The Ireland Women’s Seven team booked their place at next year’s World Olympic Repechage tournament with a superb second place finish at the Rugby Europe competition in Lisbon today.
The Ireland Women came up just short in the Cup final against an excellent Spanish side in humid conditions in Portugal, but they can take consolation from some excellent performances which led to their qualification for next June’s global repechage.
Captain Lucy Mulhall led from the front all day and notched Ireland’s first try just a minute into the Lisbon decider, breaking free from a tackle to score under the posts. The Wicklow youngster added the conversion to leave Spain trailing 7-0.
A minute later, 2013 Grand Slam winner Jenny Murphy showed her power and pace to burst through two tackles and power over the line. Mulhall again added the extras and Ireland were 14-0 up.
Spain fought back and a period of sustained possession saw them put their flying winger free to score in the corner and make it 14-5 for half-time.
The conditions took their toll in the second period as the experienced Spain team applied more pressure to score early. A monster conversion from the touchline gave them a real boost and left them just two points adrift.
Working the ball up the pitch, with Mulhall pulling the strings and Claire Keohane showing well, Ireland hit back and put Ashleigh Baxter through a gap to touch down despite a heavy tackle. Mulhall was narrowly wide with the conversion attempt.
Spain struck again, however, as the match entered the final minutes and drew level at 19 points apiece. From a poor kick-off, they attacked again and ran in another score as the hooter sounded to leave Ireland disappointed with the final result but with the consolation that their hopes of reaching Rio remain very much alive.
Ireland opened today’s knockout stages with a comprehensive 40-0 victory over Germany. In what proved to be a one-sided encounter, UL Bohemians’ Louise Galvin helped herself to a hat-trick of tries.
A neat line of passing started by Claire Molloy at a ruck led to Galvin’s opener which saw her evade a tackle and step in off her right to score underneath the posts.
After Mulhall converted and a promising break from the heavily-involved Hannah Tyrrell, Ireland soon made it 12-0. A terrific leg-pumping run from Murphy got them into scoring range and Molloy outfoxed the German defence with an injection of pace and clever stepping.
The girls in green moved 19-0 clear for the interval as a well-timed pass from Keohane put her UL club-mate Galvin into space and she went past the covering defender near the left touchline to canter over.
The scores kept coming in the second half, good ball presentation from Tyrrell and Audrey O’Flynn allowing Ireland to build pressure from deep and Galvin, running clear from her own half, completed her hat-trick in fine style.
Mulhall converted and there were two more seven-pointers before the finish. Stacey Flood, O’Flynn and Eimear Considine all got on the ball before Molloy showed her class again, drawing in a tackler and offloading to her right for Alison Miller to score from close range.
Flood split the posts with the conversion and did so once more after Tyrrell’s inviting pass put Miller sprinting clear on the left to complete her brace.
Meanwhile, two tries apiece from Galvin and Miller saw Ireland get the better of hosts Portugal in a semi-final clash that had added significance – the winners guaranteed their place in the global Olympic Repechage next year.
The Irish went up through the gears in the second half to kill of the Portuguese challenge and run out 28-5 winners. Stubborn defence kept the likes of Murphy and Mulhall from making progress in the hosts’ 22.
Ireland were stung by an unconverted try at the other end as three missed tackles proved costly, but Galvin stepped up to the plate with an excellent angle and turn of pace to score from inside her own half. Mulhall’s conversion made it 7-5 for half-time.
Anthony Eddy’s charges kept their foot on the gas when running in three more tries in the second period. Miller struck with a trademark try, running around the outside of the defence from far out. Baxter went close before repeated ruck infringements led to a Portuguese yellow card and then Miller quickly nipped in between two defenders to score.
Mulhall converted and also added the extras to Galvin’s second effort from in front of the posts. She went over unopposed after linking up with Murphy who had brilliantly fielded Mulhall’s restart kick.
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 40 Germany 0
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Louise Galvin 3, Claire Molloy, Alison Miller 2; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 3, Stacey Flood 2
Spain 31 Sweden 5
Netherlands 17 Belgium 0
Portugal 7 Italy 5
Cup Semi-Finals –
Ireland 28 Portugal 5
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Louise Galvin 2, Alison Miller 2; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 4
Spain 21 Netherlands 5
Cup Final –
Ireland 19 Spain 26
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Lucy Mulhall, Jenny Murphy, Ashleigh Baxter; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2