England A 34 USA Eagles 17
England A Women kicked-off their international season in impressive form with a six try 34-17 victory against the USA on Wednesday at London Irish ARFC, Sunbury.
The A team, coached by Mike Barnett, Gavin Williams and Andy Paton, set off at a furious pace running in five tries in the first-half including a brace for Worcester’s Samantha Dale, before finishing off proceedings in the second-half with one further touchdown.
Head Coach Barnett, taking charge of his first international for England A, said: “This is a good start and the first-half was particularly encouraging. We have got to give the US credit as they fought back bravely after going down 29-0 in the first-half.
“This is just the start of the season and we have still got a lot to learn. The squad need to learn to maintain a high level of performance throughout, though I am particularly pleased that the youngsters showed real promise in their first outing while the more experienced players led from the front and Karen Jones had a good game leading the team.”
Worcester prop Dale got the ball rolling for England after just four minutes when she touched down in the left corner. A penalty handed England the chance to catch and drive from a line-out, the ball was then spun out and drove forward for Dale to muscle her way over the line.
Wasps No. 8 Heidi Shelburg helped England gain a 10-0 advantage after just seven minutes in a similar move, but this time the forward picked up and drove her way over the line. Club and country teammate Shelly Rae successfully struck the conversion.
After nine minutes it was then time for England’s backs to put some points on the board and this time it came courtesy of Saracens full-back Vicky Massarella. In a spectacular try scoring manoeuvre Wasps prop Claire Purdy drove her way through the USA defence before clearing the ball to the backs. Wasps centre Michaela Staniford then darted her way up-field, drawing in the US fullback, before off-loading to Massarella who then charged 50 metres up-field to score. Rae converted to stretch England’s lead to 19-0.
Worcester’s Gemma Sharples claimed try number four after a well worked line-out, catch and drive which then saw the ball spun out-wide with Sharples driving over the line. Dale then completed the first-half proceedings with her second touchdown on 25 minutes.
The Eagles, however, had no plans to roll over and surrender and came back at England after the restart showing passion and determination. Scrum-half Kim Magrini rewarded the US for their efforts with a 45th minute try which saw the number 9 take advantage after England lost control in a scrum. Wing Melissa Smit converted to reduce the hosts lead to 29-7.
With some fresh legs on the field and the tourists losing a player to the sin-bin England bounced back to claim their final try of the evening. This time it was the turn of substitute Charlotte Boggis. Skipper Jones was at the heart of the move and picked-up at the back of a scrum. The forwards then cleared the ball and moved it out-wide. A clever dummy by Massarella, who couldn’t quite make the line for a second time, then set-up a waiting Boggis who touched down on 65 minutes.
The US again didn’t give up and instead they had the final word of the evening, running in two late tries thanks to Natalie Marchino and Kristen Zdanczewicz making the final score 34-17.
The USA return to action on Saturday when they take on reigning RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam champions England at Sunbury, kick-off 230pm.
1 Claire Purdy (Wasps), 2 Samantha Dale (Worcester), 3 Katie Smith (Richmond), 4 Alison Stevens (Lichfield), 5 Sara Anastasi (Richmond), 6 Karen Jones (Richmond) (c), 7 Gemma Sharples (Worcester), 8 Heidi Shelburg (Wasps), 9 Harriet Slynn (Richmond), 10 Shelly Rae (Wasps), 11 Helen Price (Waterloo), 12 Tina Lee (Clifton), 13 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 15 Vicky Massarella (Saracens). Replacements: 16 Samantha Jamieson (Darlington Mowden Park), 17 Monica Lewinska (Clifton), 18 Natalie Binstead (Wasps), 19 Sonia Green (Saracens), 20 Sarah Guest (Worcester), 21 Charlotte Boggis (Clifton), 22 Vicki Jackson (Lichfield).
Tries: Dale (2), Shelbury, Massarella, Sharples, Boggis
Conversions: Rae (2)
Substitutions: Price off for Jackson (HT), Stevens off for Binstead (50), Shelburg off for Green (50), Slynn off for Guest (60), Lee off for Boggis (60), Dale off for Jamieson (66), Smith off for Lewinska..
Referee: Rebecca Patrick
Touch judge: Claire Hodnett
Touch judge: Andrea Ttofa
Fourth Official: Paula Carter.
Wins also for Surrey Storm, Saracens Mavericks and team bath
photo Dan Vernon
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