New Zealand keeps Eagles from win in Brazil

SÃO PAULO, Brazil - In their first HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series match since December 2015, the Women's Eagles Sevens ran into a resurgent New Zealand, falling, 35-5, in the opening match of Brazil Women's Sevens Saturday.

Jillion Potter scored the U.S.'s only points following a period of defensive pressure on the reigning Series champion, though the team sinks to the bottom of Pool B with a loss and heavy point differential. Jules McCoy's squad will take to the Arena Barueri pitch next against Russia at 12:12 p.m. ET.

New Zealand controlled the majority of the match's restarts, including the opening kickoff that was grabbed by Portia Woodman. Despite the Eagles staying in a defensive shape to make several tackles in their own half, Gayle Broughton found space outside a breakdown in the middle of the pitch to open the scoring at 7-0.

Preview Brazil Women's Sevens

The Eagles were able to control possession from the match's second restart, and drew a penalty near midfield to send the defenders back 10 meters. McCoy's charges flung the ball from side to side but a final pass to Alev Kelter on the wing found touch rather than hands to gift possession to the opponent.

Countering the U.S.'s strong tackling, New Zealand offloaded the ball more in contact, and returning World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Kayla McAlister did so one-handed seconds before receiving the ball for her side's second try. She finished off the half's scoring after Kristen Thomas failed to beat a defender on the wing in the sixth minute, sending the teams into the break with a 21-0 score line.

Thomas contested the second-half restart to force a quick stoppage, and continuous pressure kept New Zealand from passing quickly near the wing. Megan Bonny jumped up on a lazy pass to win the Eagles' first turnover and Potter ran a line towards the corner to get the U.S. on the scoreboard at 21-5.

New Zealand kept possession for all but 30 seconds of the time remaining in the second half, and added tries from Huriana Manuel and Kayla Brazier to pad the point differential in a 35-5 victory.

An "upset" in Pool B's other match, a Spain win at the expense of Russia, sees the Eagles' next opponent on just as many points at the bottom of the table. With a win, the Eagles could jump as far ahead as second, a spot good for a Cup Quarterfinal berth on day two in São Paulo.

Brazil Women's Sevens can be watched live on World Rugby's website, with the Eagles' second match set to kick off at 12:12 p.m. ET.

Women's Eagles Sevens | v. New Zealand

1. Megan Bonny

2. Kelly Griffin (C)

3. Jillion Potter

4. Alev Kelter

5. Bui Baravilala

6. Kristen Thomas

7. Jessica Javelet

8. Ashley Perry

9. Ryan Carlyle

10. Joanne Fa'avesi

11. Rachel Griendling

12. Naya Tapper

New Zealand | v. USA

1. Ruby Tui

2. Michaela Blyde

3. Hazel Tubic

4. Niall Williams

5. Sarah Goss

6. Gayle Broughton

7. Tyla Nathan-Wong

8. Kelly Brazier

9. Huriana Manuel

10. Katarina Whata-Simpkins

11. Portia Woodman

12. Kayla McAlister

Women's Eagles Sevens | 5

Tries: Potter

Conversions: N/A

New Zealand | 35

Tries: Broughton, McAlister (2), Manuel, Brazier

Conversions: Tyla-Wong (5)

Women's Eagles Sevens | Brazil Women's Sevens

v. New Zealand - L 35-5

v. Russia - Saturday, Feb. 20 @ 12:12 p.m. ET

v. Spain - Saturday, Feb. 20 @ 3:18 p.m. ET