USA Eagles
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Women's Eagles  @ UCD Bowl
August 13, 20172:45 pm BST
Women's Rugby World Cup
Pool B, Match 9

Eagles keep Spain scoreless in World Cup victory

DUBLIN, Ireland – The USA Women’s Eagles scored seven tries in a 43-0 shutout of Spain Sunday, keeping alive hopes of a top-four Semifinal berth at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 at University College Dublin.

Wing Naya Tapper kicked off the scoring in the first 10 minutes with her first of two tries, while No. 8 Jordan Gray dotted down for her first of the tournament in a Player of the Match performance. Following the mid-week victory against Italy – in which they also earned a bonus point – and Sunday’s result, the Eagles remain level with England in Pool B on 10 points.

Thursday’s clash – kicking off at Billings Park at 9:30 a.m. ET – will decide the pool winner and the potential best runner-up for the knockouts. The match can be watched live on NBC’s Rugby Gold Pass.

“We’re excited to have checked the box again, which is a win and scoring four tries,” Head Coach Pete Steinberg said. “The most satisfying part of that game was that we improved. The first half, again, was a little rough for us; our accuracy let us down. But as the game wore on we played some great rugby both on attack and defense.

“What we know is there’s more for us to give.”

The Eagles started on the front foot and kept it that way for the opening 20 minutes, secure in possession and quick to rush up on defense. Simple hands from an attacking scrum led to Tapper’s opener, as the back-three combination delivered yet another try in Dublin. Full back Cheta Emba provided the final, one-handed pass after Kristen Thomas continued the play for Tapper to fend two defenders on her way to the 7-0 score.

Two successive penalties against Emba and flanker Kate Zackary set up Spain fly half Patricia Garcia with an opportunity at points from an advantageous position after 15 minutes, but the penalty kick attempt fell short of its mark. Match official Claire Hodnett had to give a talking-to to captain Tiffany Faaee minutes later as penalties piled up against the Eagles.

The U.S. did not lose its tenacity following the stern warning, defending a maul – the play that allowed Italy to score its only points in the 24-12 result last week – on Spain’s best scoring chance of the half. Dropped passes from both sides slowed play before the Eagles found their stride 10 minutes from the break, with Emba setting up the forwards with field position behind the Spain 22. Flanker Sara Parsons, Player of the Match against Italy, drew a penalty as the U.S. crashed at the paint, and Gray followed up scrum half Deven Owsiany’s quick tap with a dive over the try line, 12-0.

The momentum looked to be somewhat halted as the half drew to a close as Parsons was sent to the bin for not retreating 10 meters following a midfield penalty. Spain was unable to capitalize on the player-advantage on either side of the break, however, with the Eagles giving away just one forward run to full back Iera Echebarria during the sin-bin session. Not a minute after Parsons was released, the U.S. stormed the Spanish defense to set up its third try. With a penalty advantage, center Alev Kelter kept the ball free with several fends at the try line before providing the final assist to Emba for the 17-0 score line.

The fresh legs of substitute lock Alycia Washington brought the Eagles back into scoring territory in the 53rd minute following a big break from the restart by prop Catherine Benson. Emba pinned back Spain with a grubber kick the Lions brought into their own try zone. The ball came out of the five-meter scrum to Tapper, who used her strength to shrug off multiple defenders to dot down under the posts. Kelter converted her second try of the match as the Eagles secured their second bonus point of the campaign at 24-0.

More replacements slotted into the side now comfortably ahead of its opposition, with prop Hope Rogers one of several to enjoy a ball-carrying run against Spain. Another well-returned restart nearly saw Thomas over the line, but successive turnovers calmed play down for Spain. The Lions opted to test the maul again – deep in their own half – however, and lost the ball to a penalty won by Kelter in open play. The Eagles showed their opponent how to perform the maul, pushing over for a penalty try in the 62nd minute, 31-0.

Though Spain did not appear to have the depth to overturn a five-try deficit, its opportunities in the attacking half were there if it were not for ill-discipline in possession. Conversely, the Eagles finished off the match with clinical finishing, with Jessica Javelet scoring her first career test try in chasing a Kelter grubber in-goal and Rogers returning to the score sheet on the final play of the game, 43-0.

“The other thing I think was a big difference was our players off the bench,” Steinberg said. “We have a lot of depth. Our ability to bring players off the bench to bring a little extra energy put us away.”

England matched an impressive U.S. win in scoring 10 tries in a defeat of Italy Sunday, maintaining a 39-point point-differential lead in Pool B. A win for the Eagles Thursday would automatically qualify them for the top-flight knockout stages by virtue of a first-place pool finish, while a combination of a less positive result and favorable results in the other two pools could still see them back in the top-four for the first time since 1998.

The U.S.-England clash can be watched live via NBC Sports’ Rugby Gold Pass Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET, with live match updates provided by USA Rugby’s Twitter account (@USARugby).

USA Women’s Eagles | v. Spain
1. Catherine Benson
2. Samantha Pankey
3. Tiffany Faaee (C)
4. Stacey Bridges
5. Abby Gustaitis
6. Sara Parsons
7. Kate Zackary
8. Jordan Gray
9. Deven Owsiany
10. Kimber Rozier
11. Kristen Thomas
12. Alev Kelter
13. Nicole Heavirland
14. Naya Tapper
15. Cheta Emba

USA Women’s Eagles | Reserves
16. Kathryn Augustyn
17. Jamila Reinhardt
18. Hope Rogers
19. Alycia Washington
20. Kristine Sommer
21. Kayla Canett
22. Sylvia Braaten
23. Jessica Javelet

Spain | v. USA
1. Isabel Rico
2. Aroa González
3. Jeanina Vinueza
4. Maria Ribera
5. Rocio Garcia
6. Diana Gasso
7. Paula Medin
8. Angela Del Pan
9. Anne Fernández de Corres
10. Patricia García
11. Uri Barrutieta
12. Marina Bravo
13. Vanesa Rial
14. Amaia Erbina
15. Iera Echebarria

Spain | Reserves
16. Saioa Jaurena
17. Isabel Macías
18. Laura Delgado
19. Berta García
20. Elena Redondo
21. Carmen Pérez
22. Maria Ahis
23. Maria Casado

USA Women’s Eagles | 43
Tries: Tapper (2), Gray, Emba, Javelet, Rogers
Conversions: Kelter (3)
Discipline: Parsons (Yellow)

Spain | 0
Tries: N/A
Conversions: N/A

USA Women’s Eagles | Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017
v. Italy – W 24-12
v. Spain – W 43-0
v. England – Thursday, Aug. 17 @ 9:30 a.m. ET
Semifinals – Tuesday, Aug. 22
Finals – Saturday, Aug. 26