Eagles slice through France in Kitakyushu

KITAKYUSHU, Japan - Kelly Griffin and Naya Tapper each dotted down twice in a blitz of a first half Sunday as the Women's Eagles Sevens defeated France, 31-14, in the HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens Seventh-Place Final.

Head Coach Richie Walker's squad earned eight HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series standings points with the victory, with the U.S. falling to sixth from a fifth-place tie with Russia. The 2016-17 season will resume in North America May 27-28 at HSBC Canada Sevens.

Hard-fought losses in both of the day's earlier matches lit a spark in the Eagles, who pounced on France from the get-go in the sixth match of the weekend for both teams. Kristen Thomas made an early run down the wing with a fend after captain Alev Kelter won the restart, and Griffin followed her teammate for the first try, 7-0.

Tapper's strength works with ball in hand and on defense, and a well-timed tackle as the ball came down from the restart led to her stealing possession. The Eagles quickly headed towards the posts, with Kelter stepping around one defender and drawing an extra French player into contact to open a lane for Griffin's second try in as many minutes, 12-0.

Nicole Snyder, in her second Series tournament, followed Tapper's example by turning over the ball in the breakdown after Kelter's restart failed to travel 10 meters. The ball was sent wide to Tapper, who backed herself to beat the defense along the wing for a 17-0 U.S. advantage.

A knock against the Eagles allowed France a set play from the scrum, with Jade Le Pesq running onto Camille Grassineau's offload for a 17-7 score line. There was still enough time in the half for another possession, however, and Tapper took the ball from in front of her own posts around the defense for her eighth try of the tournament and a 24-7 halftime score.

Young Lilly Durbin scored her second try of the day with a darting run from the restart, which fell from a lifted player's hands into the Eagle's. She converted from in front to make it 31-7, before France scored a consolation try in the 11th minute to bring the final score to 31-14.

Jordan Gray and Megan Sanders each saw plenty of playing time throughout the fourth leg of the Series in their international debuts as Walker switched starting sevens and rested players to test combinations. The squad will return to the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center to prepare for the continuation of the season in British Columbia.

Women's Eagles Sevens | v. France
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

France | v. USA
1. Rose Thomas
2. Lenaig Corson
3. Chloe Pelle
4. Pauline Biscarat
5. Caroline Drouin
6. Jade Le Pesq
7. Clemence Gueucier
8. Camille Grassineau
9. Grace Okemba
10. Elodie Guiglion
11. Larelinne Fourcade
12. Lina Guerin

Women's Eagles Sevens | 31
Tries: Griffin (2), Tapper (2), Durbin
Conversions: Kelter, Durbin (2)

France | 14
Tries: Le Pesq, Corson
Conversions: Biscarat (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 - L 26-19
Fifth-Place Semifinal v. England - L 26-24
Seventh-Place Final v. France - W 31-14