Close encounter with Kiwis ends in defeat in France

CLERMONT-FERRAND, France - For the fifth consecutive game in the matchup dating back to the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, the USA Women's Eagles Sevens and New Zealand were separated by fewer than seven points in a 19-14 win for the Kiwis Saturday at HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens.

The result means the Eagles' place in second in Pool A is cemented leading into Sunday's Cup Quarterfinals, where they will play either Australia or France at 6:22 a.m. ET. The knockouts of the final round of the 2016-17 HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series can be viewed live for free on The Rugby Channel.

Alev Kelter and Naya Tapper were moved into the starting seven against New Zealand having previously made substitute appearances for Head Coach Richie Walker at Stade Gabriel Montpied. The former's restart was lost forward by a teammate, however, setting up New Zealand's Tyla Nathan-Wong for the first try inside a minute, 7-0. The latter had the reply, fending off a defender near the 22 from a Nicole Heavirland pass before the captain converted, 7-7.

Kelter, scorer of two tries against Japan in the previous match, was a menace on the defensive side of the ball, using brute force to shut down New Zealand. Her teammates could not pounce on the turnover she created in the fifth minute, though, and Gayle Broughton cut across the defense to restore her side's lead at 14-7. Katarina Whata-Simpkins smartly played a short kick behind the defense from a seventh-minute scrum to collect it and score for a 19-7 advantage at the break.

Tapper scored her second in the first minute of the second frame, set up beautifully by Ryan Carlyle's offload in contact at the attacking 10. Heairland nailed the conversion off of one of the uprights for a five-point deficit at 19-14. Whata-Simpkins was denied two tries in two minutes as a kick rolled too far beyond the try line and Kelter cut the Kiwi down on a lengthy break in the 12th minute to cause a turnover. The Eagles could not find a winner or match-tying try in the final minutes, and New Zealand kicked the ball out for the victory.

The Eagles finish second in their pool behind New Zealand for the second time in two tournaments, and will face HSBC Canada Sevens Quarterfinal foe Australia in the first knockout match in France. A month ago at Westhills Stadium, the Eagles were knocked from the Cup competition by the Olympic gold medalist. The match will be broadcast live on The Rugby Channel from 6:22 a.m. ET.

Women's Eagles Sevens | New Zealand
1. Cheta Emba
2. Joanne Fa'avesi
3. Sara Parsons
4. Nicole Heavirland (C)
5. Ryan Carlyle
6. Mata Hingano
7. Jessica Javelet
8. Ashley Perry
9. Natalie Kosko
10. Tess Feury
11. Alev Kelter
12. Naya Tapper

New Zealand | v. USA
1. Rugby Tui
2. Shakira Baker
3. Terina Te Tamaki
4. Niall Williams
5. Crystal Mayes
6. Michaela Blyde
7. Tyla Nathan-Wong
8. Jess Drummond
9. Katarina Whata-Simpkins
10. Gayle Broughton
11. Alena Saili
12. Tayla Reti

Women's Eagles Sevens | 14
Tries: Tapper (2)
Conversions: Heavirland, Kelter

New Zealand | 19
Tries: Nathan-Wong, Broughton, Whata-Simpkins
Conversions: Nathan-Wong (2)

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Clermont-Ferrand Sevens
v. Ireland - W 12-7
v. Japan - W 33-5
v. New Zealand - L 19-14
Cup QF v. Australia - Sunday, June 25 @ 6:22 a.m. ET