Friday, April 8, 2016

Atlanta 7s: Eagles Upset New Zealand, Top Pool

The Richie Walker era is off to a flying start after the Eagles swept through all three of their pool play matches on the first day of the Atlanta 7s. Riding a defensive effort that saw them give up only three tries the Eagles are now set for the Cup quarterfinals where they will play Australia.

Eagles 24-0 Spain

First up on the day and the first outing under Walker was against Spain. The Eagles looked rejuvenated throughout the match as they dominated the possession. However, even though the U.S. had the bulk of the possession it took them a few minutes to finally break through. That came as Alev Kelter put in several nice moves around the defense. All in all, a bright start.

Both teams had a number of penalties and errors after the try but through the U.S. were able to have field position and possession. Eventually they would grab their second try as Lauren Doyle shrugged off a tackle to go in the rest of the way. Doyle did a great job of using Jessica Javelet as a decoy to create space.

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Doyle would soon have a second try as she bumped off another defender. That try was created by another great run from Kelter. With five minutes left in the match the Eagles led 19-0. Kristen Thomas added a fourth try to see the match finish at 24-0.

Eagles 33-12 Japan

Building off their win against Spain the U.S. came out aggressive against Japan and once again dominated possession. Like against Spain that would soon turn to a try. A strong run from Jillion Potter got the Eagles on the attack and an offload found Richelle Stephens who went the rest of the way for the score. A few minutes later Thomas was able to round the defense for they try and a 14-0 lead.

Nicole Heavirland, who was one of the many changes Walker made in his starting line-up, was able to put the Eagles close to the line just before halftime. She was stopped by a penalty and off the set play Kate Zackary dived over for the try and a 21-0 lead. Zackary scored a second later to extend the lead to 26-0.

It wasn't a perfect match from the Eagles as they did take their foot off the gas later to let Japan score twice. Megan Bonny grabbed a late try for the Eagles.

Eagles 12-5 New Zealand

Even though the Eagles had already clinched a spot in the Cup quarterfinals they were playing well and were about to meet a New Zealand team that hadn't been as dominant on day one as they probably should have. That, plus the energy of the hometown crowd, fueled the Eagles to a famous win that was mostly won on a hard defensive effort.

Both teams put a premium on defense in the match with the threat of a hard tackle causing a number of errors. Additionally both teams had a difficult time generating much on offense. If there was a team to have more of the possession it was the Eagles and when Bui Baravilala was able to burst through the defense she found Kelter who ran 50 meters for the opening try.

The slugfest continued after the try with the match devolving into a stop-start affair. When the match found its flow again it was New Zealand that put together a strong series of phases to level the match at 5-5.

Defensively the Eagles had a number of big moments, including a couple of outstanding tackles on either side of the half to prevent a try. Eventually the Eagles would find the breakthrough when Jessica Javelet created a try out of nothing to weave through the defense for the score. With the conversion the Eagles led 12-5.

New Zealand had their chances to end the match but the U.S. defense held firm and they went on to claim a famous win.

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