England takes early Clermont-Ferrand advantage with opening win

CLERMONT-FERRAND, France - The Women's Eagles Sevens dropped their first match of HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens, the final stop of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series, 26-7, to third-ranked England Saturday. The tournament is being broadcast for free to viewers in the United States on The Rugby Channel.

England scored two tries before the U.S. truly had an opportunity to attack, and the score line indicates that would have been enough over 14 minutes. Richie Walker's team made it tough for its opposition, however, and never really looked out of the game until England's fourth and final try. The U.S. continues pool play at Stade Gabriel-Montpied against Spain at 8:50 a.m. ET.

Alev Kelter's restart began the Eagles' first Series match in more than a month, and England retained possession for 30 seconds before Carmen Farmer took Natasha Brennan into touch. The Eagles botched the lineout in the attacking half, though, allowing Emily Scarratt to make the steal. After a few phases and a jaunt across midfield, Claire Allan set Brennan away along the touch line for the opening try and 7-0 score line.

Farmer cleanly caught the ensuing restart only for England to gain possession from a penalty in the breakdown. The Eagles failed to support the ruck, and Heather Fisher was able to score off of the tap with a nifty line and a finger-tip fend on Kelter in the middle of the park to extend the lead to 14-0 after four minutes.

The Eagles finally put their first pass together from the third restart and Kristen Thomas looked dangerous with ball in hand with a couple of broken tackles. They were also able to get quick ball from the tackle area, allowing the pacey runners to take on their opposite numbers and cross midfield. Kelter picked up the ball from a ruck at her 10 and fended a tackler for a 60-meter try to get the Eagles on the scoreboard at 14-7.

England rounded out the half by restoring its 14-point advantage despite the Eagles attacking for about a minute with time expired on the clock. Natasha Hunt took a quick tap with Jillion Potter isolated and not back 10 meters and Victoria Folayan on the ground for a 21-7 score line at the break.

Substitutes poured in throughout the second half as the Eagles looked to cut into the two-try deficit in the final seven minutes, but England played a solid defensive game to limit the U.S. opportunities on the attack. Two penalties that went the Eagles' way early were undone by a run and kick from Jessica Javelet in the 11th minute.

Fisher led England's simple game plan in the second frame with steady passing and strong tackling, and used a run in the 12th minute to put the game out of reach. Richelle Stephens made the tackle on her opposite number a meter or two in front of the try line, but the Rose had enough time to reach over the line for the 26-7 final score.

The Eagles have dropped their two most recent matches against Spain - both at HSBC Canada Women's Sevens - and will need a victory in their second match at Clermont-Ferrand Sevens for a chance at Sunday's Cup Quarterfinals. Watch the final stop of the Sevens circuit on The Rugby Channel at no cost.

Women's Eagles Sevens | v. England
1. Jillion Potter
2. Kathryn Johnson
3. Carmen Farmer
4. Kelly Griffin
5. Kristen Thomas
6. Lilly Durbin
7. Richelle Stephens
8. Bui Baravilala
9. Ryan Carlyle
10. Alev Kelter
11. Jessica Javelet
12. Victoria Folayan

England | v. USA
1. Claire Allan
2. Abbie Brown
3. Alice Richardson
4. Emily Scarratt
5. Danielle Waterman
6. Katy McLean
7. Heather Fisher
8. Emily Scott
9. Natasha Hunt
10. Natasha Brennan
11. Kay Wilson
12. Amy Wilson-Hardy

Women's Eagles Sevens | 7
Tries: Kelter
Conversions: Stephens

England | 26
Tries: Brennan, Fisher (2), Hunt
Conversions: McLean (3)

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens
v. England - L 26-7
v. Spain - Saturday, May 28 @ 8:50 a.m. ET
v. Kenya - Saturday, May 28 @ 11:34 a.m. ET