Canada takes top spot in Kitakyushu pool

KITAKYUSHU, Japan - The Women's Eagles Sevens finished pool play at HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens in second place Saturday following their first defeat of the tournament, 29-12, to Canada.

The third-ranked nation on the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series kept the U.S. scoreless in the second half after Kristen Thomas had brought Richie Walker's side within two points at the break. The Eagles' next opponent, Fiji, awaits in the Cup Quarterfinal matchup, set to kick off from Mikuni World Stadium at 10:14 p.m. ET Saturday, April 22. The remaining matches of the fourth round of the season can be watched live on The Rugby Channel.

Canada's plan of attack to start the game was to keep the ball out of U.S. hands, especially leading try-scorer Naya Tapper's. Ghislaine Landry's opening restart was intentionally kicked long, and, after an initial return by Tapper, turned over to Canada in the breakdown. The team in red made an uncharacteristic handling mistake, however, and was forced to chase down Tapper short of the try line. The tackle led to a penalty, and a zipped pass from Megan Sanders put captain Alev Kelter over the line, 7-0.

Bianca Farella and Jen Kish opened a hole in the U.S. defense from the fifth-minute restart with passes over Eagles' heads, and Landry stayed away from Kelter at the sweeper position to place the ball under the posts. She converted for a 7-7 score line before an unforced error on the restart led to a Canadian lineout behind the U.S. 22. Farella stepped Sanders and beat Kelter to the try line to make it 14-7.

With just seconds remaining on the clock as Canada restarted play, Thomas caught the kick and nullified two tackles for a long run and 14-12 deficit at halftime.

The Eagles upended a Canada attack to begin the second half with clinical work at the breakdown, but could not escape their own half in the ensuing minutes to allow Landry over for her second. The Canadian lead was extended to 24-12 from the 11th-minute restart with simple passing to Julia Greenshields. Charity Williams ended any hope of an American comeback in the 13th minute from a lineout deep in attacking territory for the 29-12 final score.

Canada's defeat of the U.S. is its 14th in 16 meetings on the Series, which includes HSBC Sydney7s Cup Final and HSBC USA Sevens Bronze Final victories this season. The Eagles could yet meet their border rival again this weekend should they match results through the knockouts. The U.S.'s Cup Quarterfinal against Fiji is slated to kick off at 10:14 p.m. ET Saturday, with the live broadcast available on The Rugby Channel.

Women's Eagles Sevens | v. Canada
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

Canada | v. USA
1. Brittany Benn
2. Julia Greenshields
3. Sara Kaljuvee
4. Breanne Nicholas
5. Ashley Steacy
6. Charity Williams
7. Jennifer Kish
8. Bianca Farella
9. Ghislaine Landry
10. Hannah Darling
11. Natasha Watcham-Roy
12. Megan Lukan

Women's Eagles Sevens | 12
Tries: Kelter, Thomas
Conversions: Kelter

Canada | 29
Tries: Landry (2), Farella, Greenshields, Williams
Conversions: Landry (2)

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens
v. Spain - W 19-10
v. England - W 27-5
v. Canada - L 29-12
Cup QF v. Fiji - Saturday, April 22 @ 10:14 p.m. ET