US captain Kate Zachary said her team lifted to another level when they realised what was at stake after a modest first half display

Whangarei (New Zealand) (AFP) - Australia and the United States logged their first wins at the women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand on Saturday, leaving Scotland and Japan staring at the prospect of elimination from the tournament.

In pool matches which involved four teams beaten in the opening round last week, Australia held on with 13 players to beat Scotland 14-12 while the US also overcame a halftime deficit to see off Japan 30-17.

The results leave Scotland needing to upset hosts New Zealand in the final round next week to have any chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals from pool A, while Japan will face the same scenario against pool B rivals Italy.

The little-fancied Japanese threatened a major upset when they led the US 5-3 at halftime, helped by an early try to outstanding halfback Megumi Abe.

They were still two points ahead with 25 minutes remaining but could not hold out the Eagles, who crossed the try-line four times through Joanne Kitlinski, Elizabeth Cairns, Jennine Detiveaux and inside centre Alev Kelter, who stood out with her powerful running.

US captain Kate Zachary said her team lifted to another level when they realised what was at stake after a modest first-half display.

“Deep down inside, the players know how important that second half was,” Zachary said.

“We said we needed to shine in that second half and every player did.”

The match was a sharp contrast to the only other meeting of the two nations, when the US won 121-0 in pool play at the 1994 World Cup.

Earlier, Australia held their nerve after losing both of their hookers to red cards in the closing stages.

Second-half tries to Bienne Terita and Ashley Marsters helped the Wallaroos overcome a 12-0 deficit at the interval but their match finished in tense circumstances when Marsters and Adiana Talakai were both sent off for high tackles.

Australia captain Shannon Parry was relieved following their first-up 41-17 loss to New Zealand.

“A bit of a nerve-wracking one, it was a real tough battle,” Parry said.

“We didn’t play as clinically as we wanted to but we’ll take the points, we’re still in this tournament and that’s what matters.”

It was a second narrow defeat for the Scots, who lost in the final minute, 18-15, to Wales last week.

They could not defend a lead built up through tries from the lineout drives, the first to hooker Lana Skeldon and the second a penalty try.

Saturday’s final fixture pits tournament favourites England against France in a highly-anticipated pool B clash.