The Ireland Women battled past Spain in the 11th-12 place play-off at the Amsterdam Sevens this afternoon, with Martina McCarthy claiming her seventh try of the IRB Women's Sevens World Series.
Martina McCarthy's converted first half try was enough for Ireland to gain revenge on Spain, who had served up some late heartbreak for Jon Skurr's side in yesterday's Pool A opener.
It was a tough, attritional weekend for the girls in green with a number of injuries picked up on day one, including a broken nose for Saracens' Megan Williams.
Williams showed great commitment to the cause by wearing a protective mask against the Netherlands and Spain today, and the Irish resilience eventually paid off as they secured an 11th place finish and two series points.
That wraps up Ireland's debut season as a core team on the IRB Women's Sevens World Series circuit, the highlight being their Bowl success in Guangzhou last month. They finished 12th in Atlanta and were 11th in Dubai, São Paulo and Amsterdam.
The play-off victory over Spain will give the Irish encouragement for the upcoming European Sevens competition as they attempt to qualify again for the World Series.
Skurr explained: "It's been a tough first season on the World Series circuit and credit has to go to the players, especially those that been involved since the start.
"They have seen the programme evolve and they've continued to give everything in order to represent Ireland.
"The standard of rugby is improving tournament by tournament. Nearly all the teams are full-time and it's a challenge for our players to keep up, let alone close the gap.
"The players are working so hard to compete but more importantly to close the gap. The attitude and commitment of the talent identification programme players has been refreshing and they have added real value to our squad.
"Many of the squad have jobs, but are still training 15-20 hours a week. I have total admiration for what they have given up and contributed in order to pull on the green jersey.
"The next month is an important period for us where we finish the World Series, then compete in the European Sevens Series where we have the opportunity to re-qualify for the World Series qualification event."
IRB WOMEN'S SEVENS WORLD SERIES - FIFTH LEG:
AMSTERDAM SEVENS: BOWL SEMI-FINAL: Saturday, May 17
NETHERLANDS 24 IRELAND 0, NRCA Stadium
Scorers: Netherlands: Tries: Kelly van Harskamp 2, Annemarije van Rossum, Linda Franssen; Cons: Lorraine Laros 2
Ireland were stung by early tries in both halves as tournament hosts the Netherlands proved too strong in front of a partizan crowd.
Key player Kelly van Harskamp burst through for a try in the opening minute, showing good pace to score despite the best efforts of the chasing Martina McCarthy. Lorraine Laros converted for a 7-0 lead.
Squad newcomer Hannah Tyrrell gave a glimpse of her ability on the ball when she broke over halfway, however Claire Keohane was penalised at a ruck just moments later for not releasing.
Jon Skurr's side had some decent territory as Laura Lee Walsh almost got through a gap on the right, but it was the hosts who looked the more threatening with ball in hand.
The Dutch countered from inside their own half with van Harskamp sprinting into space on the right and stepping inside Katie Fitzhenry to grab her second converted try of the game.
Fitzhenry almost had an opportunity to respond as she darted up the right touchline and over halfway, but the orange shirts got back to retrieve the situation - and did so again when Walsh found space on the blindside.
Trailing 14-0 at the break, Ireland leaked a third try soon after the restart as a dummy run from van Harskamp sucked in Tyrrell and Annemarije van Rossum had the gas to get away from McCarthy out wide.
A couple of missed tackles cost Ireland as replacement Linda Franssen then ran in her side's final try as their lead was extended to 24 points.
The girls in green kept plugging away with captain Shannon Houston, as ever, leading by example and Nikki Caughey putting boot to ball in an attempt to spark something out wide.
Fellow replacement Megan Williams entered the fray wearing her protective mask and was lively in defence during her time on the pitch, making a crucial tackle on van Harskamp as she pressed for a hat-trick score.
TIME LINE: 1 min - Netherlands try: Kelly van Harskamp - 5-0; conversion: Lorraine Laros - 7-0; 5 mins - Netherlands try: Kelly van Harskamp - 12-0; conversion: Lorraine Laros - 14-0; Half-time - Netherlands 14 Ireland 0; 8 mins - Netherlands try: Annemarije van Rossum - 19-0; conversion: missed by Lorraine Laros - 19-0; 12 mins - Netherlands try: Linda Franssen - 24-0; conversion: missed by Lorraine Laros- 24-0; Full-time - Netherlands 24 Ireland 0
NETHERLANDS: Joyce van Altena, Dorien Eppink, Lorraine Laros, Pien Selbeck, Kelly van Harskamp, Anne Hielckert, Annemarije van Rossum.
Subs: Linda Franssen (capt), Tessa Veldhuis, Elke van Meer, Tessel van Dongen, Jannicke IJdens.
IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Martina McCarthy, Niamh Ni Dhroma, Claire Keohane, Hannah Tyrrell, Katie Fitzhenry, Laura Lee Walsh.
After four successive losses in the Dutch sunshine, Ireland picked themselves up to defeat pool rivals Spain in a scrappy 11th-12th place play-off.
Berta Garcia had struck after the hooter to deny Ireland an opening win on Friday, and another close encounter was played out here.
Laura Lee Walsh put immediate pressure on from Nikki Caughey's kick-off and when Spain spun the ball wide, a knock-on was forced by some aggressive Irish defence.
Ireland had struggled for territory in their previous games but they remained on the front foot as Elaine Ryan ghosted past the first tackler on the right before Spain regrouped.
Skipper Shannon Houston tidied up in midfield as Ireland kept pressing, although Martina McCarthy was guilty of 'sealing off' after Hannah Tyrrell had charged into the 22.
It was nip and tuck approaching half-time but McCarthy swung the game in Ireland's favour inside the final minute.
She produced a storming run on the right wing, burning Iera Echebarria Fernandez on the outside to race in behind the posts for her second Amsterdam try - adding to the five she scored in Guangzhou.
Houston won vital possession in the build-up, scooping up a loose ball in midfield, and Caughey's conversion gave Ireland a 7-0 buffer at the break.
Spain thought they had responded early in the second half as Africa Felez Barragan touched down, but thankfully the touch judge informed referee Chelsea Gurr of a dangerous tackle by the Spanish that she somehow missed.
Irene Schiavon tackled Walsh in the air as the Irish player jumped for the restart kick. The try was ruled out and play was brought back for an Irish penalty.
Schiavon was fortunate to avoid a yellow card and ironically, she was the player on the end of a free-flowing move just moments later for Spain's only try.
Importantly, Walsh chased try scorer Schiavon down and made it a difficult conversion as she dotted down out wide on the left. Patricia Garcia's subsequent kick fell wide on the near side.
As time ticked on and Ireland held onto their slim lead, they remained composed as Caughey kicked a penalty into touch in the Spanish 22.
Although the resulting lineout throw by replacement Claire Keohane was crooked, Ireland's disciplined defence prevented the higher-ranked and more experienced Spaniards from gaining any late momentum.
McCarthy snuffed out the threat of Berta Garcia near the right touchline and Ireland won a final penalty thanks to Williams' pinpoint positioning at the breakdown. Keohane kicked to touch to seal a hard-fought win.
The Irish Rugby Football Union have opened a book of condolence at our offices on 10-12 Lansdowne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, for members of the public wishing to send their support to the Foley family.
Tickets are now on sale for the first ever Women's November International Series to be held in the UCD Bowl. Kids go free with any adult tickets. Ireland will face world champions England, top ranked Canada and the Black Ferns of New Zealand.
Tournament Director Garrett Tubridy sets the scene for an exciting weekend of rugby at UCD where 16 Women's Sevens teams will battle it out at for one qualifying spot for the Rio Olympics. Tickets are available from www.ticketmaster.ie/sevens.
Tadhg Furlong reflects on a disappointing day for Ireland against South Africa. However, he will take positives from his first Test start and be ready to build for the final match of the series in Port Elizabeth.
Paddy Jackson is preparing for Ireland's second Test against South Africa on Saturday (kick-off 5pm local time/4pm Irish time). The Ulster out-half has been checking out Ellis Park in advance of the match.
Nicole Cronin, the inaugural Irish Women's Sevens Player of the Year in 2014, is looking to make an impact on her return to the green jersey at this weekend's Rugby Europe Women's Sevens Grand Prix Series in Kazan, Russia.
The Ireland Women's 15-a-side captain Niamh Briggs was part of the Irish Development team that won the Amsterdam 7s title recently. Next up is the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series in Kazan, Russia this weekend and then a shot at Olympic Sevens qualification at UCD on June 25-26.