5th Play-off: USA edge North American tussle

(IRB.COM) Sunday 5 September 2010
By Nathaniel John
From Surrey Sports Park
 
 5th Play-off: USA edge North American tussle
Amy Daniels on the charge for the Women's Eagles - Photo: Martin Seras Lima

USA claimed fifth place at Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 with an entertaining and slender 23-20 victory over their North American rivals Canada at Surrey Sports Park.

Tries from captain Ashley English, Lynelle Kugler, Vanesha McGee were enough to match their fifth place finish of four years ago, while also securing bragging rights for North American women's rugby.

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Canada opened the scoring with just two minutes on the clock when fly half Anna Schell slotted a 30-metre penalty after the Women's Eagles were adjudged to have offended at the breakdown.

Five minutes later and Canada had extended their lead to 10-0 with a Heather Moyse try. After an initial break by full back Ashley Patzer, the ball was quickly recycled and spread wide for flanker Gill Florence to feed the Olympic gold medallist, who scored in the corner.

With a quarter of an hour played, the lead was reduced to 10-3 with a penalty from Christy Ringgenberg. The Women Eagles' fly half then cut the deficit to four points with her second penalty of the afternoon.

Things were to get worse for Canada when Moyse, who with that score had moved ahead of New Zealand wing Carla Hohepa to become the leading try scorer of the tournament, was stretchered off shortly afterwards with what appeared to be an ankle injury.

With Canada down to 14 after Sarah Ulmer was sent to the bin, USA took the lead for the first time in the match, wing McGee making the initial break before offloading to full back English to put her side ahead 11-10.

Canada, though, re-took the lead on the stroke of half time with a try from Megan Gibbs. Centre Mandy Marchak cut a beautiful line through the USA defence before being tackled just short of the line, but second row Gibbs then spotted a gap and cruised through to score unopposed to send her side in leading 17-11.

USA flew out of the blocks in the second half and duly scored within two minutes after centre Kugler scythed through the Canadian defensive line to score under the posts to edge the Women's Eagles back in front.

Ten minutes later and the USA had extended their advantage, with McGee getting her name on the scoresheet after a series of delicate offloads down the right hand flank found the wing, who powered her way over the line.

Canada responded with a spell of pressure in the Women Eagles' half and thought they had scored with little over 10 minutes remaining, only to see the referee call play back for an alleged knock-on.

However, moments later Canada reduced the deficit to 23-20 with another Schnell penalty. It was not enough though as despite late pressure from their rivals, USA managed managed to hold on to secure fifth.

POST MATCH REACTION

USA coach Kathy Flores: "I think they had to put the pads on me because my heart stopped a couple of times. We are very lucky that we have Canada close to us because we can't really travel that much so we play each other a lot.

"Whenever we play Canada we know it's going to be tough for us and we like to think this is the one that counted but I'm just glad we had them there. I'm glad we didn't drop but we would like to be higher than fifth. We came in fifth, we stayed fifth, but we've still got a lot of work to do."

USA captain Ashley English: "It was a really close game, it was a little bit scary there towards the end but we managed to maintain possession of the ball and we won. We were playing for fifth place at the World Cup; we had nothing to lose, we only had 80 minutes left in the whole tournament and we went for it. We definitely know the Canadians come out hard and we definitely wanted to beat them."

Canada coach John Long: "We prepared for the USA we knew it was going to be a tight game and last time we snuck out just before the World Cup and they've come back and done it this time. I have no qualms about them girls, they put everything on the line for that and it just came out their way in the end.

"We managed to get phases together, the forwards went through brilliantly; we worked on going forward and being a threat and that's what it was. Just a couple of hands in there at the wrong time and the USA just not giving us the time for the offload we have been so good at and that happens."

Canada captain Leslie Cripps: "I'm devastated. I'm really disappointed at the minute and we'll just go from here. We've been here before with the States, at least two of these times we've won we scored in the last play of the game to win the game and that might have been what we were holding on for.

"The USA played very good rugby and we knew they would be physical; the backs were really on as well and it was a good game of rugby. It was great for the crowd that came out, great for women's rugby but not so great for Canada today."