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Saturday, August 28, 2010

World Cup Live(ish): England v USA

Sorry no "live" update this time - but here's the report on a brilliant game, written as the game was in play!

Confident start from USA, but soon penned back. Maggi Alphonsi seizing on a loose ball she should never have been able to get to, turned USA over. USA won a lineout in the corner, but the attempted US clearence found taken by only Charlotte Barras, who passed to Nolli Waterman . Nolli then who sidestepped the entire US backline to scorein the corner. 4 minutes gone and 5-0.

England dominant from the restart and a series of infringements by USA ended with a penalty in front of the posts – easily converted by McLean. 8-0. 9 minutes gone.

From the restart, a USA attack ends with another penalty for using the feet. England back in the US half. The speed of pass through the hands is remarkable – and the US infringe again. Another penalty, the fourth in three minutes, but the resulting penalty was missed by McLean – a great rarity in this tournament.

England’s forwards were dominating up front, and solid tackling is knocking back a team that has a reputation for toughness. But the USA are (at 17 minutes) beginning to put some good back moves together. Both wings – Marchino and McGee – have great runs down the flanks, reaching into the England 22, and with 20 minutes gone after a series of rucks on the England line, Marchino breaks through and scores in the corner. 8-5.

US confidence grows as a result. Another break from McGee from deep in her own half is frustrated on the England 22. As the half moved on it is getting much more even, but on 32 minutes after a long period of England pressure had been kept out a perfect kick through from McLean saw Merchant beat the US defence to the ball. 13-5, but the conversion was missed.

England were beginning to take command again – and as the half drew to a close Marchino found her way to the bin. Within a minute another try- Waterman again breaking through the US defence in a copy of her first try. McLean converted in front of the posts and it was 20-5, the whistle going for half-time a few moments later.

England continued as they left off when the second half began, though there was a worrying tendency for the final pass to go astray – Barras overrunning and excellent try scoring opportunity, and Merchant spilling another – can England afford to be so generous against New Zealand? McLean’s superbly accurate kicking repeatedly put England into some great positions, but the US desperately held on.

After nearly 15 minutes the pressure finally told. Emily Scarrat, a few moment before lying in a heap after a particularly tough defensive tackle, picked up the ball on the far side and blasted though the defence. 25-5, and the bonus that would see England into the top ranking, and a semi-final with Australia.

But the game was far from over – and the USA were not finished. For six minutes they camped on the English line – but could find no way over. Eventually McLean cleared and the game was back in the US half. Phi Knight was then caught tackling after the ball was kicked – the third time the referee had seen this, and her patience was at an end. Knight – who had been having an excellent game – was off.

15 minutes to go, and an American break. McGhee on the wing – who had had a great game – getting the ball down to the England 22. The ball then quickly moved across the field, and with the help of her forwards scrum half Magrini touched down. 25-10 – and the USA were into double figures..
England were enjoying this now, though. Smiles all round. These grew still more on 35 minutes when Amber Penrith rounded off some brilliant English back moves with a try in the left corner – Kty McLean hitting the post with her conversion attempt. 30-5.

Then, to round things off, the crowd’s hero Maggi Alphonsi danced through the US defence to score, McLean this time converting. 37-10 – and well into injury time.

So a good win against strong opposition – but a few worries. Far too many final passes went to ground – wings overrunning, or centres not communicating. And McLean had left her kicking boots somewhere. This is one area where England lead almost everyone (the only better kicker being Australia’s Nichole Beck) – it could be the difference in the end. If Katy has a good day…

So - its England v Australia, and New Zealand v France in the semi finals (the latter for the third tournament running! on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, playing for 5th-8th place we'll have Canada v Scotland and USA v Ireland - repeats of earlier pool games.

And for 9th-12th South Africa v Kazakhstan, and Wales v Sweden. Would be fun, if it wasn't impossible to see all the games - the schedulers not thinking about how long it takes to get from Guildford to Twickenham Stoop. Shame.

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