Fiji troubled by Eagles in Guangzhou opener

GUANGZHOU, China – Sadie Anderson made her IRB Women’s Sevens World Series debut count Saturday with the Women’s Eagles Sevens’ first try on the way to a 15-0 win against Fiji. The Eagles face home side China in the next match at Guangzhou Women’s Sevens at 12:44 A.M. ET Saturday morning.

Anderson and Irene Gardner both started the match and made their first appearances of the season. A rain-soaked morning in China had its adverse effects on the match, as newcomer Fiji and the Eagles both struggled to get past each other’s 22 in the opening minutes. The match was rife with penalties, too, causing a lack of continuity in either team’s attacks.

The Fijians had trouble with the slippery ball, but they had speed to burn. Jillion Potter and Deven Owsiany each made a few stops in the opening minutes to stop any chance at a Fiji break and the Eagles’ defense overall did not allow much space for the opposition. In the fourth minute, Captain Vanesha McGee made a tackle from behind to turn over possession to the Eagles, but the ball was kicked out behind the try zone before an Eagle could grab it.

The resulting scrum outside the Fiji try zone was won by the Eagles and Anderson dodged a tackle to dot down just wide of the sticks. Anderson’s conversion hit the post and bounced right back at her, however, keeping the score at 5-0.

The Eagles’ kickoff after the try was kicked downfield by Anderson with no chance of regaining possession. With the wet conditions, not giving up field position was important. A few meters from their own try line, the Fijians attempted to kick the ball down field to regain some field position of their own, but could only manage to kick it about ten meters into the hands of Nathalie Marchino, who broke a tackle and found space outside for the Eagles’ second try of the match. The sideline position and rain made the conversion difficult for Anderson again, who missed the conversion. The Eagles took the 10-0 lead into the half.

It was evident from the first half and the first few minutes of the second half that the Eagles were stronger than the Fijians, who could not find a breakthrough in the defense. Potter, one of the Eagles’ stronger players, was replaced by the speedy Victoria Folayan, while Christy Ringgenberg and Lauren Doyle were also sent into the fray by Head Coach Ric Suggitt.

Not only did Fiji have trouble getting through the Eagles, they also had problems with penalties and injuries. Fiji’s Timaima Rosi Lulutai Ravisa had to be seen by a trainer twice within three minutes. With two minutes remaining in the match, Ringgenberg was sent to the sin bin. Suggitt’s team did not sit back, though, and pushed Fiji to move the ball. Fiji almost broke through down the right sideline after the yellow card, but good hustle by Owsiany forced another Fiji penalty.

From the scrum, Anderson broke a tackle and passed the ball wide to Doyle at midfield, who outran three defenders for the try at the death. Anderson missed another conversion for the 15-0 final score and a good start to the tournament for the Eagles.

England defeated China, the Eagles’ next opponent in Guangzhou, 24-5 in the first match of the tournament. The 15-0 win was important for the Eagles, as it narrowed the point differential gap between them and England. Only the winner from each pool and the top two second-place teams will make it the the Cup competition.

Watch the Eagles take on China at 12:44 A.M. ET with the IRB’s live stream on the Women’s Sevens World Series website and follow the Women’s Eagles Twitter (@USAWomens7s) for live updates.

Women's Eagles Sevens | vs. Fiji
1 Vanesha McGee
2 Kelly Griffin
3 Victoria Folayan (s)
4 Katie Dowty (s)
5 Sadie Anderson
6 Nathalie Marchino
7 Lauren Doyle (s)
8 Deven Owsiany
9 Irene Gardner
10 Christy Ringgenberg (s)
11 Amelia Bizer (s)
12 Jillion Potter

Women’s Eagles Sevens | vs. Fiji
Tries: Anderson, Marchino, Doyle

Women’s Eagles Sevens | Guangzhou Women’s Sevens
vs. China – 12:44 A.M. ET Saturday, March 30