Ireland may have lost their opening their pool games, but they can still take a number of positives forward into the remainder of the Amsterdam Sevens tournament - the fifth and final leg of the IRB Women's Sevens World Series.
Ireland, the Bowl champions from Guangzhou, will attempt to win the same title in Amsterdam on Saturday after finishing bottom of Pool A.
Jon Skurr's team will move on to face host nation, the Netherlands, in tomorrow's Bowl semi-finals, as they join Spain, South Africa and the Dutch in battling it out for the 9th-12th rankings.
Results were hard to come by for the Irish on the opening day. They were just three seconds away from beating Spain 14-12 but they leaked a last-gasp try after the hooter and eventually lost 19-14.
They then enjoyed some bright spells against defending series champions New Zealand, running in a try before half-time through Katie Fitzhenry to reduce the arrears to 14-7.
But the Kiwis showed their class in the second half to emerge as 28-7 winners and in their final pool game, Ireland's challenge petered out as the in-form Americans claimed a comfortable 29-0 victory.
All the action from this weekend's final round of the World Series in Amsterdam is being streamed live on wsws.irb.com. Catch the Netherlands v Ireland at 1.50pm local time/12.50pm Irish time on Saturday.
Ireland opened their pool campaign in bright sunshine at the NRCA Stadium and made a solid start, gaining a foothold in Spanish territory with Martina McCarthy and Siobhan Barrett invited forward out wide.
But a harsh ruck penalty against Claire Keohane, who was heavily involved early on, allowed Spain build for their first try inside the Irish 22.
Patricia Garcia's well-timed pass sent her sister Berta straight through a midfield gap and in under the posts, with the former adding the conversion.
It was a very competitive first half with both sides giving their all and captain Shannon Houston and Susan Vaughan were both prominent as Ireland tried to respond.
The luck was on Spain's side when referee James McPhail missed a clear forward pass from Vanessa Rial in the build-up to Berta Garcia's try just before half-time. The missed conversion meant Ireland were 12-0 down.
However, Jon Skurr's team immediately cut the gap to five points on the restart. The second half was just 37 seconds old when Katie Fitzhenry showed impressive strength and speed to break from halfway and dart in under the posts.
McCarthy made the initial incision as the ball was transferred wide for her to carry strongly up the left wing and Fitzhenry showed impressive finishing skills to unlock the Spanish defence and score her first World Series try. Keohane converted for 12-7.
Ireland had to absorb more pressure in defence with Patricia Garcia threatening on the left wing, before McCarthy, having collected a cross-field kick, was denied by a Laura Esbri tackle.
Both defences were thoroughly tested and Ireland's latest Sevens debutant, Hannah Tyrrell, did well to force Africa Felez Barragan into touch on the right.
Then, a Spanish knock-on allowed Ireland to build from deep with little over a minute remaining. Keohane got scrum ball away and Nikki Caughey and Fitzhenry released McCarthy on an arcing run from inside her 22 and she brilliantly evaded the Spanish cover to touch down just to the left of the posts.
Keohane coolly converted to edge Ireland in front at 14-12. Crucially though, there were still three seconds left to play so Caughey had to restart for the girls in green.
Spain retrieved possession and Laura Lee Walsh was unfortunate to be whistled up for hands in the ruck. From the long range penalty, the Spaniards got an offload away for Berta Garcia to break past two Irish defenders and she managed to slip through a final gap to complete her hat-trick and deny Ireland right at the death.
Head coach Jon Skurr highlighted how 'clinical' New Zealand are at half-time and told his players to 'expect a backlash' with Ireland only 14-7 behind at the break.
The Kiwis duly ran out 28-7 winners thanks to two more converted tries from Carla Hohepa and Katerina Whata-Simpkins, but they did not have it all their own way against this developing Irish side.
It was Ireland's fourth time to play New Zealand in this season's World Series and the 21-point reversal was their best result to date after losses in Dubai (29-0), Atlanta (36-7) and São Paulo (36-0).
They showed impressive resilience to bounce back from that heartbreaking opening defeat to Spain, retaining the ball well early on with Laura Lee Walsh and Susan Vaughan to the fore.
But Skurr's charges were camped in their own half for much of the game and with New Zealand pressing up high in defence, a quick turnover led to a try as Kelly Brazier put Portia Woodman over past the covering Hannah Tyrrell.
The two players locked horns again when Woodman bundled Tyrrell into touch soon after as Ireland attempted to build from deep, patiently probing for an opening.
A nasty clash of heads between Woodman and Linda Itunu forced both players off, but New Zealand kept on track as Kayla McAlister darted in between Tyrrell and Niamh Ni Dhroma to score a fine breakaway effort.
Brazier added her second conversion, however Ireland's determination and directness in attack was rewarded with a late try before the interval.
Recent series debutant Katie Fitzhenry tapped a penalty and sliced through to score her second try of the tournament under the posts. The momentum was created by strong surges from captain Shannon Houston and Laura Lee Walsh as Ireland finally got into scoring range.
Claire Keohane converted to make it a seven-point game. The backlash that Skurr predicted was particularly swift in the second period though as Hohepa cantered clear from her own half for an early converted try.
Ireland, who lost Megan Williams to a bloody nose, did well to make some incisions in the New Zealand defence. Replacement Elaine Ryan broke through on the blindside to get her side on the move again and Houston, an ever-willing runner, also got over the gain-line.
But that good work was undone when Sarah Goss forced a penalty, moments later, back in the Irish half and a quick tap and good feet from Whata-Simpkins saw her get by Keohane for a try that sealed the win.
TIME LINE: 1 minute - New Zealand try: Portia Woodman - 5-0; conversion: Kelly Brazier - 7-0; 7 mins - New Zealand try: Kayla McAlister - 12-0; conversion: Kelly Brazier - 14-0; 7+2 mins - Ireland try: Katie Fitzhenry - 14-5; conversion: Claire Keohane - 14-7; Half-time - New Zealand 14 Ireland 7; New Zealand try: Carla Hohepa - 19-7; conversion: Tyla Nathan-Wong - 21-7; 12 mins - New Zealand try: Katerina Whata-Simpkins - 26-7; conversion: Tyla Nathan-Wong - 28-7; Full-time - New Zealand 28 Ireland 7
NEW ZEALAND: Linda Itunu, Carla Hohepa, Jordon Webber, Kelly Brazier, Katerina Whata-Simpkins, Portia Woodman, Kayla McAlister.
Subs: Chelsea Alley, Sarah Goss, Shiray Tane, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Huriana Manuel (capt).
IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Niamh Ni Dhroma, Claire Keohane, Hannah Tyrrell, Katie Fitzhenry, Laura Lee Walsh, Susan Vaughan.
Scorers: USA: Tries: Hannah Lopez 2, Jillion Potter 2, Megan Lee Bonny; Cons: Amelia Villines 2
Ireland's hopes of a first pool win in Amsterdam were dented in the opening minute when a good offload put Hannah Lopez away to score to the left of the posts.
Victoria Folayan, who featured in the build-up to the try, enjoyed quite a battle with fellow speedster Martina McCarthy and she closed down her rival as Ireland looked to respond immediately.
Ireland were struggling to get out of their own half during the first period and the pressure told as the USA struck for their second try, Lopez popping the ball up out of a tackle for Jillion Potter to run in a score converted by captain Amelia Villines.
12-0 is how it stayed for half-time, although Laura Lee Walsh had to show her defensive capabilities out wide in the final seconds when forcing Kathryn Johnson into touch.
The Americans were also held up over the Irish try-line before they got the scoreboard moving again early in the second half. Some neat interplay freed up Potter for her second try in the right corner.
Katie Fitzhenry, playing the scrum half role in the injury-enforced absence of Nicole Cronin, showed well when on the ball as she tried to lift what seemed a tiring Ireland outfit.
Walsh also made a good break but the girls in green lacked the territory to really test the Americans and from a scrum in their own half, Lopez swept through to make it 24-0 and effectively sew up the result.
Ireland did have a two-player advantage at one stage as Elana Meyers-Taylor, who caught Niamh Ni Dhroma with a high tackle, and Alev Kelter were both sin-binned in quick succession.
But Ireland's passing let them down as a series of dropped balls let the USA off the hook and they actually closed out the scoring themselves as replacement Megan Lee Bonny evaded Nikki Caughey's clutches on the right touchline to run in try number five.
TIME LINE: 1 min - USA try: Hannah Lopez - 5-0; conversion: missed by Amelia Villines - 5-0; 5 mins - USA try: Jillion Potter - 10-0; conversion: Amelia Villines - 12-0; Half-time - USA 12 Ireland 0; 8 mins - USA try: Jillion Potter - 17-0; conversion: missed by Amelia Villines - 17-0; 11 mins - USA try: Hannah Lopez - 24-0; conversion: Amelia Villines - 24-0; 13 mins - USA yellow card: Elana Meyers-Taylor; 14 mins - USA yellow Alev Kelter; 14+2 mins - USA try: Megan Lee Bonny - 29-0; conversion: missed by Hannah Lockwood - 29-0; Full-time - USA 29 Ireland 0
USA: Kelly Griffin, Lorrie Clifford, Jillion Potter, Amelia Villines (capt), Hannah Lopez, Lauren Doyle, Victoria Folayan.
Subs: Alev Kelter, Elana Meyers-Taylor, Hannah Lockwood, Kathryn Johnson, Megan Lee Bonny.
IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Martina McCarthy, Niamh Ni Dhroma, Claire Keohane, Hannah Tyrrell, Katie Fitzhenry, Laura Lee Walsh.
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