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The USA Women’s 15s team got a bit of a lesson in finishing, mauls, and the intensity required to win at the international level, as the New Zealand Black Ferns galloped to a 67-6 victory over the Eagles on Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill.
The Eagles did not capitulate, and the team, which included six debutant starters and seven more new caps off the bench, created several really good scoring chances. But the unity of the Black Ferns showed through.
The game started relatively inauspiciously for the Eagles, as they received, but ended up losing the ball. The Black Ferns attacked quickly, and while that attack went into touch, New Zealand took the lineout and mauled over.
Unshaken, the Eagles rebounded form the poor start to showcased some exciting attacking rugby. Debutant 18-year-old. Emily Henrich showed her ability with a nice long run, and that set up a chance on the right wing. Kelsi Stockert opted to cut back inside and eventually the Eagles earned a penalty which Kimberly Rozier slotted easily.
The USA came right back on attack and with Rachel Johnson and Jordan Gray powering ahead, threatened once more. But lack of ball security hurt the Americans again, and New Zealand kicked clear.
The Black Ferns weathered a period of penalties around ruck time and once they straightened that out, were superbly dangerous.
Some desperate tackling held New Zealand out, but only for a while.
The Black Fern maul was devastating, and it produced another try and around 20 minutes it was 21-3.
At 30 minutes, the USA was again on the attack. A smart kick ahead by Rozier was there for the taking, but the ball rolled dead before Stockert could get there. Once again, given a reprieve, the Black Ferns broke down the field, and after losing the ball and getting it back, scored out wide.
That, overall, was the story. The Eagles had some monumental scrums, but their lineout was iffy and New Zealand was able to attack off the lineout frequently. USA pressure produced another Rozier penalty, but no tries as the bigger, and very powerful Black Ferns, land in some big hits and covered well.
Eloise Blackwell was a force and scored two. Captain Fiao'o Faamausili brought plenty of veteran leadership, as it was aggression and power, more than anything else, that stymied the Eagles.
"The players just kept on working for each other," said USA head coach Rob Cain. "We were creating opportunities, but combinations take time."
New Zealand - 67
Tries: Itunu, Blackwell 2, Faamausili, Wickliffe 2, Winiata, Cocksedge 2, Waaka, Leti-I’iga
Conversions: Cocksedge 6
USA - 6
Pens: Rozier 2