MATCH REPORT

KENNESAW, Ga. - The Richie Walker era began with a trophy Saturday night as the Women's Eagles Sevens defeated Russia, 19-7, in the HSBC Atlanta 7s Plate Final.

The third leg of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series was held at home for the U.S. at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University, and the Eagles lost just one match on the way to a 12-point haul towards the Series standings. With the Plate victory, the team's ranking improves to seventh heading into the fourth leg in Langford, British Columbia.

After sweeping pool play Friday, which included the team's second-ever defeat of New Zealand, the Eagles were spurned from the Cup round at the hands of eventual Cup winner Australia. The young women were able to put the loss behind them to shut out Fiji in the Plate Semifinal and overturn a 7-5 deficit in the Final.

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"The biggest takeaway I thought was, after we played Australia and lost, the girls didn't dip or bow their heads, and they weren't negative," the head coach said. "They know we made some mistakes and needed to eliminate those mistakes, and were able to stay positive and calm in the locker room.

"When you lose a game you never know how you can go, so it was really rewarding for me, and rewarding for the girls."

The Plate Final may not have been the main ticket event for the tournament, but it was the match that brought the most energy out of the crowd in Kennesaw. The "U-S-A" chants started early with the Eagles claiming Alev Kelter's opening restart. A swift move saw Kristen Thomas near the try line only to be taken into touch, but the U.S. regained possession from a Russian chip for Kelter to dot down in-goal.

Bui Baravilala was unable to convert the try, which would prove problematic prior to the end of the half. She continued her strong play as sweeper in the fourth minute to momentarily halt a Russian attack at her defensive 10, but Baizat Khamidova followed the play and got to the ball-carrier before the defenders to score under the posts. The try was converted by Daria Lushina to give Russia a 7-5 lead.

The remaining minutes of the half saw the Eagles control the play, and Ryan Carlyle kept her side in possession in a lineout in the U.S.'s attacking half to keep the pressure on the visiting team. Richelle Stephens shrugged off her opposite number along the try line to restore the Eagles' lead at 12-7 heading into the halftime break.

"We needed to just give them a reminder at halftime that we needed to stick to our game plan," Walker said. "We knew what it was and knew how Russia would attack us, and that's exactly how they scored that try. I just needed to remind them; they nodded their heads and went back out there and closed those gaps."

The Eagles kept Russia out of the try zone in the second half, and confidently swung the ball around the pitch, as well as enjoyed a few gain-line breaks. Jessica Javelet and Thomas used their pace to nullify any kicking advantage sought by Russia, and captain Jillion Potter helped cap the victory with a run into contact and offload to Megan Bonny for the final try.

The Eagles - and 10 other nations in the Peach State throughout the weekend - will have less than a week to recover before HSBC Canada Sevens April 16-17. Pools and any roster changes will be announced in the build-up week.

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Kelter led the U.S. in scoring on the weekend with 29 points and five tries, while the try-scoring exploits were spread throughout the team - Bonny, Javelet, Stephens, and Kate Zackary each scored three five-pointers apiece. Kelter also represented the U.S. on the HSBC Atlanta 7s Dream Team.

"We do have some changes coming up from the OTC," Walker said, pointing to injuries sustained during the tournament. "It's time for some of the other girls to step up. Me being a new coach, that's what I need to see.

"Some girls played really well here and put their hands up for things we're going to do in the future. Ideally that's what I need for them to do to make my job hard. I think each and every girl here really did that."

Women's Eagles Sevens | v. Russia
1. Jillion Potter(C)
2. Megan Bonny
3. Kate Zackary
4. Amelia Bizer
5. Ryan Carlyle
6. Nicole Heavirland
7. Alev Kelter
8. Bui Baravilala
9. Lauren Doyle
10. Richelle Stephens
11. Kristen Thomas
12. Jessica Javelet

Russia | v. USA
1. Nadezda Kudinova
2. Marina Petrova
3. Baizat Khamidova
4. Mariia Perestiak
5. Kristina Seredina
6. Anna Minislamova
7. Marina Kukina
8. Maria Shemchuk
9. Daria Fefelova
10. Daria Lushina
11. Elena Zdrokova
12. Arina Bystrova

Women's Eagles Sevens | 19
Tries: Kelter, Stephens, Bonny
Conversions: Baravilala

Russia | 7
Tries: Khamidova
Conversions: Lushina

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Atlanta Sevens
v. Spain - W 24-0
v. Japan - W 33-12
v. New Zealand - W 12-5
Cup QF v. Australia - L 22-5
Plate SF v. Fiji - W 38-0
Plate Final v. Russia - W 19-7