Women's Sevens
12 5
New Zealand
5 5
Women's Sevens  @ Fifth Third Bank Stadium
Atlanta Sevens
The Rugby Channel


KENNESAW, Ga. - The Women's Eagles Sevens refused to fall in front of their home fans at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University Friday, beating New Zealand, 12-5, in their final HBSC Atlanta 7s pool match.

Jessica Javelet scored the match-winning try in a team performance that saw head coach Richie Walker empty the reserve bench. Bui Baravilala was instrumental on both sides of the ball, and was replaced by the young Richelle Stephens, who ended the match with a kick to touch under pressure.

New Zealand had only lost seven matches in its last 30 prior to the pool encounter with the U.S., which will face Australia in the Cup Quarterfinals Saturday in Georgia. The match will kick off at 1:14 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on The Rugby Channel.

New Zealand had kept the Eagles scoreless in their matchup in pool play a year ago ahead of a successive, 50-12, victory in the Cup Final, and used its aerial ability and restart play to its advantage. Alev Kelter took away that advantage on multiple occasions Friday, including on the opening restart. Kelter would eventually lose the ball forward after a phase at midfield, but the play was kept alive as New Zealand chipped the ball towards the corner.

Kristen Thomas chased the ball down and gave it up to Baravilala, who found a slight gap in moving across the pitch to feed Kelter for a 75-meter breakaway try and 5-0 lead.

The ensuing restart found Kiwi hands but was dropped for a U.S. scrum, but another knock by Ryan Carlyle allowed New Zealand to capitalize on the set piece. Using the space along the wing, the attack reached the Eagles' 22 and cut back across the field with multiple support players available, and Selica Winiata crossed the try line to level the match at 5-5.

In what looked like a Cup Final, each scoring opportunity was matched with an equally-impressive defensive play. Kelter won another restart for the Eagles before possession was eventually lost to a knock at midfield, from which New Zealand attempted another kick down the pitch. While the attacking team recovered the ball inside the 22, the Eagles got back in support to force a loose pass and end the half with the scores level.

"Both teams had the opportunities in the first half and had a few knock ons," Walker said. "We always tend to play each other strong, as well. Our thing was to clean up our mistakes in the second half, stick to our game plan - because we got a little bit away from it - and to use all 12 players."

Both teams knew what was at stake Friday, with a favorable Cup Quarterfinal matchup up for grabs for the winner. Indeed the teams played like it, and New Zealand was awarded a put-in on the second-half restart. The Eagles were not pleased, and Kelter and Thomas each bowled over their opposite numbers in successive tackles to force turnovers.

A penalty against the Eagles in the eighth minute was followed by a break by the pacey Katarina Whata-Simpkins, who had two teammates alongside her as she approached the U.S. sweeper, Baravilala, at her 22. The Hawaiian baited Whata-Simpkins to one side and rushed into the tackle, keeping the Kiwi from getting the offload to her support player cleanly for a U.S. scrum.

Baravilala received the ball from the set piece and offloaded one-handed between defenders to Lauren Doyle, who ran down the wing and slipped out of one tackle. A second brought her down before a successful counterruck turned possession over to New Zealand near its 22.

The teams conceded several penalties in the 12th minute before the Eagles decided to slow play down with a kick to touch in the attacking half. Substitutions poured onto the pitch for Walker, including Javelet and debutants Meya Bizer and Nicole Heavirland.

"We used everybody in the game and they knew when they were going in, when they were coming out," Walker said. "They knew how much to give and got rid of everything.

"I put a lineup in that I thought would just attack them, and then we would put on our players that would finish. We put on JJ there at the end and she was quite fresh, and that's what you need at the end."

Javelet received the ball in the middle of the pitch when the Eagles won the restart, and ran towards the wing before cutting back to the middle. She ran laterally with two hands on the ball as New Zealand pushed forward to cut off any attempted passes, and the opposition left just enough space for the former international field hockey star to split the gap and run 20 meters to the posts for the final try.

Megan Bonny stuffed her opposite number on the restart and Bizer forced a knock with time about to expire, and Stephens received the ball from the scrum and kicked it out to end the match at 12-5.

"New Zealand were missing a few with key injuries, so that didn't really help them," Walker conceded, "but they'll bounce back tomorrow.

"For our girls it was just about going and doing what we talked about. They're really excited and that's what they need. I've told them to relax a little bit more this week, and our focus was to get to know each other outside of rugby and outside of the Olympic Training Center.

"When they feel comfortable with each other they can put those things together. It's good to see and I'm just glad to see them having fun."

The Eagles have drawn Australia in the Cup Quarterfinals. The Aussies lost their first match since last season in their first match of Atlanta 7s, but still hold two Cups to their name on the current season, as well as the lead atop the Series standings.

Saturday's match will kick off at 1:14 p.m. ET, with the live broadcast available to viewers in the U.S. on The Rugby Channel.

Women's Eagles Sevens | v. New Zealand

1. Jillion Potter (C)

2. Megan Bonny

3. Kate Zackary

4. Amelia Bizer

5. Ryan Carlyle

6. Nicole Heavirland

7. Alev Kelter

8. Bui Baravilala

9. Lauren Doyle

10. Richelle Stephens

11. Kristen Thomas

12. Jessica Javelet

New Zealand | v. USA

1. Ruby Tui

2. Michaela Blyde

3. Stacey Waaka

4. Niall Williams

5. Sarah Goss

6. Terina Te Tamaki

7. Theresa Fitzpatrick

8. Kelly Brazier

9. Katarina Whata-Simpkins

10. Selica Winiata

11. Portia Woodman

12. Shiray Tane

Women's Eagles Sevens | 12

Tries: Kelter, Javelet

Conversions: Heavirland

New Zealand | 5

Tries: Winiata

Conversions: N/A

Women's Eagles Sevens | HSBC Atlanta Sevens

v. Spain - W 24-0

v. Japan - W 33-12

v. New Zealand - W 12-5

Cup QF v. Australia - Saturday, April 9 @ 1:14 p.m. ET