Eagles through to Kitakyushu Quarterfinals

KITAKYUSHU, Japan - The Women's Eagles Sevens secured a place in their third Cup Quarterfinal of the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series season Saturday with a 27-5 defeat of England at HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens.

The Eagles were unfazed by an early England lead and scored three tries in the first half for the second consecutive match in setting up the team's leading try-scorer, Naya Tapper, for a hat trick. Richie Walker's squad will finalize their place in Pool C at 3:20 a.m. ET against border rival Canada. The Women's Sevens Series can be watched at no cost to viewers on The Rugby Channel.

After an untouched restart gave England a lineout for the first possession, a sustained U.S. defensive effort finally broke out wide behind the England 22. Joanne Watmore beat a Nicole Heavirland tackle for a lengthy run to the try line, though the dot-down in the corner led to a missed conversion, 5-0.

The Eagles were given their own lineout from England's restart in the second minute, and captain Alev Kelter drew attention in the middle of the field before the ball went to Tapper on the outside. The wing kept out of an initial tackle and fended a trailing defender to level the scores. She put the U.S. in the lead from the next possession after debutant Megan Sanders won the ball in the air, stepping out of an Abbie Brown tackle 10 meters from the line.

Holding a 10-5 advantage with less than a minute remaining in the first frame, the Eagles punished an England penalty 10 meters from its try line. Joanne Fa'avesi provided the switch ball to Tapper running the line with pace for the 17-5 halftime score.

A 10th-minute lineout was momentarily lost by the U.S., but Kristen Thomas picked up the loose ball and burst through a crowd to extend the advantage to 22-5. Kelter singlehandedly kept England from scoring minutes later when Amy Wilson-Hardy, who had just dropped a pass along the wing, broke down the field with a teammate. Kelter read the move and stood up the ball-carrier to force it loose, and Tapper supported her captain to retain possession.

The reserves made their own impact in the final minutes of the game. A wayward pass in the middle of the field was picked up by Bulou Mataitoga, and Jordan Gray kept play moving to Nicole Snyder for a broken tackle ahead of the try line. The ball came out of the ruck to Lilly Durbin for the final dot-down, 27-5.

The Eagles are 2-0 in pool play for the first time this season, and will finish in the top two in Pool C no matter the outcome against Canada. The final match of pool play will kick off from Mikuni World Stadium Saturday, April 22, at 3:20 a.m. ET. The match, and entire tournament, is being streamed to American viewers via The Rugby Channel.

Women's Eagles Sevens | v. England
1. Joanne Fa'avesi
2. Kristen Thomas
3. Kelly Griffin
4. Nicole Heavirland
5. Lilly Durbin
6. Alev Kelter (C)
7. Naya Tapper
8. Jordan Gray
9. Kelsi Stockert
10. Megan Sanders
11. Bulou Mataitoga
12. Nicole Snyder

England | v. USA
1. Emily Scott
2. Abbie Brown
3. Alice Richardson
4. Millie Wood
5. Katy Mclean
6. Deborah Fleming
7. Heather Fisher
8. Meg Jones
9. Sarah McKenna
10. Joanne Watmore
11. Holly Aitchison
12. Amy Wilson Hardy

Women's Eagles Sevens | 27
Tries: Tapper (3), Thomas, Durbin
Conversions: Kelter

England | 5
Tries: Watmore
Conversions: N/A

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens
v. Spain - W 19-10
v. England - W 27-5
v. Canada - Saturday, April 22 @ 3:20 a.m. ET