New Zealand handles Eagles in final pool match of Atlanta 7s

KENNESAW, Ga. – The Women’s Eagles Sevens were humbled in front of their home crowd at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University Saturday night in a 57-0 loss to 2014-15 World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series-leading New Zealand.

The Eagles end day one at Atlanta 7s – the home leg of the Series – with a 2-1 record following victories against South Africa and Russia. The wins earn Ric Suggitt’s squad a place in the Cup round for day two, which is reserved for the top eight teams from day one. Second place in Pool A sets up the Eagles for a match against Australia.

The match did not start with points on the board for New Zealand, but it took less than two minutes for Kayla McAlister to score. Sarah Goss jumped high above Joanne Fa’avesi to recover the restart for her team, though early defensive pressure from the Eagles kept New Zealand at bay for a few moments. The defending Series champion moved the ball from touch line to touch line, which opened enough of a gap in the Eagles’ shape for McAlister to break through inside the 22. Jessica Javelet gave chase, but McAlister was too strong for the sweeper.

The try caused the Eagles to trail for the first time at Atlanta 7s, and they would not find a way back into the match. Goss knocked the ensuing restart for an Eagles scrum. New Zealand won the ball back, however, and McAlister broke free before being taken down inches from the line. The former World Rugby Player of the Year chose not to risk double movement and found Kelly Brazier for the try.

Goss again earned possession for her side with a jump on the restart, but the Eagles stole it after a few phases. They could not get out of their own 22, and Series-leading try-scorer Portia Woodman counterrucked alone and took the ball directly up the middle for a try under the posts and a 19-0 lead.

“[Goss] did a great job in the air and we didn’t respond well,” Suggitt said after the match. “We’ve been working on it, but, again, when you’re the best in the world at it, it’s a tough one.

“We missed our first-time tackles, they got running away on us, and the rest is history. We’re not a team yet that can come back from big scores on us. That’s where you learn.”

Javelet managed to catch the restart just before the half-time horn sounded, but she was immediately taken into touch, causing a turnover. Woodman scored within seconds of the ball retuning to the field of play for a 26-0 lead at the half.

McAlister added her second try of the match 20 seconds into the second frame, Ruby Tui scored twice in less than seven minutes of action, and New Zealand scored a total of five second-half tries for a 57-0 win.

The Eagles will not want to take too close of a look at their final pool play match at Atlanta 7s, which did not affect the team’s standing in the Cup draw. Only a 20-point (or more) win would have jumped the Eagles over New Zealand atop Pool A.

The match also does not put a damper on the good performances seen in wins against South Africa and Russia earlier in the day.

“I just told [the team] we’re going to flush that one down the toilet,” Suggitt said. “That’s done. We can never have that game back. We’ve been working hard on not worrying about one loss on day one. We can’t lose anything on day two. It’s a whole new day tomorrow.

“You’re only as good as your next game. We weren’t very good in our third game today. That’s the reality of it. We’ve played them well a couple of times; maybe we were a little overconfident because we were playing well today. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond.”

Australia won all three of its matches on day one in Atlanta. The second-place team in the Series standings shut out Fiji in its first match and ran away from Spain and France to finish in third place overall with a plus-65 point differential. England placed second overall in pool play with a plus-66 point differential.

The Eagles’ Cup Quarterfinal against Australia kicks off at 12:44 p.m. ET Sunday. Finals Day at Atlanta 7s can be viewed on World Rugby’s Women’s Sevens Series website. Match updates will be provided by @USARugby on Twitter.

Women’s Eagles Sevens | v. New Zealand
1. Megan Bonny
2. Kelly Griffin
3. Kathryn Johnson
4. Bui Baravilala
5. Jessica Javelet
6. Kristen Thomas
7. Victoria Folayan
8. Alev Kelter
9. Hannah Lopez
10. Kate Zackary
11. Joanne Fa’avesi
12. Lauren Doyle

New Zealand | v. USA
1. Ruby Tui
2. Honey Hireme
3. Hazel Tubic
4. Alexis Tapsell
5. Sarah Goss
6. Morgan Morrow
7. Tyla Nathan-Wong
8. Kelly Brazier
9. Michaela Blyde
10. Selica Winiata
11. Portia Woodman
12. Kayla McAlister

Women’s Eagles Sevens | 0
Tries: N/A
Conversions: N/A

New Zealand | 57
Tries: McAlister (2), Brazier (2), Woodman (2), Tui (2), Blyde
Conversions: Nathan-Wong (4), Winiata (2)

Women’s Eagles Sevens | Atlanta 7s
v South Africa – W 36-5
v Russia – W 19-12
v New Zealand – L 57-0
v Australia – Sunday, March 15 – 12:44 p.m. ET