USA Women may have been playing their first Test in more than a year, but that didn’t stop them from dominating their hosts Italy to win the first meeting between the two sides 34-20 in Rome on Sunday.
The Women’s Eagles gave six players their debut at the CPO Acqua Acesto, but started strongly and maintained that momentum throughout the match, starving their hosts of possession for long periods.
Sadie Anderson pushed an early penalty wide but then created the opportunity from which the visitors’ first try came from with a kick to touch, the Women’s Eagles forwards driving the ball over the line for Kate Daley to dot down.
A break from Daley led to a try for Stacy Bridges and captain Jamie Burke then adding a third from a quick tap penalty near the Italian line to send the Women’s Eagles in with a commanding 19-0 lead at half time.
That lead grew with an Anderson penalty but Italy began to cause more problems for their visitors and only desperate defence kept them out. The next try came from Amy Daniels in the 50th minute after a sustained attack.
The score may have been 29-0 then, but the Italians finally got some reward for their spirited play with two tries in six minutes as first Flavia Severin touched down and then Michela Sillari turned over USA ball and ran 80 metres to score.
Veronica Schiavon added a penalty to cut the deficit to 29-17 with just over 10 minutes to go, but that was as close as they got with debutant Val Griffeth rounding off a great team try in the corner.
Schiavon added the final score with a penalty but the Women’s Eagles were not to be denied victory in Rome and now travel to France for two Tests on Wednesday and Saturday against the nation that will host Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014.
“It was a great start and we were dominant in the first half,” said head coach Pete Steinberg. “The Italians showed a lot of fight, but we were able to hold them off and still scored some nice tries.
“We had six new players capped today and they all stepped in and did well. We lost a little of our shape and offensive rhythm as we made our replacements, but still managed to play some good rugby in the second half.”
Captain Burke added: “It was a great way to start the tour. We have not played for over a year so we are a little rusty. We have a lot to work on before France on Wednesday, but I am excited about this team’s potential.”