Women's Sevens
24 7
19 5
Women's Sevens  @ Mikuni World Stadium
Kitakyushu Sevens
  Saurako Kawaski

Women's Sevens Win Challenge Trophy in Kitakyushu

KITAKYUSHU, JPN. - It was toe and toe until the very end but the Women's Eagles Sevens used great field position to score in extra time and win the Kitakyushu Sevens Challenge Trophy. In a 24-19 victory over Ireland, the United States combined sharp tackling with an agile attack to put four tries over the line and finish the tournament with four points towards their overall standing. With less than one month before Canada Sevens in Langford (May 12-13), Head Coach Richie Walker and his team will walk away with strategic improvements and a mindset aimed at climbing the Series ladder. 

"Proud of the way our girls turned it around to win the Challenge Trophy," said Head Coach Richie Walker. "It was a tough tournament with some very good competition but we walk away knowing the areas we need to improve and with confidence that we will head into Langford with a strategy to compete against the best." 

After losing their first two matches of Pool B to France (36-0) and New Zealand (31-12), the United States came back to beat Japan twice (45-17, 34-14) and finish strong with their closing win over the Irish. 

Coming right out of the gate with improved tackling, the Women's Sevens halted many moves by Ireland to advance past the gain line. With no early scores in sight, the Eagles took matters into their own hands. Well-advanced into opposing territory, Alev Kelter just barely missed a reach over the line but handed the ball to Ryan Carlyle who gave Captain Nicole Heavirland the perfect offload to make the score, 7-0. 

A great U.S. defensive stand kept the Irish at bay for a while, until Louise Galvin snuck over to the left flank for a try of her own just before the half, 7-5. Then, as the second half kicked off, Ireland's Eve Higgins caught the Women's Sevens off guard again, breaking open to touch down and take the lead, 7-12.

The advantage wouldn't last long, however, as great midfield position on the ensuing kick allowed Cheta Emba to create space for a Naya Tapper try, 14-12. A powerful run by USA Captain Heavirland set up Alev Kelter for another one moments later, giving the United States a 7 point lead with one final play to spare (19-12). But, just as it had in their last three games, the final play proved deadly for the Eagles when Lucy Mulhall broke open to tie the match, 19-19. 

The back-and-forth nature of the final several minutes of play created a unique energy at Mikuni World Stadium. Knowing a strong showing would be critical in extra time, the United States was unwilling to leave anything to chance.

With the energy, an immediate attacking opportunity at perfect pitch position, a drive forward by newcomer Neariah Persinger helped Nicole Heavirland find the right space to score the winning try in less than a minute, 24-19. 

A long break between Series stops, a last-minute Japanese try to keep them out of the Cup Quarters and a final push to finish strong characterized the Women's Eagles Sevens' journey to secure the four points up for grabs in Kitakyushu. Head Coach Richie Walker and his squad will now return to Chula Vista to resume High Performance camps and look ahead to Canada Sevens in Langford from May 12-13, LIVE on The Rugby Channel. 

"We'll head back home to Chula Vista, focus on recovery and get right to work establishing our game plan for the next stop," says Head Coach Richie Walker, describing the what's next for the team. "With less time in between, we'll be fresh and ready for the challenge that lies ahead in Canada." 

Updated standings for the 2017-18 HSBC Women's World Series will be posted following the Cup final this morning. 

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 Trophy Semifinals
vs. Japan | 34-14 (W)

Challenge Trophy Final
vs. Ireland | 24-19 (W)