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Falcons Take Home LVI Title

  • 03 Mar 2019
  • 158 Views

Eti Haungatau / Photo: Alex Ho (hoiho.net)

The USA Falcons won the Las Vegas Invitational Women Elite 7s division, defeating 2018 champion Scion Rugby Academy 36-0 inside Sam Boyd Stadium. The representative side shut out four of six opponents, letting in two tries overall.

The Falcons dominated the competition, as it should have been, and they served as this tangible connector between the academies and the national teams. The Falcons anchored itself with a couple of Women’s Sevens Series regulars in Alev Kelter and Jordan Matyas and featured residents who developed in the academies: Scion’s Saskia Morgan, Atavus’ Jennine (Duncan) Detiveaux, Northeast’s Kristi Kirshe and Legacy’s Alena Olsen.

“The competition overall – the speed and the pace, especially playing in the stadium – was very high,” said Detiveaux. “Sometimes when you play lower-level teams everything is kinda slower and you have a second to think. When you’re playing higher-level competition, everything is so fast you have to know what is going on before it even happens.”

Even though the Falcons set the standard, the squad needed time to sync.

“Starting off, that was a little hard, because for some girls this is their first time playing with this team – like myself, Jaz [Gray], Eti [Haungatau]. This is her first time playing playing [with the Falcons],” said Detiveaux, who has represented the Falcons in the past and is also a capped 15s Eagle.


Jennine (Duncan) Detiveaux / Photo: Alex Ho (hoiho.net)

“It’s good,” Haungatau said of the professional rugby life. “They’re very welcoming. They kinda took me in and made me their little sister. So I feel very honored to put on this jersey. I’m trying not to cry right now – sorry!”

Haungatau graduated high school last year and deferred entry to Lindenwood University to pursue this opportunity. Fortunately, the Sacramento product has fellow Amazons alumna Joanne Fa’avesi in SoCal.

“I think I’m still just trying to find my way in the group, trying to learn how to play off everybody. But it’s definitely a great first experience. Probably my best rugby experience so far,” Haungatau said.


Jordan Matyas / Photo: Alex Ho (hoiho.net)

In pool play, the Falcons defeated Stars, Air Force 2 and Berkeley 130-7, and then outscored ARPTC by six tries in the Cup quarterfinals. The semifinal was a brutal game against CCIG Life West, which added Naya Tapper and included current/recent residents in Nikki Kenyon, Kelsi Stockert, Sarah Buonopane, Mata Hingano and many more.

“It’s funny that you brought up Mata,” Haungatau said of familiar faces on opposing teams. “I’ve been playing against Mata since I was 14 years old. Every time we see each other – I don’t think we’ve ever played on the same team. We’ve always been playing against each other. It’s just funny. We always end up smiling at each other right before we hit each other. ‘Alright, stop, we need to be serious right now.’”


Congrats all around / Photo: Alex Ho (hoiho.net)

There were these amazing encounters all over the pitch – and this is where the LVI is so valuable as a fan – and spectators were within three feet of these battles. Standing on the sideline as Tapper and Matyas speed toward each other and the ruck, that is a unique sound and power, and you feel it. Or the Kelter vs. Tapper showdown in the corner. You saw it happening and in those few seconds a rugby saga unfolded in your imagination. On this occasion, Kelter went for the fend, Tapper grabbed the arm, and was able to prevent the grounding. From the next scrum, Kelter scored.

“The competition is great and healthy, and it’s very intense,” said Detiveaux, who had to run against former Seattle Saracens teammate Kelsi Stockert. “They aren’t going to let up because we’ve played with them before. They’re going at us that much harder, so I think it was great to have that competition.”


Kelter to Rovetti / Photo: Alex Ho (hoiho.net)

With that said, there were plenty of hands extended to help players off the ground, pats on the back for jobs well done. The Falcons won 32-0.

“We connected really well on defense and that’s when I kinda knew everything was working together. That’s when I really felt like a team,” Detiveaux said. “And it made me confident coming into this stadium to play.”

Scion played a tough first game against ARPTC, 19-12, and then shut out the Misfits and Serpientes in pool play. The Sirens then played another two pressing games against Stars and Quebec in the knockouts, and emerged with a return berth to Sam Boyd Stadium.


Meya Bizer / Photo: Alex Ho (hoiho.net)

In the final, the Falcons made good use of Scion’s errors – passes that drifted with the wind, knock-ons – and had the physical edge. The Sirens got more time on offense as the Falcons committed some penalties, getting breaks through the middle, but struggled to work that ball back from the sideline.

Kelter scored twice and kicked three conversions. Morgan, Haungatau, Gray and Stephanie Rovetti also scored tries in the 36-0 win. The residents now return to Chula Vista and await the Kitakyushu stop on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series from April 20-21.

Stay tuned for an interview with Scion’s Alycia Washington.

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