The Ireland Women’s Sevens team claimed the scalp of reigning European champions England tonight as Jon Skurr’s side ended the first day of the Marbella Sevens competition in fine style.
It was an admittedly understrength England side, with nine changes to the squad that won the first leg of the FIRA-AER European Sevens Grand Prix Series, but it should not take the gloss off what was a hugely encouraging result for fast-developing Ireland.
Alison Miller, Lynne Cantwell and Sophie Spence all scored tries as Ireland sealed a 17-0 victory over England, another confidence-boosting display for the girls in green on the road to the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow at the end of the month.
The ever-dangerous Miller crossed in the opening minute to establish an early lead and Ireland maintained a stranglehold of possession and territory with Jenny Murphy and Claire Keohane both prominent.
Cantwell then showed her class with ball in hand, splitting the English midfield wide open from a quick tap penalty and stepping off her right to score to the left of the posts. Both tries were unconverted and 10-0 is how it remained up to half-time.
Skurr’s charges burst out of the blocks again on the restart. This time Ashleigh Baxter raced out of her half on an arcing run and quick ruck ball led to fellow substitute Spence darting through a gap in the 22 and in behind the posts.
Keohane added the extras and while the tries were very well-taken, Skurr and his management team will have been just as pleased with Ireland’s defensive grit as they kept England scoreless during a fast-paced final five minutes.
The Marbella Sevens event is the second leg of the European Sevens Grand Prix Series. In the recent first leg in Brive, Ireland finished fifth overall of the 12 competing teams and beat the Netherlands 12-7 to win the Plate title.
The points from both events in Brive and Marbella will be tallied up to decide the European champions for 2013, with Ireland now well on course to reach the Cup semi-finals in Spain. They face Germany in their final pool game tomorrow.
After day one in Marbella they sit second in Pool A having won three of their four matches. It would have been the full set but for the concession of a last-minute try in their only defeat to France.
Niamh Briggs converted her own try as Ireland edged in front against France, who beat Skurr’s side 17-5 in Brive. But the French grabbed two unconverted tries in the final three minutes of the Marbella tie to take a narrow 10-7 win.
Earlier in the day, Ireland proved too strong for both Scotland and Portugal. They hit the ground running in their pool opener against the Scots with Miller, Murphy and Spence all touching down on the way to a 17-0 interval lead.
Keohane converted second half efforts from captain Claire Molloy and Amy Davis with a late consolation score from Scotland’s Lindsay Wheeler making it 31-5 by the finish.
The ninth-ranked Portuguese were beaten 19-0 with the lively Keohane running in a second minute try. She added two conversions for a nine-point haul with Cantwell and Molloy grabbing the other tries.
For a full list of results from the Marbella Sevens and the current pool standings, please click here.
Meanwhile, registrations are still open for a screening camp for girls for the Under-18 Provincial Sevens squad to take part in the UK School Games later in the summer – click here for more details.
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (FIRA-AER European Sevens Grand Prix Series, Marbella, Spain):
Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster) *
Claire Molloy (Bristol/Exile) (capt) *
Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster) *
Larissa Muldoon (UWIC/Exile) *
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exile) *
Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht) *
Shannon Houston (Blackrock College/Leinster) *
Amy Davis (Blackock College/Ulster) *
Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster) *
Laura O’Mahony (Tralee/Munster)
Sophie Spence (Mowden Sharks/Exile) *
* Players involved in RBS 6 Nations Championship
Ireland Results/Fixtures at Marbella Sevens –
Saturday – Pool A
Ireland 31 Scotland 5, CF Marbella Stadium
Ireland Scorers: Tries: Alison Miller, Jenny Murphy, Sophie Spence, Claire Molloy, Amy Davis; Cons: Claire Keohane 3
IRELAND: Jenny Murphy, Claire Molloy, Claire Keohane, Alison Miller, Amy Davis, Laura O’Mahony, Sophie Spence.
Subs: Niamh Briggs, Larissa Muldoon, Lynne Cantwell, Shannon Houston, Ashleigh Baxter.
Ireland 19 Portugal 0, CF Marbella Stadium
Ireland Scorers: Tries: Claire Keohane, Lynne Cantwell, Claire Molloy; Cons: Claire Keohane 2
IRELAND: Niamh Briggs, Claire Keohane, Lynne Cantwell, Alison Miller, Shannon Houston, Ashleigh Baxter, Sophie Spence.
Subs: Jenny Murphy, Claire Molloy, Larissa Muldoon, Amy Davis, Laura O’Mahony.
France 10 Ireland 7, CF Marbella Stadium
Ireland Scorers: Try: Niamh Briggs; Con: Niamh Briggs
IRELAND: Jenny Murphy, Claire Molloy, Niamh Briggs, Lynne Cantwell, Alison Miller, Amy Davis, Ashleigh Baxter.
Subs: Larissa Muldoon, Claire Keohane, Shannon Houston, Laura O’Mahony, Sophie Spence.
England 0 Ireland 17, CF Marbella Stadium
Ireland Scorers: Tries: Alison Miller, Lynne Cantwell, Sophie Spence; Con: Claire Keohane
IRELAND: Jenny Murphy, Claire Molloy, Claire Keohane, Lynne Cantwell, Alison Miller, Shannon Houston, Amy Davis.
Subs: Niamh Briggs, Larissa Muldoon, Ashleigh Baxter, Laura O’Mahony, Sophie Spence.
Sunday – Pool A
Ireland v Germany