The Portlaoise Under-18 Girls travelled to Buccaneers RFC Athlone for the all-female '7s in the City' tournament in aid of Action Breast Cander. This was the first time for Portlaoise to play Sevens in competition at this age group.
The Portlaoise Under-18 Girls team, named the 'Seven Deadly Sins', reflected the massive growth in popularity of this sport among schoolgirls in Ireland and around the world since it has been designated an Olympic sport. The girls trained with Sevens specialist Mark Roberts in the previous three weeks.
The '7s in the City' format was round-robin with four teams qualifying for the semi-finals. The speed and intensity of the game is such that the time allowed for each half is seven minutes, except in the final where it increases to ten minutes.
The Portlaoise squad consisted of Aoife McNeill, Róisín McWey, Rebecca Mullen, Abigail Mullen, Mairéad Keogh, Tara Buggie, Áine Camphuijsen, Lauren Roberts, Emma Startin, Robyn Mullen and Anna O'Neill.
The 'Seven Deadly Sins' from Portlaoise emerged from the group stages to qualify for the semi-finals with tries from Tara Buggie and Anna O'Neill.
The semi-final saw Portlaoise pitched against Railway Union. From the start Abigail Mullen, Mairéad Keogh, Emma Startin, Robyn Mullen, Tara Buggie and Aoife McNeill stretched Union's defensive line using the width of the pitch.
Róisín McWey, Áine Camphuijsen, Rebecca Mullen, Lauren Roberts, Emma Startin and Anna O'Neill attacked from deep, creating pace onto the ball and made it easier to identify spaces.
Portlaoise constantly tested Union's drift defence, exploiting their player with a step or and inside pass. A typical move from Áine Camphuijsen, playing scrum half, picked, dummied and stepped her opponent to run in a superb try.
Portlaoise were always a threat with the ball and emerged deserving winners with further tries from Rebecca Mullen and Lauren Roberts. Railway Union had no reply and Portlaoise progressed to the final on a scoreline of 15-0.
The final against Carrick-on-Suir proved a bridge too far with Carrick sporting three girls from the international squad.
Róisín McWey scored a marvellous try in the decider. The outcome of two tries to one augurs well for the Portlaoise side who have just commenced training in this new code. Portlaoise also have a number of players in reserve who were unavailable for this debut tournament in the midlands.
Portlaoise are currently recruiting players and athletes who would like to play this exciting brand of rugby and emulate their previous or current international schoolgirl squad players - Anna O'Neill, Aoife Murphy and Eimear Corri.
The Portlaoise girls' next Sevens matches will be in Greystones on Saturday, July 12.
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Ireland Women's internationals Nora Stapleton and Niamh Briggs talk to Irish Rugby TV about the IRFU's new Long Term Player Development Model for Women's rugby. For more on Women's LTPD, please visit www.irishrugby.ie/womensltpd.
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