Ireland were unable to open their win account on the opening day of the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens, as their final pool fixture against Fiji ended in a comprehensive 38-5 loss.
IRB WOMEN’S SEVENS WORLD SERIES – FIRST LEG:
EMIRATES DUBAI RUGBY SEVENS: POOL A: Thursday, November 28
IRELAND 5 FIJI 38, 7he Sevens Stadium, Dubai, UAE
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Alison Miller
Fiji: Tries: Asinate Ufia Savu, Pricilla Sauvavi Siata 2, Ana Maria Roqica, Siteri Drova Tabua, Lavenia Tinai; Cons: Rusila Nagasau, Asinate Ufia Savu 3
Ireland came into the game chasing their first win of the tournament, knowing that a victory – combined with favourable other results – could see them reach the Cup quarter-finals.
Head coach Jon Skurr made one change to the team that lost 29-0 to defending champions New Zealand, with Niamh Ni Dhroma preferred to fellow newcomer Anna Caplice.
They sought to get key runner Alison Miller involved early on, but the Fijians closed her down quickly on the left wing and a spilled pass by the otherwise precise Amy Davis led to a turnover.
Beaten by New Zealand (33-7) and the USA (24-19), Fiji were hungry for their maiden win and they took a step closer to it with a second minute try from the dangerous Asinate Ufia Savu.
They unleashed Savu for a simple run-in from the right for her fourth try of the day, with Rusila Nagasau failing to add the conversion.
Ireland fell 12-0 behind just two minutes later as Pricilla Sauvavi Siata dotted down from an inviting return pass from Nagasau, who landed a well-struck conversion this time.
Ireland continued to cough up possession in and around their 22 and Fiji profited time and again. They forced a turnover at scrum time and Ana Maria Roqica scooped up the ball and showed impressive speed to race in behind the posts.
A well-worked scissors move then set up a second try of the game for Siata and Savu’s successful conversion made it 26-0 by half-time.
Skurr’s charges did manage to get out of their half before the break with good endeavour from Davis and then a tap and go from Miller. Ni Dhroma was also involved in a promising move, but captain Shannon Houston knocked on out wide on the right.
Davis, one of the Grand Slam winners in the Dubai squad, intercepted a pass from Savu as Fiji threatened to score a fifth try early in the second half.
That score arrived two minutes in when Siteri Drova Tabua ran hard into a midfield gap and handed off Houston to score under the posts. Savu sent the conversion over for a 33-0 scoreline.
Siobhan Barrett and Christine Arthurs were introduced before a neat line of passes in the Irish 22 – with Arthurs getting on the ball – gave Miller a rare opportunity to stretch her legs.
A prolific winger in the 15-a-side game, Miller did brilliantly to outpace Siata on the outside on a sizzling 70-metre run to the try-line. Nikki Caughey took over the kicking duties, but failed to tag on the extras
Indeed, Ireland lost the services of Caughey soon after as she was sin-binned for throwing the ball away when it was a Fijian lineout – an offence which the match officials have been told to clamp down on.
The girls in green battled hard to stop the Fijians from adding to their try haul, and replacement Anna Caplice produced a terrific tackle on Litia Naiqato to prevent a near certain try.
But Fiji succeeded in crossing the whitewash for a sixth time when they stretched the Irish defensive line and passes from Nagasau and Tabua put replacement Lavenia Tinai over to the right of the posts.
This second successive defeat to a bruising southern Hemisphere side leaves the new-look Irish squad with plenty of lessons to learn ahead of the second day’s action tomorrow.
Ireland finished bottom of Pool A on four points, with Fiji (five points), the USA (six points) and New Zealand (nine points) finishing ahead of them. They were tenth overall of the 12 competing teams.
Skurr’s side will face France – the fourth-placed team in Pool C – in the Bowl semi-finals tomorrow at 3.02pm local time/11.02am Irish time. Fiji and Tunisia meet in the other semi-final.
TIME LINE: 2 minutes – Fiji try: Asinate Ufia Savu – 0-5; conversion: missed by Rusila Nagasau – 0-5; 4 mins – Fiji try: Pricilla Sauvavi Siata – 0-10; conversion: Rusila Nagasau – 0-12; 6 mins – Fiji try: Ana Maria Roqica – 0-17; conversion: Asinate Ufia Savu – 0-19; 7 mins – Fiji try: Pricilla Sauvavi Siata – 0-24; conversion: Asinate Ufia Savu – 0-26; Half-time – Ireland 0 Fiji 26; 9 mins – Fiji try: Siteri Drova Tabua – 0-31; conversion: Asinate Ufia Savu – 0-33; 11 mins – Ireland try: Alison Miller – 5-33; conversion: missed by Nikki Caughey – 5-33; 14 mins – Ireland sin-bin: Nikki Caughey; 14+2 mins – Lavenia Tinai – 5-38; conversion: Rusila Nagasau – 5-38; Full-time – Ireland 5 Fiji 38
IRELAND: Niamh Ni Dhroma, Shannon Houston (capt), Larissa Muldoon, Alison Miller, Claire Keohane, Ashleigh Baxter, Amy Davis.
Subs used: Laura O’Mahony (7+1 mins), Siobhan Barrett, Christine Arthurs, Nicole Caughey (all 10), Anna Caplice (14).
FIJI: Asinate Ufia Savu, Siteri Drova Tabua, Litia Naiqato, Rusila Nagasau, Ana Maria Roqica, Akosita Ravato, Pricilla Sauvavi Siata.
Subs used: Timaima Ravisa, Talica Vodo (both 12 mins), Lavenia Tinai (13). Not used: Esiteri Rauca Bulikiobo, Josivini Gusuivalu.
Referee: Shelly Trumbull (Canada)
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens, Dubai, UAE, November 28-29):
Christine Arthurs (Tralee/Connacht)
Siobhan Barrett (Tralee/Munster)
Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Anna Caplice (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Amy Davis (Blackrock College/Ulster)
Shannon Houston (Blackrock College/Leinster) (capt)
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Alison Miller (Portlaoise/UCC/Connacht)
Larissa Muldoon (UWIC/Exile)
Niamh Ni Dhroma (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Laura O’Mahony (Tralee/Munster)
Thursday, November 28 –
Friday, November 29 –
IRELAND v France, 7he Sevens Stadium Pitch 2, 3.02pm local time/11.02am Irish time
Cup, Bowl and Plate competitions (11.40am-9.16pm local time/7.40am-5.16pm Irish time)
2013/14 IRB WOMEN’S SEVENS WORLD SERIES – DATES AND VENUES:
First leg: Dubai, United Arab Emirates – November 28-29, 2013
Second leg: Atlanta, Georgia, USA – February 15-16, 2014
Third leg: Arena Barueri, São Paulo, Brazil – February 21-22, 2014
Fourth leg: Guangzhao University Town Stadium, Guangzhao, China – April 4-6 2014
Fifth leg: National Rugby Centrum, Amsterdam, Netherlands – May 16-17, 2014
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