Women's Sevens
45 26
17 7
Women's Sevens  @ Mikuni World Stadium
Kitakyushu Sevens
  Adam Jones

USA Ignites a Scoring Frenzy in Win Over Japan

KITAKYUSHU, JPN. - A Naya Tapper hat trick, two tries from Alev Kelter and a total of 45 points have lifted the Women's Eagles Sevens back to their competitive position with a 45-17 win. And, had it not been for one final Japanese try, the victory would have earned the U.S. a place in the Cup Quarterfinals. Instead, the United States will look ahead to the Challenge Semifinals at 10:58 PM ET (Sat, Apr 21) where they face Japan once more in an attempt to collect the trophy, LIVE on The Rugby Channel

A different United States squad took the pitch in Japan this afternoon. Despite two tough losses to France (36-0) and New Zealand (31-12) to start the day, the U.S. made considerable improvements to walk away with a high-scoring win in pool play. 

"We didn't start Day One against France the way we had prepared for," said Head Coach Richie Walker. "It gave us a wake up call and we got better against New Zealand then played like we know we can against Japan at the end. However, it's unfortunate we missed out on the Cup Quarters due to point differentiality." 

Missed tackles by the Japanese and brilliant offloads by USA's Jordan Gray were a consistent theme in the ultimate victory. Though the Eagles' opponent became more difficult to manage in the second half of play, four first half tries cushioned the United States with a comfortable lead. 

Naya Tapper's opening try and Alev Kelter's follow-up put the U.S. 12 points ahead of the Japanese at the start. The home team would answer back through Emii Tanaka once, just before Tapper sealed her hat trick, pushing both teams into the half with a 19-7 score that only heightened the intensity of the game. 

As the home team, it became evident that Japan was unwilling to go quietly with the support of a vocal crowd in the stands. And, as the second-half began, fans at Mikuni World Stadium quickly realized they were in for quite a show. 

Upon the start of the next seven minutes, Jordan Gray made a swift pass to Alev Kelter for her second and the Eagles' fifth try of the match. A fresh and harsh counter attack by Japan gave up a penalty to Kelter, allowing Gray to make another excellent handover to Kate Zackary for another, 40-7. With only minutes remaining, USA's Kristen Thomas scored the last one for her team, further sealing a place in the Cup Quarters with the more than 32 point lead, 45-7. 

But, as the clock wound down, the United States would see a brute and resilient Japanese force take advantage of the final USA attack. With two tries scored by Mifuyu Koide and Raichielmiyo Bativakalolo in the final seconds, Japan would cut their deficit to 45-17, forcing the Women's Sevens out of the race for the cup with a less than 32 point lead.

"There are a strong four teams in the Challenge Trophy bracket," says Head Coach Richie Walker. "We have Japan first up and we will not take them lightly based on this game. We have to prepare well, make sure the bodies feel recovered and start strong. With the other game in this bracket between Canada and Ireland, we're ready for the challenge." 

Now facing Japan once more in the Challenge Trophy Semifinals, fans in Kitakyushu can be prepared for another thrilling match between the U.S. and the home team. The next fixture kicks off at 10:58 PM ET (Sat, Apr. 21) LIVE on The Rugby Channel. 

WOMEN'S SEVENS STAFF | 2018 HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens

Head Coach - Richie Walker
Athletic Trainer - Sarah Leslie
Head of Physical Preparation - Jon Hood
Analyst - Dave Gardner
Team Manager - Liz Strohecker

WOMEN'S SEVENS SCHEDULE | 2018 HSBC Kitakyushu Sevens

LIVE on The Rugby Channel
vs. France | 36-0 (L)
vs. New Zealand | 31-12 (L)
vs. Japan | 45-17 (W)

Challenge Semifinals
vs. Japan | Sat, Apr. 21 - 10:58 PM ET