By Jonathan Swart
PARIS, France – The Women’s Eagles had two goals against Kazakhstan – win and score four tries. With “Final in ‘14” on the line, they accomplished exactly what they needed to by defeating the Nomads, 47-7.
“We talked about getting four tries and it was great to see the team be relentless even though we got the bonus point [early],” said Head Coach Pete Steinberg. “The bonus point was important [to us], but so were the points.”
To ensure goals were met, the Eagles sent seven players across the try line. Sylvia Braaten dotted down back-to-back tries in the match.
“I was really impressed with how the team came out in the second half,” said captain Kate Daley. “We were really able to come out and play a lot faster and more dynamically.”
With New Zealand next up for the Eagles, a win will be crucial for the “Final in ‘14” goal to stay alive. The match against the Black Ferns is set for Saturday, Aug. 9, at 12:00 P.M. ET.
“We knew going into this pool we would need to beat New Zealand and that is where we are,” commented Steinberg following the win over Kazakhstan. “We hope to be healthy and know that recovery is going to be critical.”
The Eagles struggled in the early goings of the match, despite dominating possession and territory. However, a 15-7 lead at the break was changed immediately through pace and faster play.
“We struggled to win clean ball in the first half and our attack was a little static,” noted Steinberg of his team’s performance. “In the second half we cleaned it up and when we played fast, we really did some good stuff.”
Hannah Stolba nabbed the bonus-point try only moments into the second half. In total the flyhalf accounted for 12 points for the Eagles.
Handling errors were still prevalent during the match, however, with a mindset to retain possession and go forward, the Eagles rarely saw the defensive side of the ball.
“Kazakhstan played defense all day,” said Eagles defense coach, Peter Baggetta when asked about USA’s defense. “We got the result we wanted.”
Kazakhstan’s only score came from Anna Yakovleva intercepting a pass and outdistancing the Eagles for the score. The try opened scoring for the match.
Baggetta noted, “Kazakhstan had a great defensive structure, but just ran out of bodies.” The heightened pace of play from the Eagles proved to be the difference.
The opening moments saw the Eagles focus on possession and not stray from that plan the rest of the match. With ball in-hand, the Eagles were able to slowly break Kazakhstan, gaining precious meters with each carry.
Handling errors proved costly in the early goings, though.
Flyhalf Yakovleva cashed in on a hard Kazakhstan launch, picking off a pass and outdistancing multiple Eagles for a 60-meter try. Converted by Algerym Daurembayeva, the Nomads held an early 7-0 lead.
After regaining possession, the Eagles stuck to their game plan instead of getting flustered. Carefully moving down the field, Nathalie Marchino capped off the drive by scooting around the Kazakhstan defense.
Stolba missed on the conversion, but the Eagles were closer at 7-5 and executing the game plan.
Minutes later, McGee followed suit from the other wing. Dotting down in the corner, the Eagles regained the lead at 10-7.
Despite continued hard launching from Kazakhstan, the phase play from the Eagles proved too much. Marchino was able to break the Nomad defense again before offloading to Kittery Wagner for the try and a 15-7 Eagles lead.
Handling errors and a penalty stopped a late Eagles push to close out the half.
Needing one more try for the bonus point, the Eagles fired out in the second half. Stolba ensured that goal following a break from Sharon Blaney.
Converting on her try, the flyhalf put the Eagles at a 22-7 advantage.
Lynelle Kugler kept the momentum going, scooting through the Nomad defense before offloading to Emilie Bydwell who finished for the try.
Stolba connected on the conversion making the score 29-7 with plenty of time left to play.
The possession game continued for the Eagles, which eventually broke Kazakhstan yet again. Braaten finished off the drive this time – 34-7.
With substitutions rolling in for the Eagles, the play remained identical. Braaten again capped off a string of phase play for her second try of the match, 39-7.
In need of points to push the point-differential, the Eagles capitalized on a penalty from Kazakhstan. Stolba slotted the penalty from in front of the post to make it 42-7 Eagles.
The methodical cycle of winning possession and driving down the field for a try played on. Meya Bizer finished the ensuing drive to push the Eagles to 47-7.
The try closed out scoring in the match despite regaining possession in the waning moments. Kazakhstan eventually stole the ball long enough to kick for touch and finish the game.
The Eagles now turn attention to the four-time World Cup-winning Black Ferns for the final round of pool play competition.
Universal Sports will provide coverage of the match starting at 11:30 A.M. ET.
The match will be held at FFR Headquarters in Marcoussis.
To boost the chances of going through, the Eagles will be looking for not only a win, but a bonus point as well, according to Steinberg.
“We will probably need to beat New Zealand and get a bonus point, which will give us 11 points and a strong chance of going through,” said Steinberg.
An Irish loss, with no bonus point, could put the Eagles in second place following Ireland’s contest with the Black Ferns. However, the Eagles will most likely remain in third if Ireland is to win.
Women’s Eagles | 47
Tries: Marchino, McGee, Wagner, Stolba, Bydwell, Braaten (2), Bizer
Conversions: Stolba (2)
Kazakhstan | 7
(From USA Rugby Press Release)