(Standing, l-r) Byrge, Robles, Foster, McDonald, Gallagher, Berta. (Kneeling) McCravey, Stathopoulos, Kirshe, Kenyon, McGrath, Persinger. (USA Rugby photo: see more)
The USA Falcons made their first trip to the Hokkaido 7s in Japan, with capped Eagles through first-year rugby players populating the roster. The Americans went 2-4, finished seventh overall, and introduced a new swath of players to the international scene.
USA Falcons head coach Dave Clancy and team had approximately a day to build some pre-tournament chemistry, and so each game was a major step toward cohesion.
“We played against teams that have been together for years, and I think we matched up well. Each of our games was a close battle,” USA 7s and 15s Eagle Megan Foster assessed. “I’d have to say that our game against New Zealand was one of our best. Although we improved each game, on day 1, I felt this was the first game where we really meshed well and started playing for each other.”
Foster vs. the Maple Leafs / USA Rugby photo (see more)
The Falcons dropped their opener 22-12 to Hokkaido Diana, beat the Cook Islands 14-12 and then fell 17-7 to New Zealand on day one.
“The competition was strong,” Foster asserted. “Australia and Ireland brought most of their regular sides. The local Hokkaido Diana team impressed us with their strong runners and overall aggressive play. Even our games against the Cook Islands team were battles until the last whistle. I was happy that all the teams brought a high caliber of play that kept each match fun and interesting.”
On day two, the Falcons dropped a 29-12 decision to the Maple Leafs and 17-12 game to Japan. The tournament ended with a 22-7 win over Cook Islands for 7th place. Australia beat New Zealand to win the title; Ireland beat the Maple Leafs for 3rd; and Hokkaido Diana topped Japan for 5th place.
“Kristi Kirshe really stood out to me this trip, and I feel she learned a lot this weekend,” Foster noted standouts. “She is quite new to the sport of rugby, but you wouldn’t know it watching her play. Her confidence in carrying the ball, tracking players down the sideline, and tackling are advanced for having played less than a year. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
“Captain Kasey McCravey was a consistent comfort out on the pitch with her work rate, vision, and execution,” Foster continued. “Nene Persinger was critical to our restart retention, and Ally Gallagher was a powerful aggression that made a huge impact in contact throughout the tournament.”
Emily Hsieh, who was recently named to the World Rugby Sevens Series referee panel, was also in Hokkaido.
Foster has played in Japan and sampled the hospitality before, but there were plenty of off-pitch surprises.
“The landscape was incredible,” Foster enthused. “It does not get much better than being on soft, short, well-maintained grass, having tall uprights, and being surrounded by beautiful, green mountaintops. The view from the pitch was simply gorgeous.”
Teams were also treated to authentic cuisine during the closing BBQ and awards ceremony. Foster noted the abundance of meat and the variety of preparations, including a Maori Hangi, for an indulgent experience.
“This was my second time in Japan and each time the locals have been incredibly welcoming, and kind,” Foster concluded. “It was a great feeling to be so far from home, yet surrounded by such hospitable people. They take pride in their culture and their actions, and I was so happy to be a part of it, even if just for a few days.”
Next up: The newest stop on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, Glendale 7s. Learn more.
USA FALCONS @ HOKKAIDO
Kasey McCravey – cpt