Eagles reach Clermont-Ferrand Cup round with Kenyan shutout

CLERMONT-FERRAND, France - The Women's Eagles Sevens shut out Kenya, 31-0, Saturday in their final Pool A match to secure a berth in Sunday's HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens Cup Quarterfinals.

Two losses to open pool play kept the U.S.'s hopes of reaching the top-tier bracket of the final round of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series in doubt, but Richie Walker's squad of 12 made no mistake against a Kenyan team making its Series debut. As the second-best third-place team out of pool play, the Eagles will face England in the Cup Quarterfinals Sunday at 6:20 a.m. ET, with the live broadcast available to viewers in the United States on The Rugby Channel.

Walker mixed up the starting seven from the teams that lost to England and Spain earlier in the day at Stade Gabriel-Montpied. Youngsters Lilly Durbin and Richelle Stephens received the nod alongside Victoria Folayan and Alev Kelter, while a veteran forward pack of Carmen Farmer, Kelly Griffin, and Jillion Potter were set up to keep a shifty Kenyan side from the try zone.

The head coach mentioned it at halftime, but the Eagles struggled with first-up tackles in the first half. Like the first two matches, the U.S.'s opponent spent plenty of time on the attack early in the game, though Kenya was less experienced than others and unable to punish those mistakes on the scoreboard.

In the fifth minute, the Eagles finally set up an attack behind their own 22. The ball moved through hands until a final pass out to Griffin went over her head. She calmly retreated to recover the ball, and used a step to beat her opposite number to the "new" gain line. Griffin had nothing but space in front of her, and reached the Kenyan 22 before she was closed down by a defender. She circled back and forced the defender to engage before offloading to Durbin in support for the game's opening try.

Folayan came within 10 meters of the try line after the Eagles won the restart, and Kelter finished off the attack a phase later with a move in front of the posts for a 14-0 lead. The referee kept a third try from happening as the U.S. won another restart by calling Kelter's pass to Farmer forward.

Knowing a wider margin of victory would put the team in better stead in terms of qualifying for the Cup round, the Eagles piled on the pressure and scored three tries in the second half. Folayan got things started in the eighth minute following a deep restart from Kenya, sidestepping defenders to reach the outside lane.

Fellow speedster Jessica Javelet increased the lead to 24-0 after the Eagles stole a Kenyan lineout in the attacking half. She nearly scored a second a minute later with a chip and chase, but a tackler kept her from applying pressure to the ball in-goal. Kristen Thomas blocked a clearance attempt from the ensuing scrum, however, and Kathryn Johnson jumped on the ball in the try zone to bring the final score to 31-0.

The Eagles have already been bested by England in France, but now they will know what to fix in order to reach the Cup Semifinals. The Quarterfinal matchup is scheduled to kick off from State Gabriel-Montpied Sunday at 6:20 a.m. ET. The final round of the Series is available to viewers in the United States at no cost on The Rugby Channel.

Women's Eagles Sevens | v. Kenya
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

Kenya | v. USA
1. Stacy Otieno
2. Janet Owino
3. Sheila Chajira
4. Rachael Mbogo
5. Camilla Atieno
6. Grace Okulu
7. Doreen Nziwa
8. Janet Okelo
9. Irene Otieno
10. Catherine Abilla
11. Celestine Masinde
12. Sinaida Omondi

Women's Eagles Sevens | 31
Tries: Durbin, Kelter, Folayan, Javelet, Johnson
Conversions: Kelter (2), Stephens

Kenya | 0
Tries: N/A
Conversions: N/A

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens
v. England - L 26-7
v. Spain - L 12-10
v. Kenya - W 31-0
Cup QF v. England - Sunday, May 29 @ 6:20 a.m. ET