Eagles fly into Semifinals at home tournament

LAS VEGAS - The USA Women's Eagles Sevens did not allow Ireland to win a second matchup in as many days at HSBC USA Sevens, winning Saturday's Cup Quarterfinal, 20-12.

Naya Tapper scored two tries and Kristen Thomas found the score sheet for Richie Walker's squad, which will play New Zealand in the Cup Semifinal at 3:56 p.m. ET. The match - the second consecutive Cup Semifinal appearance for the U.S. following a runner-up campaign at HSBC Sydney7s last month - will be broadcast live to viewers in the United States on The Rugby Channel.

Despite the tournament-opening loss to Ireland Friday, the Eagles rounded out Pool B play with two victories to earn the No. 1 seed heading into Saturday's knockout rounds. Ireland, which earned an extra competition point in a draw with Spain, was seeded as the best third-place team out of pool play for the Quarterfinal rematch.

The Eagles were kept without the ball in the opening minutes until an Ireland error gave them a put-in inside the attacking half. With both Tapper and Thomas on the field from the get-go, the U.S. used its strike wingers in tandem to open the scoring. Thomas received the ball within the hash marks and drew an extra defender with a fend on the first attempted tackle, and was able to find Tapper with the offload for the try, 5-0.

Unable to win a second restart in the fourth minute, the Eagles swarmed Ireland on defense to force a penalty with clinical work in the breakdown. A set play saw Tapper run a line near the attacking 10 for a penalty advantage before the match official spotted another infraction just ahead of the try line for Ryan Carlyle to score.

Ireland did not allow the Eagles to take the 10-0 lead into halftime, using the home team's ill-disciplined play in the dying seconds to score in the corner, 10-5, on the final play of the half.

In pool play, both teams held onto sizable leads - the Eagles most of all with a 21-12 advantage in the second half until they gave up two tries before the full-time whistle. Having learned its lesson, the U.S. extended its lead in the opening minutes of the Quarterfinal's second half after winning another turnover in the breakdown. Kate Zackary pulled down two defenders with a run across midfield, and a penalty call in the process gave Thomas the platform to beat her opposite number one on one for a 15-5 score line.

Zackary nearly set up another scoring opportunity with the next possession only for Ireland to regain possession from a knock. Ireland mishandled the ball in the 12th minute for a U.S. scrum, and the Eagles found a vocal Tapper on the wing for her second try and a 20-5 advantage after 12 minutes.

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Ireland did give the Eagles a bit of a scare with a try in the final minute of play for a 20-12 score, but the home side had done enough to earn the victory and a Cup Semifinal spot. Saturday's Semifinals are identical to Sydney's from a month ago, when Canada defeated Australia and the Eagles beat New Zealand for an all-North America Cup Final.

With the home crowd and momentum from a redemptive victory, Walker's squad will use a brief recovery period to prepare for the Semifinal against New Zealand. The match will kick off at 3:56 p.m. ET, with the live broadcast available on The Rugby Channel.

Women's Eagles Sevens | v. Ireland
1. Samantha Pankey
2. Kelly Griffin
3. Kate Zackary
4. Nicole Heavirland
5. Ryan Carlyle
6. Alev Kelter (C)
7. Naya Tapper
8. Kelsi Stockert
9. Joanne Fa'avesi
10. Bulou Mataitoga
11. Kristen Thomas
12. Nicole Snyder

Ireland | v. USA
1. Katie Fitzhenry
2. Hannah Tyrrell
3. Stacey Flood
4. Megan Williams
5. Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe
6. Ashleigh Baxter
7. Sene Naoupu
8. Claire Keohane
9. Lucy Mulhall
10. Audrey O'Flynn
11. Alison Miller
12. Susan Vaughan

Women's Eagles Sevens | 20
Tries: Tapper (2), Carlyle, Thomas
Conversions: N/A

Ireland | 12
Tries: Flood, Williams
Conversions: Mulhall

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC USA Sevens
v. Ireland - L 24-21
v. Spain - W 24-7
v. Fiji - W 14-7
Cup QF v. Ireland - W 20-12
Cup SF v. New Zealand - Saturday, March 4 @ 3:56 p.m. ET