Team captain Claire Molloy, Alison Miller (2) and Lynne Cantwell were the try scorers as the Ireland Women got back to winning ways in their final Rugby World Cup Sevens pool match.
WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP SEVENS – POOL B: Saturday, June 29
CHINA 10 IRELAND 28, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Scorers: China: Tries: Gong Guye, Ma Guoping
Ireland: Tries: Claire Molloy, Alison Miller 2, Lynne Cantwell; Cons: Jenny Murphy 4
It has been a very positive first day in Moscow for Ireland with their second win in three pool games putting them on the cusp of reaching the World Cup quarter-finals.
They await the result of the final Pool B game between unbeaten Australia and third-placed South Africa, before they can be confirmed as top eight finishers.
Head coach Jon Skurr fielded an unchanged team from the 22-5 defeat to Australia and his side, making their first appearance at the old Olympic Stadium, went ahead after just 90 seconds.
Skipper Claire Molloy burst straight through the middle, taking a flat pass from Jeannette Feighery to race away from inside the Irish half and score the opening try which Jenny Murphy converted.
Despite Ireland establishing an early lead, the supremely fit Chinese dictated possession and Ma Guoping’s excellent offload out of a tackle put Gong Guye over for an unconverted score.
Step forward Alison Miller, one of the stars of Ireland’s Grand Slam run from earlier in the year. The Portlaoise winger posed a huge threat on the right and it was her break that allowed Shannon Houston to carry strongly through midfield.
China held out on that occasion but Miller soon left two defenders in her wake, showing her undoubted power and pace to raid in from the right and behind the posts. Murphy’s conversion gave Ireland a 14-5 half-time lead.
They might have been further in front at the turnaround, but Molloy was brought to ground before she could combine with the supporting Murphy in the dying seconds.
China closed the gap with a second unconverted try early in the second period. Referee Marlize Jordaan allowed play to continue despite questions of a forward pass and Guoping profited as she stepped inside Molloy’s tackle to score in the right corner.
However, Ireland reasserted themselves over the closing five minutes to run in two more converted tries with substitutes Nikki Caughey and Amy Davis both making an impact.
Miller powered through from her own half again, collecting Cantwell’s brilliantly timed pass, breaking Tong Xueqin’s tackle and showing a clean pair of heels to the retreating Chen Ming as she completed her brace behind the posts.
Cantwell, whose experience and guile has been hugely important for Ireland in their Sevens journey, fittingly rounded off the scoring with a deserved try before the final hooter.
The tireless Molloy came in on an angle to provide the incision and she passed to the right for Cantwell to claim her second try of the tournament. Murphy clipped over the final conversion to seal an 18-point triumph for the girls in green.
Commenting on how day one went for the Irish squad, Claire Molloy said: “We were happy with the two wins. We started well against South Africa despite going down to an early try. Australia were just fantastic. We didn’t have enough space and they got ground and got behind us.
“It was great to get the win against China in the main stadium and we’re delighted to finish off with a win. It would be amazing to be in the top eight – it is what we are aiming for and what we’re here for. We want to be playing in the top competitions.”
Click here to visit the official IRB tournament website for the latest results and updates.
TIME LINE: 2 minutes – Ireland try: Claire Molloy – 0-5; conversion: Jenny Murphy – 0-7; 4 mins – China try: Gong Guye – 5-7; conversion: missed by Zhao Xinqi – 5-7; 6 mins – Ireland try: Alison Miller – 5-12; conversion: Jenny Murphy – 5-14; Half-time – China 5 Ireland 14; 9 mins – China try: Ma Guoping – 10-14; conversion: missed by Chen Ming – 10-14; 10 mins – Ireland try: Alison Miller – 10-19; conversion: Jenny Murphy – 10-21; 14 mins – Ireland try: Lynne Cantwell – 10-26; conversion: Jenny Murphy – 10-28; Full-time – China 10 Ireland 28
CHINA: Sun Tingting, Liu Yang, Liu Yan, Zhao Xinqi, Ma Guoping, Gong Guye, Chen Keyi.
Subs: Yao Jiyan, Fan Wenjuan, Chen Ming, Li Yuanyuan, Tong Xueqin.
IRELAND: Jenny Murphy, Claire Molloy, Jeannette Feighery, Lynne Cantwell, Alison Miller, Shannon Houston, Ashleigh Baxter.
Subs: Sophie Spence, Larissa Muldoon, Amy Davis, Laura O’Mahony, Nikki Caughey.
Referee: Marlize Jordaan (South Africa)