Laura Lee Walsh scored her first try for the Ireland Women’s Sevens team and Elaine Ryan and Aisling Naughton both made their debuts during the pool stages of the Brazil Sevens tournament in São Paulo.
With three heavy hitters alongside them in Pool A, it was always going to be a tough ask for the Ireland Women’s Sevens squad on the opening day of the Brazil Sevens.
They gave it their all when coming up against New Zealand, England and the USA, but the present gulf in experience – allied to the strength-sapping weather conditions – meant that the young Irish side suffered three defeats on the trot.
There were some very obvious positives to take from the performances, however, and they started with an improved display against New Zealand compared to the sides’ meeting in Atlanta last weekend.
There were further encouraging signs in the first half of the England game as Laura Lee Walsh’s try levelled matters at 7-7 before the powerful English outfit pulled away in the closing seven minutes.
Jessica Javelet’s searing pace – a huge asset in Sevens match-ups like these – was effectively the difference in Ireland’s final pool game, as her hat-trick helped the USA record a 22-0 victory.
Jon Skurr’s Ireland squad will regroup before facing hosts Brazil in a Bowl semi-final at 4.20pm local time/7.20pm Irish time tomorrow (Saturday).
The girls in green will be out for revenge after losing 20-5 to the Brazilians in Atlanta. The USA and Argentina meet in the other Bowl semi-final tomorrow afternoon.
IRB WOMEN’S SEVENS WORLD SERIES – THIRD LEG:
BRAZIL SEVENS: POOL A: Friday, February 21
IRELAND 0 NEW ZEALAND 36, Arena Barueri, São Paulo
Scorers: Ireland: –
New Zealand: Tries: Michaela Blyde 3, Jordon Webber, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Gayle Broughton; Cons: Selica Winiata 2, Tyla Nathan-Wong
These sides met in the pool stages of last weekend’s Atlanta Sevens when Ireland lost 36-7, and New Zealand kept a number of their first choice players on the bench for this opening game of the tournament.
Ireland head coach Jon Skurr kept faith with most of his starters from the second leg of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series, although kicker Nikki Caughey got the nod over Claire Keohane.
The Kiwis were first to attack, moving the ball swiftly to the right with precision passing until teenager Michaela Blyde knocked on.
Nicole Cronin produced a textbook tackle on Sarah Goss in the Irish 22, but the early pressure told as Gayle Broughton passed out of a tackle and Aoife Doyle was unable to prevent Blyde from scoring in the left corner.
The try was unconverted and there were promising signs from Ireland in response. Megan Williams gained momentum with a good charge through the middle and Caughey and Doyle also combined to good effect on the left.
However, Ireland were being contained in their own half and New Zealand were clinical to capitalising on any errors or space afforded to them.
The impressive Goss drew in two defenders before passing for Jordon Webber to run in their second unconverted try.
Ireland began to find some rhythm in attack and they broke downfield after a diagonal run from Cronin launched Christine Arthurs, Caughey and Niamh Ni Dhroma forward on the right wing.
Frustratingly, New Zealand managed to break from deep just before half-time as Blyde evaded a tackle from Doyle out wide to score her second try and make it 17-0.
The very hot conditions were not putting the Atlanta winners off their stride and despite strong tackling from Cronin, Williams and Arthurs, Ireland were moved from side to side before Blyde burst through and broke Caughey’s challenge to complete her hat-trick.
Selica Winiata kicked her second successful conversion and Skurr turned to his bench, bringing Laura Lee Walsh and Keohane into the fray.
The try-scoring chances continued to come for the Kiwis as Winiata was called back for a forward pass from Goss.
Ireland though were giving a good account of themselves and there were some fluid passages of ball retention and accurate passing.
Elaine Ryan came on in the scrum and Susan Vaughan also made her presence felt in the tackle and ruck areas as Ireland tried to build from near halfway.
New Zealand’s greater experience and class at this level told again though as Broughton and Blyde set up replacement Tyla Nathan-Wong for a try she converted herself.
And Broughton added a sixth after the hooter as her quick feet took her away from debutant Ryan and in behind the posts.
TIME LINE: 2 minutes – New Zealand try: Michaela Blyde – 0-5; conversion: missed by Selica Winiata – 0-5; 5 mins – New Zealand try: Jordon Webber – 0-10; conversion: missed by Selica Winiata – 0-10; 7+1 mins – New Zealand try: Michaela Blyde – 0-15; conversion: Selica Winiata – 0-17; Half-time – Ireland 0 New Zealand 17; 9 mins – New Zealand try: Michaela Blyde – 0-22; conversion: Selica Winiata – 0-24; 14 mins – New Zealand try: Tyla Nathan-Wong – 0-29; conversion: Tyla Nathan-Wong – 0-31; 14+3 mins – New Zealand try: Gayle Broughton – 0-36; conversion: missed by Tyla Nathan-Wong – 0-36; Full-time – Ireland 0 New Zealand 36
IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Christine Arthurs, Niamh Ni Dhroma, Nicole Cronin, Megan Williams, Aoife Doyle, Nikki Caughey.
Subs: Claire Keohane, Aisling Naughton, Elaine Ryan, Laura Lee Walsh, Susan Vaughan.
NEW ZEALAND: Linda Itunu, Hazel Tubic, Jordon Webber, Sarah Goss, Gayle Broughton, Michaela Blyde, Selica Winiata.
Subs: Carla Hohepa, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Huriana Manuel (capt), Portia Woodman, Kayla McAlister.
Referee: Alhambra Nievas (Spain)
IRELAND 7 ENGLAND 29, Arena Barueri, São Paulo
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Laura Lee Walsh; Con: Claire Keohane
England: Tries: Claire Allan 2, Natasha Brennan 2, Hannah Field; Cons: Sarah McKenna, Emily Scott
Claire Keohane kicked off for Ireland who made a positive start, setting Aoife Doyle free to test out Michaela Staniford’s defence out wide.
Nicole Cronin typified the tigerish first half that the girls in green produced, constantly harrying and putting her body on the line as Ireland picked up a series of hard-won turnovers.
Fellow youngster Doyle made a promising break on the right, but she was brought down in the English 22 and was lacking in support as she was penalised for not releasing.
England recovered to run in the game’s opening try as they passed well to the right to put Claire Allan over for a converted score.
Ireland continued to show huge endeavour approaching half-time and they were rewarded with a late levelling seven-pointer.
Three penalties in succession saw Cronin tap and go again and again and bring Ireland into scoring range, with England losing their discipline at ruck time.
With defenders tied in, Ireland managed to put the ball through the hands and Keohane and Susan Vaughan combined to feed who Laura Lee Walsh broke through Fran Matthews’ tackle to power in under the posts for a deserved seven-pointer.
It was all to play for in the second half at 7-all, but England seized control early on as they counter-attacked for a crucial lead try.
Keohane kicked into space downfield and the Irish chase was good, however Staniford retrieved it and launched replacement Danielle Waterman on a superb run on the right. She was finally brought down just metres from the Irish line, and Allan picked up from the ruck to touch down.
Ireland struggled to gain possession from England’s restarts with Heather Fisher using her physicality to force errors and keep possession in English hands.
They tightened their grip on the match when Natasha Brennan went for the line in the same right corner and she managed to hand off both Elaine Ryan and Vaughan before dotting down for 17-7.
Worse followed for Jon Skurr’s charges as captain Shannon Houston was yellow carded – referee Marlize Jordaan adjudged her to have pulled an opponent’s hair when making a tackle.
Just over a minute later, lively replacement Brennan cut through for her second try and Hannah Field’s late seven-pointer widened England’s winning margin to a flattering 22 points.
TIME LINE: 7 minutes – England try: Claire Allan – 0-5; conversion: Sarah McKenna – 0-7; 7+2 mins – Ireland try: Laura Lee Walsh – 5-7; conversion: Claire Keohane – 7-7; Half-time – Ireland 7 England 7; 8 mins – England try: Claire Allan – 7-12; conversion: missed by Sarah McKenna – 7-12; 11 mins – England try: Natasha Brennan – 7-17; conversion: missed by Sarah McKenna – 7-17; 13 mins – Ireland yellow card: Shannon Houston; 14 mins – England try: Natasha Brennan – 7-22; conversion: missed by Emily Scott – 7-22; 14+2 mins – England try: Hannah Field – 7-27; conversion: Emily Scott – 7-29; Full-time – Ireland 7 England 29
IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Niamh Ni Dhroma, Nicole Cronin, Claire Keohane, Aoife Doyle, Laura Lee Walsh, Susan Vaughan.
Subs: Christine Arthurs, Megan Williams, Aisling Naughton, Nikki Caughey, Elaine Ryan.
ENGLAND: Claire Allan, Abigail Chamberlain (capt), Heather Fisher, Fran Matthews, Sarah McKenna, Michaela Staniford, Amy Wilson-Hardy.
Subs: Natasha Brennan, Leanne Riley, Emily Scott, Hannah Field, Danielle Waterman.
Referee : Marlize Jordaan (South Africa)
IRELAND 0 USA 22, Arena Barueri, São Paulo
Scorers: Ireland: –
USA: Tries: Megan Lee Bonny, Jessica Javelet 3; Con: Christy Ringgenberg
Christine Arthurs and Elaine Ryan earned starts for Ireland in their final pool fixture, as they faced the USA for the first time since the Dubai Sevens in November.
Back then, a much more experienced Ireland team managed to draw 12-12 with the Americans, but this time their opponents ran out comfortable winners.
Jessica Javelet gave a glimpse of what was to come with an early sprint along the left wing. Ireland closed off the danger and a subsequent turnover by Claire Keohane at a ruck, with Nicole Cronin following up, won a relieving penalty.
However, the USA took the lead in the third minute when Megan Lee Bonny twisted her way over in the left corner following a good drive from a lineout in the Irish 22.
The conversion was off target and frustratingly for Ireland a forward pass was missed by the match officials as Javelet raided in on the left for try number two.
That meant Ireland trailed 10-0 at half-time and Elaine Ryan had to be helped back onto her feet after a clash of heads with Kelly Griffin as she was tackled by the American player.
There were plenty of bumps and bruises in the Irish camp on an attritional first day, but they remained in the hunt as replacement Megan Williams led the charge on the restart.
However, Javelet’s ability to speed away from players in one-on-one situations soon saw her get over the try-line again. She left Williams in her wake and touched down in the right corner ahead of the covering Cronin.
Christy Ringgenberg missed the conversion but she landed her final shot at the posts after Javelet completed her hat-trick with four minutes remaining.
Ireland captain Shannon Houston knocked on in midfield and the Americans countered swiftly, releasing Javelet for another well-taken score.
TIME LINE: 3 minutes – USA try: Megan Lee Bonny – 0-5; conversion: missed by Christy Ringgenberg – 0-5; 5 mins – USA try: Jessica Javelet – 0-10; conversion: missed by Christy Ringgenberg – 0-10; Half-time – Ireland 0 USA 10; 8 mins – USA try: Jessica Javelet – 0-15; conversion: missed by Christy Ringgenberg – 0-15; 10 mins – USA try: Jessica Javelet – 0-20; conversion: Christy Ringgenberg – 0-22; Full-time – Ireland 0 USA 22
IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Christine Arthurs, Niamh Ni Dhroma, Nicole Cronin, Claire Keohane, Elaine Ryan, Susan Vaughan.
Subs: Megan Williams, Aoife Doyle, Aisling Naughton, Nikki Caughey, Laura Lee Walsh.
USA: Deven Owsiany (capt), Kelly Griffin, Jillion Potter, Christy Ringgenberg, Lauren Doyle, Megan Lee Bonny, Jessica Javelet.
Subs: Rebekah Siebach, Victoria Folayan, Amelia Villines, Lorrie Clifford, Dana Meschisi.
Referee: Jessica Beard (New Zealand)
IRB WOMEN’S SEVENS WORLD SERIES – THIRD LEG:
BRAZIL SEVENS: Saturday, February 22
IRELAND v BRAZIL, Arena Barueri, São Paulo, 4.20pm local time/7.20pm Irish time
You can following the live stream of the knockout stages in São Paulo on wsws.irb.com.
For more follow @irbwomens on Twitter for updates from the weekend, using the hashtag #Brazil7s.
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (Brazil Sevens, Arena Barueri, Barueri, São Paulo, February 21-22):
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. Aisling Naughton (Talent ID Programme)
9. Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
10. Elaine Ryan (Talent ID Programme)
11. Laura Lee Walsh (Talent ID Programme)
12. Susan Vaughan (Railway Union/Leinster)