Jump to main content


Ireland Women End Day One With Confidence-Boosting Win

Ireland Women End Day One With Confidence-Boosting Win

The Ireland Women ended the first day of the Atlanta Sevens on a high as they held on for a deserved 12-10 victory over the Netherlands.

Jon Skurr’s young and inexperienced squad improved game-by-game through the pool stages, suffering defeats to England and New Zealand before bouncing back against the Dutch.

Tries from Nicole Cronin and captain Shannon Houston inspired Ireland’s first win at the second leg of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series, with the result seeing the girls in green finish third in Pool B.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

The 21-year-old Cronin had an impressive debut on the World Sevens circuit. She was a real bundle of energy in the scrum half role and crowned her day with a breakaway score.

Five Irish players took their first steps at this level and with the lessons learned from those two opening losses, this new-look panel certainly showed their resilience in overcoming a highly rated Dutch side.

China will provide the opposition for Ireland in Sunday’s Bowl semi-finals and the winners of that tie will meet either Brazil or the Netherlands in the decider.


ATLANTA SEVENS: POOL B: Saturday, February 15

IRELAND 0 ENGLAND 32, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw State University

Scorers: Ireland: –
England: Tries: Natasha Brennan 3, Danielle Waterman, Claire Allan, Abigail Chamberlain; Con: Sarah McKenna

England led from start to finish as Ireland’s inexperience showed in their first outing of the tournament at the Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

Natasha Brennan helped herself to a hat-trick of tries – the first coming after just 60 seconds – and despite their best efforts, Ireland were unable to respond.

The countries met in the Plate semi-final at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens, and captain Shannon Houston, Nikki Caughey and Laura O’Mahony were the only Irish survivors from that 22-0 defeat in Moscow.

A series of missed tackles proved costly in Atlanta as Brennan showed her finishing skills with a brace inside three minutes, while Sarah McKenna converted Danielle Waterman’s late effort for a 17-0 half-time lead.

England continued to be clinical in possession after the break, working opportunities which were put away by Brennan again and also Claire Allan and captain Abigail Chamberlain as they boosted their scoring differential.

Ireland’s work-rate and endeavour could not be questioned, but against an established Sevens team such as England their mistakes were ruthlessly punished.

Newcomers Cronin, Aoife Doyle, Laura Lee Walsh and Megan Williams, who plays for Saracens in England, were all on from the start for Ireland who did put some better phases together in the second half.

TIME LINE: 1 minute – England try: Natasha Brennan – 0-5; conversion: missed by Sarah McKenna – 0-5; 3 mins – England try: Natasha Brennan – 0-10; conversion: missed by Sarah McKenna – 0-10; 7 mins – England try: Danielle Waterman – 0-15; conversion: Sarah McKenna – 0-17; Half-time – Ireland 0 England 17; 9 mins – England try: Natasha Brennan – 0-22; conversion: missed by Sarah McKenna – 0-22; 12 mins – England try: Claire Allan – 0-27; conversion: missed by Emily Scott – 0-27; 14+2 mins – England try: Abigail Chamberlain – 0-32; conversion: missed by Emily Scott – 0-32; Full-time – Ireland 0 England 32

IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Niamh Ni Dhroma, Nicole Cronin, Claire Keohane, Megan Williams, Aoife Doyle, Laura Lee Walsh.

Subs: Christine Arthurs, Laura O’Mahony, Nikki Caughey, Siobhan Barrett, Susan Vaughan.

ENGLAND: Claire Allan, Natasha Brennan, Abigail Chamberlain (capt), Heather Fisher, Sarah McKenna, Michaela Staniford, Danielle Waterman.

Subs: Fran Matthews, Leanne Riley, Emily Scott, Sally Tuson, Amy Wilson-Hardy.

Referee: Chelsea Gurr (New Zealand)

IRELAND 7 NEW ZEALAND 36, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw State University

Scorers: Ireland: Try: Nikki Caughey; Con: Nikki Caughey
New Zealand: Tries: Gayle Broughton, Selica Winiata 2, Portia Woodman, Sarah Goss, Michaela Blyde; Cons: Selica Winiata 3

This was a second heavy reversal for Ireland, but they put in a solid performance to build on and even finished the match with a hard-earned converted try.

New Zealand, the reigning World champions and so often the standard bearers of Women’s Sevens rugby, rarely concede a try when facing some of the game’s developing teams.

However, Jon Skurr’s side managed to get over the whitewash late on here as they countered with a kick out of defence.

They succeeded in retrieving possession near halfway and good running and distribution from Siobhan Barrett and Aoife Doyle, who fixed Michaela Blyde, released Nikki Caughey away along the right touchline and over out wide.

Caughey swung over an excellent conversion from the right to reduce the final margin to 29 points, leaving Ireland to take heart from their positive start and finish to this second round fixture.

The Irish had some early pressure in the Kiwi half, building from a lineout on the left and sending Megan Williams bursting through on a crash ball.

Cronin had a busy presence around the pitch and skipper Shannon Houston led by example, breaking over halfway in an attack that eventually saw Doyle closed down on the wing by Portia Woodman.

But Ireland began to slip off tackles and get caught for pace approaching half-time, with teenage talent Gayle Broughton breaking the deadlock with a fourth minute try.

Selica Winiatia added the conversion and then followed her 17-year-old team-mate over the line two minutes later. Soon after, Woodman fended off Doyle and stepped inside Cronin to score try number three.

New Zealand went up a gear as Sarah Goss ran hard and passed inside for Winiata to score only 20 seconds after the restart.

Goss turned try scorer soon after as she used her strength to power over in the left corner past the covering Cronin.

Ireland responded by upping their physicality around the ruck and tackle areas, making some yardage through the middle with Williams, Claire Keohane and Niamh Ni Dhroma all getting on the ball.

Replacement Blyde (18) rounded off New Zealand’s six-try haul by crashing over in the right corner after a strong run close to the touchline.

But Ireland gained some late consolation in the form of Caughey’s try and it was a galvanising score as their next opponents, the Netherlands, had been held scoreless by New Zealand in their opener.

TIME LINE: 4 minutes – New Zealand try: Gayle Broughton – 0-5; conversion: Selica Winiata – 0-7; 6 mins – New Zealand try: Selica Winiata – 0-12; conversion: missed by Selica Winiata – 0-12; 7+1 mins – New Zealand try: Portia Woodman – 0-17; conversion: Selica Winiata – 0-19; Half-time – Ireland 0 New Zealand 19; 8 mins – New Zealand try: Selica Winiata – 0-24; conversion: Selica Winiata – 0-26; 10 mins – New Zealand try: Sarah Goss – 0-31; conversion: missed by Selica Winiata – 0-31; 12 mins – New Zealand try: Michaela Blyde – 0-36; conversion: missed by Tyla Nathan-Wong – 0-36; 14+1 mins – Ireland try: Nikki Caughey – 5-36; conversion: Nikki Caughey – 7-36; Full-time – Ireland 7 New Zealand 36

IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Niamh Ni Dhroma, Nicole Cronin, Claire Keohane , Megan Williams, Aoife Doyle, Laura Lee Walsh.

Subs: Christine Arthurs, Laura O’Mahony, Nikki Caughey, Siobhan Barrett, Susan Vaughan.

NEW ZEALAND: Carla Hohepa, Jordon Webber, Sarah Goss, Gayle Broughton, Huriana Manuel (capt), Selica Winiata, Portia Woodman.

Subs: Linda Itunu, Hazel Tubic, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Michaela Blyde, Kayla McAlister.

Referee: Sara Cox (England)

IRELAND 12 NETHERLANDS 10, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw State University

Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Nicole Cronin, Shannon Houston; Con: Claire Keohane
Netherlands: Tries: Elke van Meer, Tessel van Dongen

Head coach Jon Skurr made one change for Ireland’s final pool match, bringing in tall Tralee player Siobhan Barrett on the wing and she was prominent early on.

Barrett used her size to good advantage as she powered into tackles and rucks. The breakdown was particularly competitive and the Dutch suffered an early setback when key player Kelly van Harskamp went off injured.

It was a real dog-fight and space was at a premium in a defence-dominated clash. Ireland had most of the territory initially, but they were unable to create much against a well-organised Dutch defence.

A try out of nothing changed the complexion of the game though, a strong shove from the Irish scrum forcing the Netherlands into a loose pass and Nicole Cronin scooped the ball up and sprinted over halfway and all the way in under the posts.

Her timely five-pointer was converted by Claire Keohane whose successful kick was to prove crucial in the end as it split the sides come the final whistle.

Without van Harskamp, the Netherlands seemed off-colour and an error straight from the restart handed possession back to Ireland who were keen to build on their 7-0 interval lead.

Cronin took up the baton, passing crisply as Ireland made further yardage with two penalties. The Shannon youngster took a quick tap and had to be brought down five metres out, but Houston pressed from the ruck and burrowed her way over for try number two.

The difficult conversion from the right was missed by Keohane and it was all up to the Dutch now with just five minutes left.

They mustered a quick response in the cold conditions when Elke van Meer broke a tackle and evaded Niamh Ni Dhroma’s clutches to score to the right of the posts.

Importantly, Annemarije van Rossum miscued the conversion and Lorraine Laros also failed to add the extras to fellow replacement Tessel van Dongen’s last-gasp try.

It was similar to Cronin’s try as the ball went loose from an Irish scrum – this time in their 22 – and van Dongen picked up possession to go over in the left corner despite a great effort from Keohane to hold her up.

That tenacity was a hallmark of Ireland’s play, particularly in the tense final few minutes when players like 18-year-old Aoife Doyle and Laura O’Mahony showing the necessary composure when in possession.

The celebrations at the finish showed how much the result meant to the girls in green, and it gives them a good deal of momentum to take into the second day in Atlanta.

TIME LINE: 7+1 mins – Ireland try: Nicole Cronin – 5-0; conversion: Claire Keohane – 7-0; Half-time – Ireland 7 Netherlands 0; 9 mins – Ireland try: Shannon Houston – 12-0; conversion: missed by Claire Keohane – 12-0; 11 mins – Netherlands try: Elke van Meer – 12-5; conversion: missed by Annemarije van Rossum – 12-5; 14 mins – Netherlands try: Tessel van Dongen – 12-10; conversion: missed by Lorraine Laros – 12-10; Full-time – Ireland 12 Netherlands 10

IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Niamh Ni Dhroma, Nicole Cronin, Claire Keohane, Megan Williams, Siobhan Barrett, Laura Lee Walsh.

Subs: Christine Arthurs, Aoife Doyle, Laura O’Mahony, Nikki Caughey, Susan Vaughan.

NETHERLANDS: Joyce van Altena, Tessa Veldhuis, Pien Selbeck, Kelly van Harskamp, Anne Hielckert, Annemarije van Rossum, Elke van Meer.

Subs: Linda Franssen (capt), Dorien Eppink, Lorraine Laros, Tessel van Dongen, Jannicke Ijdens.

Referee: Jessica Beard (New Zealand)


ATLANTA SEVENS: Sunday, February 16


IRELAND v CHINA, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, 1.28pm local time/6.28pm Irish time

You can following the live stream of the knockout stages in Atlanta on wsws.irb.com.

For more follow @irbwomens on Twitter for updates from the weekend, using the hashtag #Atlanta7s.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (Atlanta Sevens, Kennesaw State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, February 15-16):

1. Shannon Houston (Blackrock/Leinster) (capt)
2. Christine Arthurs (Tralee/Connacht)
3. Niamh Ni Dhroma (Buccaneers/Connacht)
4. Nicole Cronin (Shannon/Munster)
5. Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
6. Megan Williams (Saracens/Exiles)
7. Aoife Doyle (Shannon/Munster)
8. Laura O’Mahony (Tralee/Munster)
9. Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
10. Siobhan Barrett (Tralee/Munster)
11. Laura Lee Walsh (Talent ID Programme)
12. Susan Vaughan (Railway Union/Leinster)