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Advantage USA in race for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 and WXV 1 qualification

The Women’s Eagles have taken a massive step towards qualification for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 and also WXV 1 later this year after coming from behind to ruin Australia’s maiden test in Melbourne.

USA ended World Rugby Pacific Four Series 2024 on a winning note after a stunning second-half performance in Melbourne boosted their qualification hopes for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 and WXV 1 in Canada later this year.

The Women’s Eagles trailed Australia 20-8 at half-time but their forward pack, led by two-try hero Hope Rogers, turned on the power after the break to see them to a famous 32-25 victory which leaves them in pole position to finish third in the Pacific Four Series standings. 

VIEW PACIFIC FOUR SERIES RESULTS AND STANDINGS >>

It was some turnaround from the USA, not only from one half to another but also from last year’s fixture which the Wallaroos won at a canter, 58-17.

For Australia, WXV 2 – and qualification for Women's RWC 2025 via that route – beckons unless they can do what they have never done before and not only beat New Zealand in North Harbour next Saturday.

AUSTRALIA 25-32 USA

USA arguably produced their best performance since reaching the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 semi-finals to stun Australia.

The Women’s Eagles’ forward dominance was the telling factor as the visitors to AAMI Park became a side transformed after the break.

Until that point, Australia had used their pacey backs to exploit any gaps in the USA defence out wide, running in three tries to one to lead 20-8 at half-time.

Caitlyn Halse had made the pre-match headlines but Australia’s youngest-ever test player, male or female, saw little of the ball and it was outside-centre Georgina Friedrichs who caught the eye.

Friedrichs had a hand in all three tries, the first two coming down the left flank inside the opening quarter.

Desiree Miller dived over in the corner for the opening try on five minutes following Friedrichs' break and pass. Before the Melbourne Rebels flanker Ashley Marsters had her hometown crowd on their feet, USA got their first points on the board through the boot of Gabriella Cantorna.

Having struck the post with her first attempt, Cantorna was given an immediate chance to put things right when Australia were penalised at the breakdown as they pounced on the ricochet, and this time around the Exeter Chiefs player made no mistake.

Brilliant USA defence led to Australia wasting two maul-scoring opportunities but there was no stopping Marsters when she hit a pass from Friedrichs at pace. A hand-off and dummy on her way to the line added a nice touch to the finish, which Arabella McKenzie turned into seven points with the conversion.

Not long after, Maya Stewart thought she’d got in on the act when Marsters pulled off a brilliant offload to leave her winger with enough space to score in the corner. However, the try was ruled out when Marsters was penalised for pulling back a USA defender without the ball.

Stewart wasn’t to be denied for long, though, the right winger taking a pass from Friedrichs to score out wide on 33 minutes.

USA’s big pack gave them a route back into the match and hooker Kathryn Treder scored from the back of a maul to give them hope. However, the last scoring act of the half came when McKenzie kicked a penalty in stoppage time after the Wallaroos had forced an infringement after attacking for 23 phases.

At the start of the second half, the Women's Eagles were fired up and Australia found themselves under their posts twice in quick succession, prop Rogers coming up with both tries as just a reward for her strong ball-carrying. With Cantorna successful with one of the conversions, suddenly the scores were locked together at 20-20 and the USA’s hopes of qualifying for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 were still alive.

It was going to take something special for Australia to stop USA’s momentum and that came on 55 minutes when Piper Duck stormed through the middle after a slick lineout move, drew the last defender Tess Feury, and handed Friedrichs a deserved score of her own for the try bonus point.

One big moment was followed by another as McKenzie’s clearance kick was charged down by Halle Taufoou. But the USA second-row was deemed to have knocked on when attempting to ground the ball.

However, USA maintained possession from the goal-line drop-out and, eventually, Lotte Clapp spotted a gap and used her pace to scythe through the defence and score a wonderful individual try on 63 minutes. Cantorna converted to put USA in the lead for the first time at 27-25.

After Bulou Mataitoga knocked on in the in-goal area while trying to collect Hawkins’ deft chip ahead, USA maintained their territorial dominance to work a score down the short side for Atumata Hingano after the forwards had repeatedly bashed away down the middle.

With Cantorna’s touchline conversion falling just short, Australia still had a chance to salvage a draw from the game and their best opportunity came a few minutes from time when they were awarded a penalty. From the kick to the corner Australia won possession and Marsters ran purposefully to within inches of the line and threw the ball back inside before she was bundled into touch. Layne Morgan was up in support to gather the ball but more desperate USA defence prevented her from grounding the ball and the chance was gone.

USA managed the final few minutes well, keeping the ball tight and using a series of pick-and-goes to run the clock down. And then, with the clock in red, Hawkins hoofed the ball off the pitch knowing that the job was done.

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