KITAKYUSHU, JPN – The third leg of the 2017/2018 Women’s Sevens World Series featured a return to glory and a more than its fair share of upsets. After playing great in the first leg and poorly in the second the @USAWomens7s, decided to play mediocre and were rewarded with a Challenge Trophy… For the rest of the world, New Zealand wanted to remind everyone that they may not having the media fawning over them like Canada or Australia but dismiss them at your own peril.
The Eagles had a tournament performance that can best be described as mixed, in Kitakyushu. Their first day was pretty poor by their own standards, however, they did manage to salvage the trip by having a very good second day. Their performance in pool play was disappointing against the better teams in the tournament, however, to be fair to them, the finalists for this leg came from their pool. In their opening pool match loss to France, the USA had no answer for the French defense. The French defense was relentless and swarming, which helped force turnovers and spark a counterattack as well as helping the French dominate possession. The final score in the ugly affair was a French victory of 36-0. The next match was against the eventual winners, the Black Ferns of New Zealand, a side that is better than the USA, but the USA has had success against them in the past, as recent as in round 1. However, in a frustrating performance the USA opened up the scoring to give their fans hope, before they allowed in 19 unanswered points to end the first half. In the second half, the Eagles showed some more fight but were still outfought as the Black Ferns won 31-12. The final match of the day for the Eagles was against Japan, a side they are demonstrably better than, which gave them a slim chance at still qualifying for the Cup playoffs. The USA pushed for the playoff spot by having a dominant performance as they ran rampant hoping to have a decent point differential to qualify. Despite the 45-17 performance, the USA failed to qualify for the cup playoffs and were relegated to the Challenge Trophy playoffs.
The Challenge Trophy playoffs began with a lot of optimism as the Eagles took on Japan. Yes, again! Because on the Women’s Sevens circuit there are only 12 teams, divided into 3 pools of 4. The top two in each pool and the two best third place teams go into the cup playoffs while the last place teams and last third place team play for the Challenge Trophy. The USA were the number 1 ranked seed in the Challenge Trophy playoffs and Japan was fourth so they had to play again. Despite playing each other less than 24 hours earlier, Japan seemed unable to tame the USA attack for the whole game. They match was tight after the first half at 10-7 but the Eagles then romped to in the second half to win 34-14. The final game of the weekend for the Eagles saw them with a chance to win some hardware against Ireland . Though the Irish woman’s team has only been on the tour a couple of seasons, they gone from strength to strength and beat the USA in Sydney. In a match that went back and worth and seemed to a bit of a shootout, the USA won 24-19.
Dominant Black Ferns:
With their wins in the first two stops and the Commonwealth games, Australia has been the talk of Women’s 7s. The Black Ferns have long been the top side in Women’s 7s until a few years ago. The Black Ferns decided this was a good time to remind everyone just how good they are. The Ferns defeated everyone they faced including the Aussies in the Cup Semi-finals. The Aussies were the only opponents to come withing 12 points of the Ferns, such was their domination. With two legs left to go, it is very possible that the Ferns could still wrestle the title away from the Aussies.
France shocked more than a few people by their run to the final. In the process they made statement to the other second tier 7s squads in Russia and Spain as they beat both to possibly announce their intentions to become a force on the circuit. Australia had an impressive run themselves butthey ran into New Zealand so they had to console themselves with a third place finish and defeating Spain in the 3rd place/Bronze match.
Final standings were:
Cup: New Zealand
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