The Ireland Women’s Sevens team racked up three wins, 126 points and 20 tries as they progressed to the quarter-finals of the Rugby Europe Olympic Repechage tournament as the top-ranked side. They will face Germany in the last-eight in Lisbon tomorrow morning.
Ireland dominated Pool B thanks to convincing wins over Romania (52-0), Belgium (24-5) and Ukraine (50-0), as Anthony Eddy’s charges strung together three very efficient performances in the sweltering Portuguese heat.
Two-time Six Nations winner Alison Miller was in terrific form, using her expert finishing skills to run in nine tries – five against Romania and four against the Ukrainians. Jenny Murphy and Hannah Tyrrell also got among the tries as the pair returned from injury.
Only three of the 12 teams in Lisbon will advance to next year’s World Rugby Olympic Repechage, so it was vital that Ireland made a positive start this morning and they did just that as they demolished Romania 52-0.
Miller swiftly secured the first try in the right corner after linking up with Louise Galvin (pictured below). Katie Fitzhenry was then bundled into touch on the left wing, but a hurried clearance gave Ireland a scrum platform and the ball was worked wide to the right where Miller finished in strong fashion again.
Captain Lucy Mulhall converted try number three after Ashleigh Baxter was quickest to touch down a blocked Romanian kick. Ireland attacked from the restart and good build-up play released Miller to hand off a defender and complete her hat-trick.
The strong-running Murphy did a lot of the damage for Miller’s fourth, bulldozing her way up through the middle before the Laois woman struck off a back of a close range ruck.
Mulhall converted to make it 31-0 for half-time, and the second period began with another seven-pointer for the girls in green, some excellent interplay between Galvin and Murphy along the right touchline sending the latter clear for a deserved score.
Romania conceded once more when Claire Keohane got over a ruck ball to win a penalty in their 22 and her own quick tap put her over to the right of the posts. Keohane then turned provider for the eighth and final try, making the initial break before Miller fended off two defenders on the way to the whitewash.
Ireland laid the foundations for their second pool success (24-5 against Belgium) courtesy of early tries from Galvin and Stacey Flood. Baxter took a quick tap and Galvin expertly swept in between two defenders to touch down under the posts. Mulhall converted before Railway Union’s Flood did well to tidy up scrappy possession and dart over in the left corner.
A breakaway score for Belgium left it 12-5 at the turnaround. Ireland might have responded before half-time but Tyrrell and recent Sevens debutant Audrey O’Flynn (pictured below) were both stopped short of the line.
Although the Belgians exerted some pressure via penalties early on the resumption, Mulhall inspired her side with a brilliant sidestepping run from a turnover, bursting out of the Irish half and all the way in under the posts.
Direct running from the powerful Tyrrell and Murphy kept Ireland on course, and a fourth try followed when Claire Molloy’s well-timed pass put Murphy diving over near the left corner.
In the final round of matches, Ireland saw out the pool stages on a high with another clinical eight-try display. The rout began with a smashing break and try from Keohane who pinned her ears back to make the line just ahead of a closing Ukrainian player.
Elusive running from Miller in midfield saw her pick off try number two, and she was over again shortly afterwards with Mulhall, Keohane and Galvin all prominent in the preceding phases.
Good foraging from Baxter, who got through a lot of hard work, and quick reactions from Keohane off the base a ruck saw the latter dash over near the right corner flag to make it 26-0 for half-time.
Some crisp work by Keohane from the restart set the wheels in motion for another Miller score. The experienced winger broke away from inside the Irish half and did really well to outpace and outmuscle the covering defender.
Baxter and Galvin both gained hard yards in the lead up to the next try which saw passes from Mulhall and Keohane send Murphy storming in under the posts. Mulhall converted for 38-0 and Ireland passed the 40-point mark when Miller collected a Galvin pass and used a strong hand-off to nab her fourth try.
The Ukrainians kept working and hunting for an opening, but Ireland completed the scoring when good work from Keohane, Mulhall and Eimear Considine gave Tyrrell a chance to stretch her legs and gallop in from the right for a well-taken try.
Ireland play Germany, who finished third in Pool A, in tomorrow morning’s Cup quarter-finals at 11am. The game will be streamed live here.
Check out www.irishrugby.ie/sevens for all the latest Ireland Sevens news.
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (Rugby Europe Olympic Repechage, Lisbon, Saturday, July 18-Sunday, July 19):
Audrey O’Flynn (TID)
Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Eimear Considine (TID)
Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum) (capt)
Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht)
Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht)
Emma Murphy (Railway Union/Leinster)
Saturday: Pool B –
Ireland 52 Romania 0
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Alison Miller 5, Ashleigh Baxter, Jenny Murphy, Claire Keohane; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 5, Claire Keohane
Ireland 24 Belgium 5
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Louise Galvin, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall, Jenny Murphy; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2
Ireland 50 Ukraine 0
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Ireland: Claire Keohane 2, Alison Miller 4, Jenny Murphy, Hannah Tyrrell; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 5
Sunday: Cup Quarter-Finals –
Ireland v Germany, 11am
Spain v Sweden
Netherlands v Belgium
Portugal v Italy