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Ireland Women Find The Going Tough In Sao Paulo Sevens

Ireland Women Find The Going Tough In Sao Paulo Sevens

The Ireland Women were unable to improve their ranking from Dubai as they finished twelfth in the second leg of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Despite some promising signs on day one when they put it up to high-flying Australia, the Ireland Women were unable to build momentum in today’s play-offs as their challenge petered out against European rivals Russia and Spain.

Anthony Eddy’s charges, who struggled to convert attacking opportunities into tries, lost 15-0 to Russia in the Bowl semi-final and were also held scoreless in the 11th-12th place play-off, which was won 19-0 by the Patricia Garcia-inspired Spanish side.

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Russia and Spain will be two of the teams standing in Ireland’s way when the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Olympic Repechage tournament takes place in June at the UCD Bowl.

Today’s conditions were cooler in Sao Paulo following yesterday’s 28-degree heat at pitchside. In the pool stages, Ireland were defeated by eventual runners-up Canada (26-7) and eventual champions Australia (19-5), as well as a fast-finishing Fijian outfit (15-7).

The girls in green pick up one World Series point for their efforts in Brazil and will regroup before looking to make improvements in round 3 in Atlanta (April 8-9).


DAY 2 – Sunday, February 21:

BOWL SEMI-FINAL: IRELAND 0 RUSSIA 15, Arena Barueri, Sao Paulo
Scorers: Ireland:
Russia: Tries: Elena Zdrokova 2, Arina Bystrova

There was plenty of interest in Ireland’s Bowl semi-final against Russia as two of the teams that will compete in the Olympic Repechage tournament in June took each other on.

The Russians fielded a new-look side in Sao Paulo and they suffered three pool defeats yesterday. However, they enjoyed a whirlwind start against Ireland, with the long-striding Elena Zdrokova racing away from both Alison Miller and Stacey Flood for a try after just 24 seconds.

Too often Irish players ran into midfield traffic in the first half. Armed with turnover ball, Russia moved it at pace to the right wing and then the left where space was created for Arina Bystrova to go over in the corner.

There were six minutes on the clock when Ireland over-committed at the breakdown and Zdrokova had a clear run along the blindside for her second try and a 15-0 half-time scoreline.

The second period was a scoreless affair with both sides gradually tiring. Audrey O’Flynn impressed with a crucial try-saving tackle on Bystrova and she then got up to win a relieving ruck penalty.

Replacement Eimear Considine made a powerful break that should have resulted in a try but she lacked support when hauled down five metres out, and was duly pinged for not releasing on the ground.

The girls in green were unable to break down the well-organised Russian defence in the closing stages which were played out in and around the halfway line.

Team: Audrey O’Flynn, Megan Williams, Ashleigh Baxter, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Louise Galvin, Alison Miller.

Subs: Shannon Houston, Katie Fitzhenry, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Claire Keohane, Eimear Considine.

11TH-12TH PLACE PLAY-OFF: IRELAND 0 SPAIN 19, Arena Barueri, Sao Paulo
Scorers: Ireland:
Spain: Tries: Angela Del Pan, Teresa Bueso Gonez, Iera Echebarria Fernandez; Cons: Patricia Garcia 2

Ireland’s final match of the tournament began well with a strong run from Louise Galvin into the Spanish 22, however Megan Williams was guilty of a loose pass and then captain Lucy Mulhall was penalised for not releasing.

The ever-influential Mulhall could not link up with Amee-Leigh Crowe after a threatening dart over halfway, and tellingly Spain were able to gradually wear down the Irish defence following a prolonged spell of attacking out wide and through the middle.

Angela del Pan, running a well-timed support line, took a pass to score wide on the right in the fifth minute, with Patricia Garcia adding a great conversion. 7-0 is how it stayed for half-time, Berta Garcia’s powerful tackle on the advancing Crowe ending a late attack from the girls in the green.

Ireland’s error count increased on the resumption and three minutes in, Patricia Garcia’s lovely pass back inside released Teresa Bueso Gonez for a second converted try.

Mulhall typified her side’s never-say-die spirit, digging deep to win a ruck penalty as tiredness crept in for both sides. Nonetheless, Spain rounded off their victory with a third try, some excellent interplay sending Vanesa Rial towards the right corner, Alison Miller tackled her short of the line but she got her pass away for Iera Echebarria Fernandez to go over.

Team: Megan Williams, Shannon Houston, Katie Fitzhenry, Claire Keohane, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Louise Galvin, Lucy Mulhall (capt).

Subs: Audrey O’Flynn, Stacey Flood, Ashleigh Baxter, Eimear Considine, Alison Miller.

DAY 1 – Saturday, February 20:

POOL A: CANADA 26 IRELAND 7, Arena Barueri, Sao Paulo
Scorers: Canada: Tries: Karen Pacquin, Ghislaine Landry 2, Brittany Benn; Cons: Ghislaine Landry 2, Kelly Russell
Ireland: Try: Alison Miller; Con: Lucy Mulhall

Despite some strong tackling out wide by Audrey O’Flynn and Louise Galvin, Ireland fell behind inside two minutes as Canada’s Karen Pacquin broke clear on the right wing for an unconverted try.

Galvin was closed down efficiently by the Canadian defence after a break along the left touchline, and Ghislaine Landry glided through on an impressive counter-attacking run from deep for try number two.

Galvin had a second chance to attack out wide before half-time, but Jen Kish bundled her into touch and Landry, gathering Pacquin’s well-timed pass on her 22-metre line, blazed straight through to make it 19-0.

Megan Williams led Ireland’s response, winning a ruck penalty and putting in some thumping tackles on the restart. But Canada remained clinical in attack, Brittany Benn slicing in between Ashleigh Baxter and Stacey Flood for their fourth try.

Improved tackling and competition at the breakdown saw Ireland finish out their opening pool game with a deserved try, though. Lucy Mulhall darted forward and then, a couple of phases later, replacement Alison Miller – back from her broken arm in Dubai – picked up possession at a midfield ruck and charged clear from the Canadian 10-metre line. Mulhall converted.

Claire Keohane and Katie Fitzhenry also made an impact off the bench, with Miller threatening again, this time out wide on the right. However, a knock-on from Williams in contact ended Ireland’s hopes of a second touchdown.

Team: Audrey O’Flynn, Megan Williams, Ashleigh Baxter, Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Louise Galvin.

Subs: Shannon Houston, Katie Fitzhenry, Claire Keohane, Eimear Considine, Alison Miller.

POOL A: AUSTRALIA 19 IRELAND 5, Arena Barueri, Sao Paulo
Scorers: Australia: Tries: Gemma Etheridge, Ellia Green, Nicole Beck; Cons: Gemma Etheridge, Nicole Beck
Ireland: Try: Alison Miller

Shannon Houston and Alison Miller came into the Irish starting line-up for match number two, with the girls in green taking on familiar opponents in Australia following their three recent clashes at the Sydney 7s.

Ireland got off to a positive start in the sides’ latest rematch and it took a textbook try-saving tackle from Mahalia Murphy to prevent Miller from going over in the right corner.

Miller had to show her own defensive capabilities when stopping a breakaway from the Australians, but despite an initial fumble, Gemma Etheridge did well to evade Megan Williams’ grasp and run in a fourth minute opener.

The covering Williams could do little as Australia worked an opportunity on the left for speedster Ellia Green and she finished off from 20 metres out, with Etheridge converting for a 12-0 interval scoreline.

Ireland missed a chance to hit back on the resumption as the experienced Houston unfortunately knocked on as they broke dangerously from deep.

The Australian discipline at ruck time was poor, and gradually Ireland got back into scoring range. From an Ashleigh Baxter-won lineout, a series of accurate passes – including a nicely-delayed delivery from Louise Galvin – released Miller on the right and she got away from Murphy to score near the right corner, shipping a high tackle from Nicole Beck in the process.

Lucy Mulhall was narrowly wide with her conversion attempt, leaving it 12-5 with just under two minutes remaining. However, the Dubai leg winners had the final say, profiting from a lost Irish lineout as Green made ground up the left wing before releasing Beck for a try which she converted herself.

Team: Megan Williams, Shannon Houston, Ashleigh Baxter, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Alison Miller, Amee-Leigh Crowe.

Subs: Eimear Considine, Katie Fitzhenry, Louise Galvin, Claire Keohane, Audrey O’Flynn.

POOL A: FIJI 15 IRELAND 7, Arena Barueri, Sao Paulo
Scorers: Fiji: Tries: Luisa Tisolo, Ana Maria Roqica, Rusila Nagasau
Ireland: Try: Lucy Mulhall; Con: Lucy Mulhall

Louis Galvin was turned over on the deck after collecting Lucy Mulhall’s kick-off and despite a tremendous try-saving tackle from Audrey O’Flynn, Fiji managed to work the ball wide to the left where Luisa Tisolo finished neatly with just 50 seconds on the clock.

Ireland struggled for territory until the final minutes of the first half, with a Mulhall penalty kick leading to a series of Fijian infringements in their 22. The Wicklow woman then took advantage of a Fijian defensive lapse, beating the first tackle and stretching over past two covering players just to the left of the posts. Her conversion gave Ireland a 7-5 lead at the break.

Fiji were back in front inside a minute of the restart, though, as their captain Ana Maria Roqica evaded O’Flynn’s tap tackle to dot down in the right corner.

Ireland were still very much in the hunt, trailing by three points with fresh legs on the pitch, and a diagonal burst by Mulhall into the 22 had Fiji under a good deal of pressure.

Unfortunately, Galvin went off her feet at the breakdown and the white shirts worked an overlap on the left with Rusila Nagasau exploiting a gap in midfield to get by O’Flynn and also Stacey Flood’s despairing tackle. Her try went unconverted and eight points was the winning margin.

Team: Audrey O’Flynn, Megan Williams, Ashleigh Baxter, Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Louise Galvin.

Subs: Shannon Houston, Katie Fitzhenry, Claire Keohane, Eimear Considine, Alison Miller.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – Leg 2, Arena Barueri, Sao Paulo, Brazil, February 20-21):

Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Eimear Considine (Talent ID Programme)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Shannon Houston (Blackrock College/Leinster)
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum/Leinster) (capt)
Amee-Leigh Crowe (St. Mary’s College/Munster)
Audrey O’Flynn (Talent ID Programme)
Megan Williams (St. Mary’s College)