On Saturday 4th June, the Army Women’s team took to the field at Scarlet Knights Sports Field, New Jersey; the home of Rutgers University Rugby. This was set to be the toughest game of the USA tour so far; as they took on the All American Collegiate All Stars, which is effectively the USA Eagles U23s.
The first 10 minutes of the game was played predominantly in the mid field, with handling errors from both sides meaning that neither team were able to gain any consolidated possession. However, the Army began to settle into the game quicker and were able to use their game awareness and skill to capitalise on the Eagles mistakes. A penalty against the Eagles, saw the Reds opt for the kick to the corner. Setting up for a line out on the attacking 5m line, Pte Ellie Gatlin successfully secured the ball in the air, and was driven over the line by her well drilled pack for the first score of the game. 0 – 5.
The first score seemed to light the touch paper for the inform Army side. A series of strong attacks, with the Reds sticking to the game plan of playing from touch line to touch line and utilising the skill sets of both the forwards and backs in unison, allowed them to work their way back into the USA 22. Excellent inter play between Capt Gemma Rowland and skipper, Cpl Jane Leonard moved the Army into a strong attacking position. The backs were able to spin the ball wide putting Sgt Dani Phan into space to cross the line for the second try. 0 -10
The Army kept on the pressure and pushed the USA team back into their own half. Two minutes before half-time, excellent awareness and vision by Rowland allowed her to chip over the advancing U23s defensive line into acres of space, giving Bdr Bethan Dainton the opportunity to show off her pace to easily beat her opposite number to the ball and run in a third try unchallenged. Rowland added the extras. 0 -17
As the teams took to the field for the second half, it seemed that the Eagles had been reinvigorated. They came out of the blocks firing and immediately found themselves in the Army 22. A relentless attack from the international side tested the Army defence across the full width of the defensive line, but determined resistance and huge individual hits from the women in red shirts, once again proved too much for the young international side. A turn over ball, and some quick reactive play, saw a swing play lead by Sgt Sarah Mitchelson release Cpl Carrie Roberts and Dainton to utilise their silky handling skills to beat a number of defenders all the way down the wing. Dainton, unselfishly giving the perfectly timed pass to put Roberts in unchallenged. Rowland converted. 0 -24.
Once again, the Reds were on fire. After a number of threatening attacking plays, in which the Eagles defensive skills were consistently put to the test, the continually developing partnership between Rowland and Roberts saw them seek out another gap. Roberts once again showing her athletic ability to power her way down the pitch to the try line. 0 – 29.
As Head Coach, Capt Glyn Barraclough, started rolling out the bench, the energised replacements were keen to make their mark on the field. Hooker, Lt Fran Athawes made a huge impact in the scrum, winning the ball against the head inside the Eagles half. Quick reactions from Mills at the back of the scrum, allowed her to release the ball to Capt Chantelle Miller through the centres and put her away for her first of the game. Rowland converted. 36-0.
Moving into the 75th minute of the game, it was clear that the Reds had successfully gained their third victory of the tour. However, USA U23s were not so willing to let them walk away with a clean slate. Strong attacking play, in which multi phases saw the Eagles keep the ball alive and continually apply pressure in the Army defensive 22, saw them finally rewarded for their persistence with a push over try from their pack. The try was unconverted, so saw the score taken to 5 -36.
As full time approached, despite the secured victory, the Army Women were not content to finish the game having conceding a try. With a strong chase from the kick off, and continually applied pressure from the Reds, the replacements once again made their mark. The last play of the game saw the Reds successfully turn over the Eagles, and with quick hands away from the break down area, against an unorganised defence, Chantelle Miller was able to find the gap and break through to cross the line for her second. 5 – 41.
Today’s victory sees the Army Women’s squad remain undefeated across the pond, with three wins from three games. Not only were they successful W’s, but the continually increasing scoring power and defensive strength of the Reds has seen them gain a points difference of +99 in just 3 games; scoring 125 points and conceding only 26. The squad now look forward to the Liberty Cup, in which they have set their sights on taking home both the 7s and 15s championship titles.