PARIS, France – It was “do or die” Wednesday for an opportunity to play for fifth place at the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup as the Women’s Eagles went head-to-head with the Australian Wallaroos at the Center for National Rugby in Marcoussis.
Wet field conditions proved to be an issue for the Eagles early in the match as the Aussies struck fast and first with a try and a conversion in the second minute of the match due to a miscue in ball handling in the Eagles’ attack.
The Aussies pulled away in the first-half scoring, 12 points to a sparse three points for the Eagles.
The second half was a better chapter as the Eagles charged out different and inspired.
“We were pretty disappointed with the first half and I told them that,” Eagles Head Coach Pete Steinberg said. “We got together as a coaching staff and decided it wasn’t the technical stuff that was going to do it (win). We really had to get after them and we had to challenge them. I challenged the team to be more aggressive and have more fire, and the second half was pretty impressive.”
The Eagles turned a messy first half into all-out dominance in the second with a try in the 42nd minute from forward Jillion Potter. This set the tone for the Eagles to chip away at the score deficit. Huge forward defensive hits coupled with an extensive back attack proved to be too much for the Wallaroos’ defense.
“Fitness was a big key for us today,” Steinberg said. “At the end, we were ready to play more, and they were hurting a bit.”
The Eagles camped-out in Aussie territory for most of the second half, wearing down an already porous Aussie defense with punishing go-forward from all angles. Australia remained in the lead, 20-13, before the tide turned.
Then, in the 68th minute, the Wallaroos’ defense crumbled under the weight of the Eagles’ attack that pushed wide off of a scrum inside the Aussie 22-meter line and showed space for Vanesha McGee to get the try just left of the goal posts. Rozier converted to tie the match at 20-20.
At the 78th minute, the Aussies committed a not-rolling-away penalty deep in their own half, giving the Eagles an opportunity to kick for the win. Rozier chipped the penalty kick through the uprights to break the tie and give the Eagles a three-point lead.
On the subsequent kickoff, with two minutes left, the Aussies charged down deep into Eagles territory, putting pressure on the Eagles’ defense. Several pick-and-gos created a defensive penalty against the Eagles, giving the Aussies a chance to tie the match.
On the eve of Jamie Burke’s 50th cap, the air was heavy with tension as the deadly Aussie penalty striker, Ashleigh Hewson, pushed the match-tying kick from inside the 22-meter line wide right. Referee Jessica Beard blew the whistle following the miss, signaling full time.
The Eagles will play New Zealand in the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris Sunday in the battle for fifth place to close out the World Cup. Kickoff from the stadium is scheduled for 8:15 A.M. ET.
Universal Sports will air the fifth-place match on delay beginning at 6:00 P.M. ET Sunday.
Women's Eagles | v Australia
1. Sarah Chobot
2. Kathryn Augustyn (Wagner @ 74')
3. Jamie Burke (Rogers @ 54')
4. Carmen Farmer
5. Sarah Walsh (Blaney @ 48')
6. Shaina Turley (C)
7. Lynelle Kugler
8. Jillion Potter
9. Jocelyn Tseng
10. Hannah Stolba (Rozier @ 51')
11. Nathalie Marchino
12. Emilie Bydwell
13. Akalaini "Bui" Baravilala
14. Sadie Anderson (McGee @ 31')
15. Meya Bizer
Australia | Starting XV
1. Liz Patu (Watson @ 64')
2. Louise Burrows
3. Oneata Schwalger (Hipwell @ 77')
4. Rebecca Clough
5. Alisha Hewett
6. Shannon Parry (C)
7. Rebecca Smyth (Milward @ 49')
8. Mollie Gray (Dennison @ 38')
9. Nita Maynard
10. Tui Ormsby
11. Cobie-Jane Morgan (Haines @ 69')
12. Hanna Sio
13. Sharni Williams
14. Tricia Brown
15. Ashleigh Hewson
Australia | Reserves
16. Margaret Watson
17. Angela Hipwell
18. Michelle Milward
19. Dalena Dennison
20. Ashley Marsters
21. Natasha Haines
22. Madeline Putz
Women's Eagles | 23
Tries: Potter, Bizer, McGee
Penalties: Anderson, Rozier
Australia | 20
Tries: Parry, Cobie-Jane, N/A
Women's Eagles | IRB Women's Rugby World Cup 2014
v New Zealand - Sunday, Aug. 17 - 8:15 A.M. ET