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Ireland Women Are Crowned Bowl Champions In Atlanta

Ireland Women Are Crowned Bowl Champions In Atlanta

The Ireland Women made it back-to-back wins in the Atlanta Sevens play-offs as they overcame Japan 26-15 to lift the Bowl title and pick up four HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series points.

The girls in green, who finished 12th in the earlier legs in Dubai and Sao Paulo, claimed ninth spot with a terrific final day at Kennesaw’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

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As well as securing four World Series points, today’s results saw Ireland lay down a significant marker as they defeated two higher-ranked teams – Spain, one of their main opponents in June’s Olympic Repechage tournament in UCD, and Japan, who beat Ireland in the final of last year’s World Series qualifying competition at Belfield.

Anthony Eddy’s well-drilled squad will be aiming to back up these impressive performances in the fourth leg of the World Series in Langford, Canada next weekend (April 16-17).

HSBC WORLD RUGBY WOMEN’S SEVENS SERIES – BOWL SEMI-FINAL: Saturday, April 9

SPAIN 5 IRELAND 17, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw
Scorers: Spain: Try: Teresa Bueso Gonez
Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Crowe 2, Lucy Mulhall; Con: Lucy Mulhall

Amee-Leigh Crowe touched down twice in the Bowl semi-final as Ireland hit the ground running on day two of the Atlanta Sevens.

It was a statement of intent from Eddy’s side who are likely to renew rivalries with Spain in the all-important Olympic Repechage this summer.

The Spanish actually took an early lead, working the ball down the short side with Iera Echebarria Fernandez twice cutting in neatly off the left wing. It was Teresa Bueso Gonez who got over for the third minute try, profiting from Vanesa Rial’s timely offload. Patricia Garcia failed to convert from far out on the left.

However, Ireland built serious momentum in the lead up to half-time. By the five-minute mark, they were level after Crowe crossed to the left of the posts.

Sene Naoupu drew in the defenders and supported Audrey O’Flynn’s strong carry in the build-up, and then Stacey Flood’s quick tap into the Spanish 22 enabled Ireland to use the numbers out on the left.

Captain Lucy Mulhall, who missed the conversion, was next over the try-line. Ireland kept pressing past the hooter, using another quickly-taken penalty to put Spain on the back foot, and a clever switch of direction from new cap Kim Flood allowed Mulhall to step in off her left and reach over the line.

Ireland continued to dictate play into the second half, O’Flynn producing a textbook tackle on Berta Garcia to shut down a threatening Spanish move.

Crowe completed her brace in the 10th minute, showing excellent pace to beat the covering defender and score following a superb initial surge over halfway by Megan Williams and precise passing from both Naoupu and Mulhall.

The Ireland skipper split the posts with the difficult left-sided conversion. That gave the girls in green a 12-point cushion and Spain were unable to threaten over the remaining minutes.

Ireland were confident and controlled in possession, with the powerful O’Flynn making the hard yards in contact and Mulhall, Crowe and Naoupu all prominent as they wrapped up their first win of the weekend.

IRELAND: Audrey O’Flynn, Sene Naoupu, Stacey Flood, Megan Williams, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Kim Flood.

Subs: Katie Fitzhenry, Claire Keohane, Alison Miller, Hannah Tyrrell.

BOWL FINAL:

IRELAND 26 JAPAN 15, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, Kennesaw
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Sene Naoupu, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Audrey O’Flynn, Lucy Mulhall; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 3
Japan: Tries: Mio Yamanaka, Ano Kuwai, Kana Mitsugi

Ireland fielded an unchanged team for the Bowl decider, with Ashleigh Baxter unfortunately ruled out of day two through injury. Just like the Spain game, Eddy’s charges fell behind to an early try. However, they recovered well from the setback and really seized the initiative close to half-time.

Mio Yamanaka’s second-minute effort was a wake-up call for Ireland who hit the front for the first time in the fifth minute, as the increasingly influential Naoupu went in under the posts.

Crowe had blown an early try-scoring opportunity, but Mulhall put in a well-timed tackle just five metres out and Naoupu ripped the ball free to run in her opportunist seven-pointer.

Poor Irish defence around the fringes allowed Japan to eat up the yards via a series of darting runs and dummies, and a nice looping offload put Ano Kuwai through for their second try.

Importantly, Ireland managed to retake the lead after the hooter – and even with Kim Flood in the sin-bin for a high tackle. Good vision from Naoupu and Mulhall gave Crowe a chance to burn off a defender on a classic blindside break, making it 12-10.

Japan came out strongly on the resumption, only for some determined defending from Mulhall and Williams to force a relieving penalty in the Irish 22.

They quickly went on the attack off lineout ball as Naoupu broke up towards halfway, and after some nice linking by Mulhall, Williams got her pass away on a two-on-one overlap as O’Flynn, who had a tremendous tournament, raided in from the right and dotted down behind the posts.

Mulhall added the extras and the silverware was in Ireland’s grasp after the Wicklow woman darted clean through midfield from the Japanese 10-metre line, gobbling up Stacey Flood’s inviting pass and accelerating away to sign off with a seven-pointer.

The hard-working Japanese side hit back with a late consolation score from Kana Mitsugi, but it did not take the gloss off a fully deserved four-try victory for Ireland.

They matched the feat of the 2013/14 Irish squad, who picked up a World Series Bowl title in Guangzhou, China exactly two years ago. Crowe, Williams, Claire Keohane and Katie Fitzhenry were part of that side.

IRELAND: Audrey O’Flynn, Sene Naoupu, Stacey Flood, Megan Williams, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Kim Flood.

Subs: Katie Fitzhenry, Claire Keohane, Hannah Tyrrell, Alison Miller.

Atlanta Sevens – Full Results

Atlanta Sevens – Day 1 Round-Up

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