The Ireland Women finished fourth at the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series in Kazan, Russia today – an improvement of one place from last year’s tournament.
Ireland ended the weekend with a tally of three wins and three defeats, overcoming close rivals Spain 19-10 in this morning’s Cup quarter-final before losing out to eventual champions France (28-12) and Great Britain’s first team (32-0). Alison Miller (five tries) finished as the joint-second top try scorer of the twelve competing teams.
It was the girls in green’s final outing before hosting the all-important Women’s Global Olympic Qualifying tournament at the UCD Bowl on June 25-26 – tickets for which are available here from Ticketmaster.
The second leg of the European Grand Prix Series will take place after the Olympics, in Malemort (Brive) on September 24-25.
RUGBY EUROPE WOMEN’S SEVENS GRAND PRIX SERIES:
KAZAN FINAL POSITIONS –
1. France (Cup champions) (20 series points)
2. Russia (18 points)
3. Great Britain Lions (16 points)
4. IRELAND (14 points)
5. Great Britain Royals (Plate champions) (12 points)
6. Spain (10 points)
7. Netherlands (8 points)
8. Portugal (6 points)
9. Italy (Bowl champions) (4 points)
10. Belgium (3 points)
11. Ukraine (2 points)
12. Finland (1 point)
IRELAND 19 SPAIN 10, Central Stadium, Kazan
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Alison Miller 2, Louise Galvin; Con: Lucy Mulhall
Spain: Tries: Barbara Pla, Amaia Erbina
Alison Miller touched down twice and Louise Galvin also got on the scoresheet as Ireland overcame a weakened Spanish side to reach the Cup semi-finals.
Spain were missing several of their big names as preparations continue for the upcoming World Rugby Olympic Sevens Repechage event in Dublin in two weeks’ time.
Anthony Eddy’s charges dominated possession for the first four minutes, gradually wearing down the defence for Miller to cross in the right corner following a crisp move off a lineout and a final pass from captain Lucy Mulhall.
Spain were quick to respond, a couple of missed tackle on the left exposing the Irish defence and allowing Barbara Pla to finish in impressive fashion, levelling the tie at five-all.
But Ireland upped the tempo and retook the lead (12-5) for half-time. A quick tap penalty from Mulhall had Spain under pressure and a lovely switch between Stacey Flood and Miller saw the Portlaoise flyer come in off the left wing to power through a couple of tackles and touch down by the posts, with Mulhall converting.
Galvin and Shannon Houston were introduced on the restart, however Ireland were on the defensive as a forward pass and tenacious Spanish tackling forced them back to their own try-line.
The margin was down to just two points after Spain used a five-metre scrum to send Amaia Erbina stepping inside Kim Flood’s attempted tackle, wide on the left, to score from close range.
A terrific individual run from Miller saw her hoover up the metres and bring Ireland back into scoring range, but she lacked support and the ball was subsequently knocked on.
Ireland managed to squeeze the space, though, and force Spain to concede a penalty behind their whitewash and the pressure eventually told, Galvin timing her run nicely to collect Mulhall’s pass out of a tackle and claim the clinching try which her skipper converted.
IRELAND: Stacey Flood, Megan Williams, Ashleigh Baxter, Aoife Doyle, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Kim Flood, Alison Miller.
Subs: Shannon Houston, Niamh Briggs, Nicole Cronin, Hannah Tyrrell, Louise Galvin.
FRANCE 28 IRELAND 12, Central Stadium, Kazan
Scorers: France: Tries: Shannon Izar, Camille Grassineau, Fanny Horta, Jennifer Troncy; Cons: Shannon Izar 2, Pauline Biscarat 2
Ireland: Tries: Lucy Mulhall, Megan Williams; Con: Lucy Mulhall
Ireland were outscored by four tries to two by France but gave a very good account of themselves in this Cup semi-final clash in Kazan.
There was little over a minute on the clock when poor Irish defending allowed Shannon Izar clean through on an arcing run to the try-line, with the conversion quickly added.
Louise Galvin and Ashleigh Baxter led Ireland’s response, breaking into the French half for the first time, but les Bleues continue to threaten off limited possession with Megan Williams having to react smartly to tackle Laurelin Fourcade into touch.
But Ireland made it far too easy for their Rio-bound opponents when Christelle Le Duff tapped a penalty and looked to the blindside to send Camille Grassineau over by the left corner flag. Izar bagged a brilliant conversion from the touchline.
Ireland showed a timely improvement in their attacking play approaching half-time, as Galvin and Niamh Briggs began to find some gaps. Lucy Mulhall caught the French out with an excellent chip over the top and show of place to win the race to the touchdown.
The Irish captain’s converted effort closed the gap to 14-7 and there were just two points between the sides after Williams burst clear up the right touchline early in the second half, profiting from a terrific ruck poach by Briggs.
The difficult conversion was missed by Mulhall and Ireland were suddenly on top, pressing deep in the French half with Miller agonisingly stopped just short of the line.
For all of Ireland’s pressure, France’s defence was particularly solid and their attack was equally effective late on. With a minute-and-a-half left, Fanny Horta took advantage of a missed tackle by Kim Flood to sprint clear and make the game safe. A fourth converted try followed from Jennifer Troncy to give a flattering look to the final scoreline.
IRELAND: Niamh Briggs, Megan Williams, Nicole Cronin, Ashleigh Baxter, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Louise Galvin, Alison Miller.
Subs: Shannon Houston, Stacey Flood, Hannah Tyrrell, Aoife Doyle, Kim Flood.
GREAT BRITAIN LIONS 32 IRELAND 0, Central Stadium, Kazan
Scorers: Great Britain 1: Tries: Victoria Fleetwood 2, Abigail Brown, Claire Allan, Joanne Watmore 2; Con: Sarah Mckenna
Despite plenty of endeavour, Ireland leaked four tries in the second half as Great Britain’s first team ran out convincing 32-point winners of this 3rd/4th place play-off.
A good opening spell from Ireland was undone midway through the first period when Victoria Fleetwood got away from the covering Megan Williams to score after a GB penalty back near halfway.
The British side doubled their lead to 10-0 just before half-time, as the Irish defence was sucked in close to their posts and the ball was spun wide for Abigail Brown to cross the whitewash near the left corner.
Hannah Tyrrell had threatened to respond in between those first half tries, making a promising run up the right touchline before she was hauled down short of the 22.
But the GB Lions quickly extended their lead on the restart, some accurate passing across the line and a final burst of pace seeing Claire Allan go over on the right.
Tired bodies were now an issue and with Alison Miller, Nicole Cronin and Louise Galvin not togging out for the final match, it was all hands to the pump for the remaining nine Irish players.
Fleetwood completed her brace in the closing minutes and a try double from Joanne Watmore followed as Ireland lost Aoife Doyle to a knock and had to see out the game with six players on the pitch.
IRELAND: Shannon Houston, Niamh Briggs, Stacey Flood, Megan Williams, Hannah Tyrrell, Aoife Doyle, Kim Flood.
Subs: Ashleigh Baxter, Lucy Mulhall (capt).
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2016 Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series, Kazan, Russia, Saturday, June 11-Sunday, June 12):
Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Nicole Cronin (Shannon/Munster)
Aoife Doyle (Railway Union/Munster)
Kim Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Shannon Houston (Blackrock/Leinster)
Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum/Leinster) (capt)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Megan Williams (St. Mary’s)
Match Results –
Saturday, June 11
Ireland 31 Italy 0
Ireland 12 Belgium 7
Russia 29 Ireland 5
Sunday, June 12
Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland 19 Spain 10
Cup Semi-Final: France 28 Ireland 12
3rd/4th Place Play-Off: Great Britain Lions 32 Ireland 0