England’s preparations for the World Cup continued with a scrappy win over the USA Eagles that made the Red Roses the first Tier 1 nation to win 24 games in a row – a dazzling statistic five weeks out from the tournament in New Zealand. The stat will add to England’s tag of being favorites to lift the trophy.
Simon Middleton said he was using the game as a “discovery match” for the World Cup squad selection, released on September 20. The whole of Matchday 23 was largely impressive, but Middleton says the game answered some questions.
“We learned a lot about the things we wanted to learn,” the head coach said. “Next Week’s Team [against Wales] will be very different.
The game started with heavy pressure from the United States, but Ellie Kildunne snatched the ball away to give England a foothold. A five-yard scrum from the Red Roses followed soon after and England dominated with scrum-half Natasha Hunt breaking free and crashing. It wasn’t long before the crowd was back on their feet when Jess Breach intercepted the ball and, in a moment of individual brilliance, ran 60 yards to score.
England continued to hammer the line in search of their third try and thought they had it, but after a lengthy TMO check it was ruled there was no try.
USA’s Hallie Taufo’ou got her marching orders to the trash can and the Red Roses took full advantage with Amy Cokayne crashing.
The scores are linked for England. It was a dream comeback for Claudia MacDonald, who recovered from a neck injury, as the player of the match netted England’s fourth try and moments later Breach again roamed the ladder. half the field to score.
USA looked to land their own punch before the break, pointing the sticks for a penalty. But Gabby Cantorna, who plays here for Exeter, missed out.
The United States had their first extended attack in the 22 after halftime, but a knock-on gave England a scrum. They worked the ball up the field, eventually coming to MacDonald on the wing, who scored.
England’s deadly rolling maul secured the next try with Cokayne reaping the rewards. They could have done more damage, but another maul scored for obstruction.
It was time for USA to celebrate as Alev Kelter found a pocket of space, she fed the ball to Hope Rogers, who thundered over the line, banishing the fear of being beaten at nil.
After the conversion, the referee, Aurélie Groizelea, was brought on screen as Shaunagh Brown threw a high tackle and Groizelea sent it to the trash. It went from bad to worse for England as Helena Rowland was shown in yellow for a deliberate forward, for which the United States scored a penalty try.
England were down to just 13 but still added to the scoreboard. Harrison kicked the ball in and the rebound was nice for Kildunne, who scored.
MacDonald said it was emotional to be back after her injury nearly caused her to retire. “I didn’t think it would change the way I approached the issue,” she said. “I thought I would come back, I would be super competitive and I probably was until I stepped out on the pitch today.
“The last 24, 48 hours have been a bit emotional. I got really excited, relieved, so grateful to be back here and couldn’t have liked to be back on the pitch more today. The noise from the crowd was immense, the cheers from them, it was unbelievable.
If the Red Roses beat Wales in their friendly match on September 14, they will become the first international rugby union team to win 25 consecutive matches. It would be an ideal platform to launch their bid for World Cup glory.
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