Ireland ran in 11 tries in all on Sunday as they overcame Italy and Portugal on the way to winning the Plate title at the inaugural FIRA/AER Under-18 European Girls Sevens Championship in Enkoping, Sweden.
FIRA/AER U-18 EUROPEAN GIRLS SEVENS CHAMPIONSHIP: Sunday, September 14
PLATE SEMI-FINAL –
ITALY 0 IRELAND 36
Ireland opened well and capitalised on an Italian knock-on. With the referee playing advantage, some quick passes and strong ball carrying, from Kayleigh Hopkins specifically, freed up space for winger and captain Jayne Pennefather to score the first try. Erin Caughey came close with the touchline kick but the try went unconverted.
Turnover ball and an Irish scrum on the Italian 22 led to a side-stepping run from out-half Caughey which created a gap for Kayleigh Hopkins to run in the second unconverted try.
Soon after, some excellent teamwork and support play lead to the next score for Ireland as every set of hands touched the ball before it ended up with Mairead Hopkins and she carried past three defenders. She was chased down and tackled two metres from the try-line, however brilliant work-rate from Chloe Blackmore saw her get the pop pass to finish by the posts. Caughey converted for a 17-0 scoreline.
A penalty to Ireland for early engagement at the scrum from the Italians allowed out-half Stacey Flood to weave her way through traffic and score an impressive try before the half-time whistle, making it 22-0.
Ireland were quickly back on the attack when the second half got underway, creating a turnover from the first play. Blackmore spotted a gap and ran in her second try of the match which was not converted.
Italy fought back and made a terrific break down the middle of pitch but thankfully Caughey put in a spectacular tackle as sweeper to keep the Italians out.
A solid scrum set up a lovely passage of play which sent Pennefather in for her second try of the semi-final as well. Caughey added the extras for 36-0.
The Italians continued to attack and some try-saving tackles from Jessica Hunt and Meabh O’Brien kept the opposition out, as Ireland progressed to the final on the back of a very satisfying six-try victory.
PLATE FINAL –
PORTUGAL 0 IRELAND 31
Ireland got off to another encouraging start in the final and a strong scrum forced a turnover which released captain Jayne Pennefather who used her pace to score the first five-pointer of the match.
Another turnover, this one in open play and created by scrum half Kathryn Dane, led to an overlap on the wing and Mairead Hopkins ran in a try. The conversion missed narrowly and the girls in green headed into the break 10-0 in front.
The second half began in brilliant fashion for Ireland as Pennefather completed her brace after an impressive 70-metre run. Caughey converted for good measure.
The next passage of play produced another try to Ireland, Dane intercepting a loose pass in the Portuguese 22 and running in under the posts. Caughey again converted.
Portugal started putting Ireland under pressure, forcing a penalty close to the 22. The Irish defence stood firm and their quick line speed forced a handling error and won possession back in the form of a scrum.
A solid set piece and some accurate passing unleashed winger Jessica Hunt who scorched away up the left winger to claim the final try of the match and tournament for Ireland.
Caughey’s close range conversion completed the scoring for the newly-crowned Plate champions, with the result placing Ireland fifth of the ten competing nations.
– With thanks to Shannon Reid, Enkoping Rugby Club & Rugby Europe
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