England 17 USA 14
England were forced to battle until the bitter end of their Nations Cup curtain raiser game against the USA on Friday night at Esher RFC.
The reigning RBS 6 Nations and European champions faced an altogether different challenge to the US team they played in a friendly fixture on Tuesday and thumped 50-3. The Eagles showed passion and pride to take the game to the hosts and made England throw everything they had to win the tournament opener.
Both sides kicked-off the clash fiercely and although the hosts dominated possession early on, the USA refused to give up and after a physically demanding first 25 minutes the US were awarded a penalty.
Vice captain and fly-half Kristin Baja couldn’t stroke the kick over, but their wing Natalie Marchino followed it up and pounced on the wayward ball to dive under the posts and hand the US a surprise lead. Baja, this time, converted to take a 7-0 lead.
England clawed back three points with a Katy McLean penalty and then capitalised on the loss of US prop Jamie Burke to the sin-bin as they pressurized America’s line.
A well taken line-out, just five metres out from the try-line, saw England spread the ball out-wide through McLean and Amy Turner, who then off-loaded to Michaela Staniford. The Wasps centre then showed her strength to power over the line. With McLean converting England took a 10-7 lead in injury time.
But England’s advantage didn’t last long and the US showed their commitment again after the break by keeping England at bay. They took their chances too, and again were rewarded for it. This time scrum-half and captain Kim Magrini took a quick tap penalty deep in England’s territory and she caught England unaware to run through and score. Baja again added the conversion to hand the Eagles a 14-10 lead with 53 minutes gone.
England, however, responded to the pressure and with super sub Kim Oliver executing a clever off-load to Saracens’ Charlotte Barras, the full-back showed her turn of speed to charge through three defenders and run in and score from 45 metres. Oliver added the conversion to take a 17-14 lead on 64 minutes.
England and the US continued to battle hard and the home side went close to stretching their lead when Staniford made another good break, only to be brought down just short of the line. England instead had to settle for their two tries and take a thrilling 17-14 victory.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: “To take this victory shows the strength of this team. This was a very hard test and we had made 12 changes for the match and that does not help with consistency. However, I thought the team showed tremendous determination, they never gave up and came back and deserved to win.”
England’s Nations Cup campaign continues on Sunday at 5pm at Esher, while the USA and Canada will clash on Tuesday 26th of August. England will also take on Canada in a friendly match on Friday 29th August.
1 Sophie Hemming (Clifton), 2 Emma Layland (Richmond), 3 Rosemarie Crowley (Lichfield), 4 Natalie Binstead (Wasps), 5 Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps), 6 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield), 7 Gemma Sharples (Worcester), 8 Karen Jones (C) (Richmond), 9 Georgina Rozario (Plymouth Albion), 10 Katy McLean VC (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 11 Fiona Pocock (Richmond), 12 Amy Turner (Richmond), 13 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 15 Charlotte Barras (Saracens). Replacements: 16 Samantha Dale (Worcester), 17 Katy Storie (Blaydon Team Northumbria), 18 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 19 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens), 20 Danielle Waterman (Clifton), 21 Kimberley Oliver (Clifton), 22 Georgina Roberts (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
Tries: Staniford, Barras
Conversions: McLean, Oliver
Substitutions: Taylor for McGilchrist (HT), Waterman for Rozario, Oliver for McLean (both 47), Roberts for Tuner (52), Alphonsi for Sharples, Storie for Crowley (56), Dale for Layland (70).
1 Farrah Douglas (Chicago North Shore), 2 Mari Wallace (Berkeley All Blues), 3 Jamie Burke (At-Large), 4 Jillion Potter (MN Valkyries), 5 Lara Vivolo (New York), 6 Mel Denham (Berkeley All Blues), 7 Beckett Royce (Oregon Sports Union), 8 Blair Groefsema (Berkeley All Blues), 9 Kim Magrini (c) (Keystone), 10 Kristin Baja (VC) (New York), 11 Nathalie Marchino (Berkeley All Blues), 12 Mel Kanuk (Maryland Stingers), 13 Lynelle Kugler (Glendale), 14 Vanesha McGee (Philadelphia), 15 Ashley Kmiecik (Emerald City Mudhens). Replacements: 16 Lisa Butts (Davis Women), 17 Stacy Baker (Philadelphia), 18 Christina Hobson (Morris Rugby), 19 Allyson Hemstreet (Berkeley All Blues), 20 Katy Hertel (Minnesota Valkyries), 21 San Juanita Moreno (Oregon Sports Union), 22 Desiree Markovich (Minnesota Valkyries)
Tries: Marchino, Magrini
Conversions: Baja (2)
Half-time score: England 10 USA 7
Referee: Claire Daniels.
Touch judges: Andrea Ttofa, Becky Patrick
England v USA, August 19th at Esher RFC, KO 7pm WON 50-3
England v USA August 22nd at Esher RFC Nations Cup, KO 7pm WON 17-14
England v Canada August 24th at Esher RFC Nations Cup, KO 5pm
USA v Canada August 26th at Esher RFC Nations Cup, KO 7pm
England v Canada August 29th at Esher RFC, KO 7pm
Fourth is no good enough