The USA arrived in England for Rugby World Cup 2010 with one immediate target: to reach the semi-finals at Twickenham Stoop.
Following an opening 51-0 defeat of Kazakhstan, a second Pool B win against Ireland would put them within touching distance of achieving that goal.
Ireland had won only two RWC pool matches since their debut in 1994, and began the tournament with a 27-0 loss against hosts England.
But the Irish had steadily improved in the four years since being beaten 24-11 by the USA at RWC 2006 in Edmonton, and were about to highlight by exactly how much.
Playing in her 50th test, Ireland number eight, Joy Neville opened the scoring as she latched onto a long lineout throw in the sixth minute.
The USA struck back soon afterwards, however, as prop Jamie Burke touched down under the posts and Melissa Kanuk kicked the conversion to give her side a 7-5 advantage.
But the USA would not be able to hold onto that lead for long. With prop Farrah Douglas in the sin-bin, Ireland made the most of their numerical advantage to send Niamh Briggs over in the right corner.
That score gave the Irish a 10-7 lead at half-time. And when Neville popped up to touch down for a second time within five minutes of the restart, the USA’s deficit stretched beyond a converted try.
The USA needed to score next, but instead it was Ireland who increased their lead, as scrum-half Tania Rosser crossed the whitewash having caught the American defence off guard with a quick-tap.
Ireland hold on
Briggs converted Rosser’s score to nudge Ireland into a 15-point lead with less than 27 minutes to play.
Ireland’s line was breached in the 73rd minute, but, other than Venesha McGee’s unconverted try, they were able to hold out to record a 22-12 victory.
The result propelled Ireland into semi-final contention. But despite a 37-3 defeat of Kazakhstan they missed out on a place in the last four on points difference.
The USA completed their Pool B campaign with a 37-10 loss against England, a result which set up a rematch with Ireland in the fifth-place semi-finals.
Eight days after the teams’ first encounter at Surrey Sports Park, the USA exacted their revenge with a 40-3 victory.