 Hope Rogers
18 Nai Reddick
19 Kristen Zdanczewicz
20 Kate Daley
21 Carrie White
22 Hannah Stolba
23 Amanda Street
1 Helene Ezanno
2 Gaelle Mignot
3 Christelle Chobet
4 Sandra Rabier
5 Assa Koita
6 Coumba Dialo
7 Laetitia Grand
8 Safi Ndaye
9 Marie-Alice Yahe (c)
10 Aurelie Bailon
11 Celine Heguy
12 Lucille Godiveau
13 Sandrine Agricole
14 Laurelin Fourcade
15 Jessy Trenouliere
16 Joanna Sainlo
17 Lise Arricastre
18 Elodie Portaries
19 Lenaig Corsin
20 Sophie Pin
21 Yanna Rivoalen
22 Clemence Rousseau
23 Audrey Parra
Written by Jackie Finlan
Thursday, 13 June 2013 19:08
| Showtime for the USA Women
National Teams -
The USA Women are two games deep into their three-test series with France, and tomorrow’s match will decide which side can claim a victorious tour. Both games were single-digit decisions – the first went to the Eagles 13-10, the second to France 27-25 – and all signs point to another tough contest. And even though American fans want a win, it’s the anxiety of a back-and-forth match that is most thrilling.
Hopefully, there will be a significant crowd on hand to watch it. The first two games occurred at Oxnard College, 60 miles west of Los Angeles, and although they were Webcast, there were few fans in the stands. Tomorrow’s game occurs in tandem with the USA Men’s test against Tonga. The Eagles women will not only have the benefit of a higher-profile venue – Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. (although the women’s game occurs on a stadium-area field) – but the game will be broadcast on Universal Sports (8pm ET).
“It is really exciting to have the event as a double-header with the men,” USA prop Jamie Burke said. “It gives the potential for a larger crowd than either would get on their own. There really is nothing like playing in front of a supportive hometown crowd! It also gives us a chance to showcase both men's and women's rugby in a major US market.”
For those who watch the game either in person or on television, it’s a special treat, as Canada has been the only national team that has played the USA Women on home soil.
“It is definitely exciting to play someone other than Canada,” said Burke, who will receive her 38th cap tomorrow night. “While Canada is our closest rival and neighbor, and playing them is always a challenge, we know each other too well as rugby competitors. I think it is important for us to have as many international matches against as many different opponents as possible to help us grow and be more adaptable on the pitch. Also, playing one of the European powerhouses also lends a lot more credibility to the women's game – and the USA Women's game in particular – as it shows that teams are willing to travel to play high-quality matches that we can offer here in the States.”
This series against France is also important to the players themselves. When the series against France was confirmed, the Eagles saw an opportunity to directly test the progress made since November, when the USA dropped two big games to France on tour.
“There is definitely an excitement about getting to have another shot at the French after how the fall tour went,” Burke reminisced. “We grew a lot over that tour and learned that we had some gaps to work on. Because of that, we have made some changes in training and development, and I am excited to see the fruits of seven months of effort put to the test.”
When the USA defeated France on June 7, it was the program’s first-ever victory over Les Bleus (the closest they’ve come was a 15-15 tie at the 2009 Nations Cup). If they win tomorrow’s game, in front of a hearty hometown crowd, then that will be more than enough recompense for any recent shortcomings.
USA Women v France Roster - June 14
1. Sarah Chobot
2. Katy Augustyn
3. Jamie Burke
4. Sharon Blaney
5. Sarah Walsh
6. Stacey Bridges
7. Lynelle Kugler
8. Shaina Turley (c)
9. Jossy Tseng
10. Sadie Anderson
11. Ashley Kmiecik
12. Anne Peterson
13. Megan Bonny
14. Erica Cavanaugh
15. Meya Bizer
16. Kittery Wagner
17. Hope Rogers
18. Naima Reddick
19. Kristen Zdanczewicz
20. Kate Daley
21. Carrie White
22. Hanna Stolba
23. Amanda Street