After the misery of the Wallabies result, Sunday’s mood was very much improved by the Wallaroos’ win in the Pacific Four Series. While a win was hoped for, like last week against the Kiwis the score line of 58-17 was a huge surprise.
Pre match there were some positive expectations but there were a few questions. Most of the USA players play in the UK Premier 15s competition. Australia from six previous matches had only one win back in 2002. Most recently last year the USA defeated Australia 16-14. As an aside all up the Wallaroos have played 67 Tests while the USA 137. The USA also always play a very physical game.
But the Wallaroos shook off the pummeling from the Kiwis, travelled to Canada, played in the heat on an artificial pitch to jag their second win ever over the USA. With the USA unlikely to beat the Black Ferns this week, the Wallaroos win will get them into the World Rugby’s WXV Tier 1 tournament in October.
A couple of stats from Scrum Queens. There were 10,092 in attendance at the double header, the biggest Canadian crowd. It was the biggest win for Australia against any team ranked in the top 10. It was the biggest score by Australia since 2010, and 4th biggest ever.
The USA 15s team is a bit like the USA sevens, they are full of some real athletes who have speed, strength and physicality but at this stage they do not have the experience in the play making positions.
So what about the game itself?
In many ways the Australians did to the USA what the Black Ferns did to the Wallaroos last week. The Australians had most of the possession and the USA did most of the tackling. There is no doubt the Wallaroos benefitted from having had games against the Fijiana and Black Ferns, while the USA’s last game was against Canada back in April.
Rugby can be a simple game when your forwards are laying the platform and have a strong set piece.
The first half was a physical battle between the forwards with most of the play in the first 15 minutes between the two 22 metre lines. The Australians had most of the possession and faced an unrelenting and at times brutal defence from the USA. It might be cliched but you could say you could see the influence of Brumbies Super W coach Scott Fava, with the forwards scoring three tries from rolling mauls in the first half.
It is always an indicator of the forwards’ success when a prop receives the player of the match – Eva Karpani.
For the Australians the game rolled out how you would like it to. The first half was a forwards’ battle with the Australians getting on top in the set piece. Throughout the game the Australians were able to punch over the advantage line, very different to last week against the Kiwis. The first half saw four forwards tries, then in the second half the backs got their opportunity, with five tries.
The Australians did what the Kiwis do so often against Aussie teams, scoring just before and just after half time.
With a final score of 58-17 and possession/ territory around the 60 percent mark a lot of players obviously played well. While Karpani was player of the match for her ball in hand running and scrummaging, there were not any real standouts per se in the forwards. The whole pack did their job, made their tackles, won all their lineouts, scrums and constantly put pressure on the USA set piece. Although it is worth mentioning the added physicality hooker Adiana Talakai made returning from injury.
With a good lead going into the second half, the backline could play with some confidence. Arabella McKenzie who came in for Carys Dallinger had a good game with a mix of plays. She is not the type of fly half that will split the defence with her speed and agility. Instead she brings a different skill set. For example in the first half she took on the line, drew in a couple of defenders and provided a great offload for Karpani to score. In addition, she mixed up her kicking with a little dinky kick over the top for Maya Stewart to score.
Both the wingers Stewart and Ivania Wong had space to run and scored a hattrick and double respectively.
At fullback Lori Cramer came in with Faitala Moleka out injured, she added a bit of spark in attack and feistiness in defence. At 12 Cecilia Smith performed well and her goal kicking was a plus. Again, vice-captain Georgina Friedrichs at 13 showed her leadership, she always makes smart decisions in attack and defence. It is worth noting the great combination of starting with Layne Morgan at half and having Jasmin Huriwai coming on later in the game. It ensures the Wallaroos game is played at speed for 80 minutes.
So across the board it was ticks all around, the Wallaroos had an excellent game which was a real fillip to watch after the Wallabies.
Next up for the Wallaroos is Canada on Saturday morning, which will be another very physical game. The Wallaroos have, in previous four matches, never beaten the Canadians. Their most recent loss was 22-10 in last year’s Pacific Four Series.
Not surprisingly after the Wallaroos game the Black Ferns continued their merry way with a convincing win 52-21 over Canada.