Wallaroos: Disappointing loss, yes. Shock loss, not really. USA is a good team. Next up the Kiwis (again)


The Wallaroos’ loss to the United States was disappointing and, it means the Wallaroos will unlikely qualify for World Rugby’s top tier tournament WXV 1 later in the year.

With the Australian women’s sports landscape being so competitive it is not great for the team’s PR after finishing last season so well and while they had a bit of a buzz about them.

On a positive note, the WXV 2 tournament is in South Africa, a pretty exciting experience for the players.

The Wallaroos’ defeat by the USA was not what many were expecting. Some even had the Wallaroos as favourites. Maybe it was due to some recency bias influenced by the Wallaroos defeat of the USA in their last encounter and Test wins over France and Wales last season. In last week’s piece I actually mentioned we shouldn’t get too excited and that based on history and the USA’s recent losses they should not be taken lightly.

 Hope Rogers of USA celebrates after scoring a try during the 2024 Pacific Four Series match. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Despite the scores the USA were more than competitive in their games against Canada and New Zealand. It should be noted the majority of the USA team are battle-hardened as they play in the UK Premiership. Their forwards were led by powerhouse stalwart Hope Rogers. On the other side the Wallaroos come off a quick five round competition.

Despite all this the Wallaroos will be ruing not taking their opportunity. It was a could’ve, should’ve match.

So what happened.

The first half was all the Wallaroos. From the start the Australians had intent and the defence was solid. The scrum while not dominant was better than the previous week. The forwards were generally able to match the USA. The Wallaroos backline was playing well, constantly looking dangerous and making breaks. Having Marsters, (who had a very good game), play out wide was very productive, especially her combination with Georgina Friedrichs.

Special mention on Friedrichs who has been the most consistent back in the last couple of years. In the first half she had three try assists and also scored a try in the second half. Arguably she’s the first player picked each week.

In reality the 20-8 half time scoreline flattered the USA. At the same time the Wallaroos should have put more points on the board. They made an error with a rolling maul right on the try line and Ash Marsters held a player back resulting in a Maya Stewart try to be reversed. The Australians made five times as many entries in the Americans’ 22 and spent four times as long in their 22 (1.58 v 34s).

You can imagine the USA saying at half time ‘we are still in this game’.

The second half was all USA. No idea what was said at half time but within 10 minutes the score went from 20-8 to 20 all. The USA had their tails up. In fact the USA should have won the game by more as they got over the line twice with tries denied due to a dropped ball and a great Friedrichs tackle. The USA, as expected, punched it up over the advantage line and made use of their rolling maul. The Australians’ maul defence was not very good.

As also mentioned last week the Aussie Sevens women’s team often find the USA’s physicality difficult. When the USA have a lot of possession Australia find it hard to stop the momentum and wrangle back possession. It was the same in the Test match. In the second half the USA had all the territory and possession. The Wallaroos could not turn it around.

As coach Jo Yapp noted, the Australian exits were not good. All the kicking was on Bella McKenzie, a bit different to last year where both Carys Dallinger and McKenzie were kicking options.

The few times when the Australians were on attack and in the opposition half they made some poor decisions. For example they were tackled over the side line a couple of times or threw a flick pass when they should have taken the tackle.

In the end it was a well-deserved win by the USA.

Now it is Kiwi time (again).

There are questions for coach Yapp. Does she stick with players she has? Are there better players to bring in to the team? Arguably, not really. For the New Zealand game do you stick to experience or try something new?

The current five round Super Rugby W competition just does not really build depth and competition for positions.

Generally speaking the backs played well against both Canada and USA. It was interesting selecting both Samantha Wood and Caitlyn Halse for the USA game. Wood did not have a bad game but for New Zealand you would expect Layne Morgan back to starting. As for Halse she did pretty well for a debut but Yapp may go back to the experience of Lori Cramer. Do you bring in Faitala Moleka to 10 and push McKenzie to 12?

Maya Stewart. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

For any rugby team it is the forwards that is the make or break. Against New Zealand even more so.

The front row and hooker stocks are looking light-on this season without Bree Cheatham and Adiana Talakai. Tania Naden’s cheek did not look good, as a consequence she maybe out this week. So possibly a new hooker in Waratahs Brittany Merlo or Reds Tiarna Molloy or as a wild card throw in Ash Marsters.

Credit must go to Brianna Hoy who has been a real workhorse, she racked up 77 minutes. (Maybe a coincidence but she did the Japanese season leading up to the Super Rugby W). It is worth noting Naden was also on for 77 minutes. On the flip side Eva Karpani was on for 50 minutes and has yet to recapture her form from last season. But she does take time to warm up, again maybe a reflection of the short Super Rugby W season.

The Wallaroos need more out of their starting locks but Michaela Leonard, Kaitlan Leaney and Atasi Lafai are still our best. Not sure you can make much change to the backrow, all three Pesi Palu, Piper Duck and Ash Marsters had good games. But have thought Leilani Nathan has looked impressive when she has come off the bench.

So later this week it is the Black Ferns. And in bad news Canada defeated the Black Ferns 22-14. The Kiwis will no doubt want to exact revenge on whoever they play next. Unfortunately, it is the Wallaroos.

Congratulations to the Canadians by defeating the Kiwis they take out the Pacific Four Series, with three out of three wins.

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