The Ireland Women lost their three pool games at the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series leg in Atlanta, but a strong showing in their final outing against Russia will boost confidence levels for tomorrow’s play-offs.
HSBC WORLD RUGBY WOMEN’S SEVENS SERIES – POOL B: Friday, April 8
FRANCE 22 IRELAND 0, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw
Scorers: France: Tries: Caroline Ladagnous 2, Laurelin Fourcade 2; Con: Jade Le Pesq
Ranked fourth coming into the tournament, France gave 12th-placed Ireland a sound beating in this Pool B opener with Caroline Ladagnous and Laurelin Fourcade scoring two tries apiece.
The French physicality was at a high level right from the start, with Audrey O’Flynn tackled hard straight from the kick-off. Thankfully, the former hockey international recovered quickly after a brief spell on the deck.
Stacey Flood and Megan Williams were both prominent as Ireland forced a series of early handling errors from the French, and two terrific try-saving interventions from O’Flynn and captain Lucy Mulhall prevented Ladagnous from scoring wide on the right.
However, France made the breakthrough with 90 seconds left before half-time. Mulhall kicked up to halfway but les Bleues countered impressively with Ladagnous getting past both Mulhall and Flood to score to the left of the posts.
France’s defensive power was evident again when Flood was hammered in a tackle by Marjorie Mayans, turning over possession, and Fourcade broke clear up the left wing for a sucker-punch score past the hooter.
Now leading 10-0, France immediately threatened from the restart, and two minutes into the second half, good movement of the ball and a neat change of direction from Fourcade saw her slip past Mulhall to go in under the posts.
Sene Naoupu, who came on with fellow replacement Hannah Tyrrell, made a nice break on her introduction. Although there was some good build-up play from Ireland, errors in both attack and defence cost them and Ladagnous completed her brace two minutes from the end.
IRELAND: Audrey O’Flynn, Megan Williams, Ashleigh Baxter, Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Alison Miller.
Subs: Katie Fitzhenry, Hannah Tyrrell, Claire Keohane, Sene Naoupu, Kim Flood.
CANADA 29 IRELAND 5, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw
Scorers: Canada: Tries: Bianca Farella 2, Ghislaine Landry, Emmanuela Jada, Charity Williams; Cons: Ghislaine Landry, Kelly Russell
Ireland: Hannah Tyrrell
Ireland faced another highly-ranked side in the second round as they met a Canada team that had run out comfortable 26-5 winners over Russia in their first outing in Atlanta.
Unfortunately for Anthony Eddy’s charges, who gave a first start to World Series newcomer Kim Flood, they were 19-0 in arrears by the interval. Canada preyed on Irish errors and were ultra clinical when in scoring range.
The clock showed two minutes when Kelly Russell made the hard yards up the left wing, offloading in good time for the pacey Bianca Farella to finish off out wide for a 5-0 lead.
Canadian captain Jen Kish won the restart impressively and after Stacey Flood was turned over five metres out, a neat necklace of passes put Farrella in under the posts.
Ireland were playing into Canada’s hands at times. Strong tackling from Naoupu and O’Flynn kept the pool leaders out until Ghislaine Landry scampered through for a superbly-taken solo try which Russell converted for a 19-0 scoreline.
A couple of handling errors from Megan Williams invited third-ranked Canada forward early in the second period, and they used scrum ball to send Emmanuela Jada over in the left corner for her first World Series try.
As the Irish defence came under further pressure, Alison Miller did just enough to prevent Jada from getting over the line again, covering very well to bring down the strong-running winger just metres out.
Ireland’s error count increased as Mulhall knocked on a poor pass from Katie Fitzhenry in her 22. Canada duly turned their newly-won possession into points, working the ball out to the right and then the left where Charity Williams got over past Miller, who lacked sufficient support from her team-mates inside her.
Ireland did at least get a consolation score in the final play, their persistence paying off as replacement Claire Keohane took a quick tap and sent Tyrrell through a gap to score from just outside the 22 – 29-5.
IRELAND: Audrey O’Flynn, Sene Naoupu, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Kim Flood, Hannah Tyrrell, Alison Miller.
Subs: Megan Williams, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Claire Keohane.
RUSSIA 10 IRELAND 7, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw
Scorers: Russia: Tries: Elena Zdrokova 2
Ireland: Try: Hannah Tyrrell; Con: Lucy Mulhall
With both sides chasing their first win, it was all to play for in this tight final round encounter played at the Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw.
Sixth-ranked Russia had beaten Ireland 15-0 in the Bowl competition in Sao Paulo and were determined to stay on top in the match-up, especially with the Olympic Repechage tournament now only 11 weeks away.
It was Ireland who made the stronger start, though, as Kim Flood won Mulhall’s kick-off to set up an early spell of attacking pressure from the girls in green.
The Railway Union ace soon threatened in the Russian 22, however Ireland were unable to open their scoring account despite O’Flynn and Miller both going close on opposite wings.
From a subsequent scrum, O’Flynn attacked and lost the ball forward and the Russians countered in ruthless fashion to conjure up a fourth minute try.
Maria Perestiak broke from her own half and linked with Elena Zdrokova who darted through to score an unconverted effort. Russia gave very little away in defence, tackling aggressively and winning the breakdown battle at key stages.
Ireland pressed again either side of half-time, with Kim Flood looking the part and Miller working hard in contact. Yet, Russia won two ruck penalties to lift the pressure.
Crucially, after absorbing what Ireland could throw at them, Zdrokova got her legs pumping to race clear of Amee-Leigh Crowe wide on the right and beat the covering Stacey Flood for her second five-pointer of the match.
Still, Ireland were far from finished and Ashleigh Baxter’s powerful burst over halfway sparked some of the team’s best interplay of the day.
Naoupu, in particular, injected some much-needed accuracy and pace into the Irish attack, and she ran hard at the Russian defensive line before popping an excellent offload to Tyrrell who finished off from close range. There was still time for Mulhall to convert the try and the restart to the taken, but time soon ran out on Ireland’s spirited late comeback.
Eddy’s side will compete in the Bowl semi-finals tomorrow having finished bottom of Pool B, with fellow Olympic Repechage competitors, Spain, providing the opposition at 2.20pm local time/7.20pm Irish time. Colombia and Japan meet in the other semi-final.
IRELAND: Audrey O’Flynn, Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Ashleigh Baxter, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Kim Flood, Alison Miller.
Subs: Sene Naoupu, Megan Williams, Katie Fitzhenry, Claire Keohane, Hannah Tyrrell.
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, Atlanta, Georgia):
Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Kim Flood (Railway Union/Leinster) *
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum/Leinster) (capt)
Amee-Leigh Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Sene Naoupu (Galwegians/Connacht)
Audrey O’Flynn (Talent ID Programme)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Megan Williams (St. Mary’s)
* Denotes uncapped Sevens international player
MATCH SCHEDULE –
Saturday, April 9:
Bowl Semi-Final: Spain v Ireland, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, 2.20pm local time/7.20pm Irish time