Wallaroos suffer shock loss to USA in massive blow to World Cup plans as set-piece put on roller-skates


The Wallaroos’ hope of making this year’s WXV1 are in disarray after Jo Yapp’s side suffered a shock 32-25 loss to the United States of America at Melbourne AAMI Park on Friday night.

Despite taking a 20-10 lead into half-time, the Wallaroos were once again smashed up front in the set-piece battle with the USA putting the home side’s rolling maul on roller skates. It was the second straight week the Wallaroos were beaten up at the crucial set-piece area.

After all five of Canada’s tries were scored by front-rowers in Sydney six days ago, the USA did their homework and took the route one channel against the Wallaroos.

It paid off, with loose-head prop Hope Rogers scoring a double and hooker Kathryn Treder also getting on the score sheet in the five tries to four win.

After winger Lotte Clapp scored a stunning try through the middle, powerful centre Mata Hingano extended the USA’s lead out to a converted try when she crossed over out wide.

Hope Rogers of USA celebrates after scoring against the Wallaroos at AAMI Park on May 17, 2024 in Melbourne. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The Wallaroos had a late chance to score in the 76th minute, but replacement halfback Layne Morgan was held up over the line.

The visitors then controlled the final passages of play, before playmaker McKenzie Hawkins booted the ball out deep inside Australia’s half to end the game to seal a famous victory.

“We’ve been grinding for the last year and a half since the last World Cup, we’ve had a lot of games not go in our favour, so what you’ve seen today was the grit that the girls have put in for the last three weeks,” USA captain Kate Zackary said.

“We’ve had some really hard training camps, the coaching staff has pushed us, but you saw that grit in us and how it paid off for us in those last tight few minutes.”

The victory came just weeks after getting smashed 57-5 by New Zealand and 50-7 by Canada and puts them in pole position to make the WXV1 competition later this year.

“Look, the last two games, we’ve had some milestones that we wanted to hit against Canada and New Zealand, we always knew that these three matches were going to be tough but just like Australia, we were targeting this match,” Zackary said.

“At half-time, he [head coach Sione Fukofuka] talked about the attack and defence, but at the end of the day they don’t matter it’s just about the belief and I think in that second half we just truly believed it.”

Wallaroos skipper Michaela Leonard didn’t have to think too hard about where the game was won and lost, with the second-rower acknowledging their set-piece needed a huge improvement.

“Looking at the second half, it’s just our discipline that’s a big one,” she said.

“Too many errors letting them march up the field and they did well at set-piece, so props to them.

“We’ll definitely be looking at our discipline and just making sure that we hold onto the ball.”

 Kate Howard celebrates after scoring a try during the 2024 Pacific Four Series match in Melbourne. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The defeat means the Wallaroos must be the reigning world champions New Zealand next week across the ditch to qualify for the WXV1 tournament.

Should the Wallaroos go down, it will be a massive blow to Yapp’s preparations ahead of next year’s World Cup.

While the Wallaroos will go into the match heavy underdogs, Leonard said her side would be up for the challenge and were confident they could turn it around.

“Massive rivalry between us,” she said. “But we’re hungry for it and we’re ready to come out and I think we’ve got something to show after the last two rounds and we’re definitely going to come out firing.”

Fixing their tight-five issues will be priority number one, with Eva Karpani and replacement tight-head Bridie O’Gorman struggling at the set-piece and with their hands.

The struggles up front came after the Wallaroos’ backline clicked into gear, with Georgie Friedrichs the home side’s best.

Friedrichs, the 2022 Wallaroos player of the year, scored a try and denied the USA one too.

PIPER DUCK through the middle ????????

????@StanSportAu#Wallaroos #PAC4 pic.twitter.com/GDOvyCLTWA

— Wallaroos (@WallaroosRugby) May 17, 2024

Her outside backs teammates Maya Stewart and Desiree Miller also got on the scoreboard.

Hometown hero Ashley Marsters was also one of the home side’s best, scoring a try and proving effective on the ball as usual.

But her unnecessary hold on Clapp after getting away a sublime pass to send Stewart away midway through the first half was another example of the discipline issues Yapp’s side must fix quickly.  

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