It was a case of ‘job well done’ for the Ireland Women’s Sevens team after they topped their pool on the opening day of the Olympic Repechage at UCD. Anthony Eddy’s side defeated Trinidad & Tobago (51-0), Portugal (24-12) and China (12-0).
Cheered on by a lively home crowd, Ireland’s three wins saw them qualify for tomorrow’s Cup quarter-finals where they will play Tunisia at 11.50am, with the winners advancing to meet either Russia or Argentina.
The girls in green ran in 15 tries and conceded two during the pool stages, four of them scored by Alison Miller in their runaway opening triumph over Trinidad & Tobago. But Amee-Leigh Crowe finished as their top try scorer with six touchdowns overall.
Ireland’s quarter-final opponents Tunisia finished second in Pool B behind Spain, who scored 19 tries without reply. Top seeds Russia also had an impressive 26-try passage through to the last-eight, hammering Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Samoa along the way.
Pool D winners Kazakhstan are the fourth unbeaten side after day 1 at the UCD Bowl. They, along with the aforementioned teams and Samoa and China, still have a shot at claiming the final qualifying spot for Rio.
Tickets for day 2 are available from www.ticketmaster.ie/sevens or at the stadium tomorrow. World Rugby will also have a live stream of all the action as it happens.
WORLD RUGBY OLYMPIC WOMEN’S SEVENS REPECHAGE – POOL C:
IRELAND 51 TRINIDAD & TOBAGO 0, UCD Bowl
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Alison Miller 4, Megan Williams, Niamh Briggs, Amee-Leigh Crowe 2, Audrey O’Flynn; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2, Kim Flood
Trinidad & Tobago: –
The Ireland Women began the pool stages in impressive fashion, dishing out a nine-try 51-0 thrashing to an overwhelmed Trinidad & Tobago side.
The ScarleTTs struggled to get out of their own half such was the aggressive defending and line speed of the tournament hosts, who cantered into a 29-0 half-time lead.
Portlaoise flyer Alison Miller bagged a six-minute hat-trick, using a trademark hand-off and burst of speed to open the scoring after a minute-and-a-half.
She repeated the trick in the third minute, shrugging off the covering Apphia Glasgow. Captain Lucy Mulhall, who ran incisively off a scrum in the build-up, converted for 12-0.
Miller swapped wings to pop up on the left and run in her third try, with Mulhall providing a crisp scoring pass, and a quick turnover of possession allowed Ashleigh Baxter to put Megan Williams over for Ireland’s fourth of the day.
Trinidad & Tobago had no answer to Miller’s prolific form out wide, with the 15s winger dribbling a Mulhall kick over the try-line to complete her 20-point haul past the hooter.
Ireland tagged on four more tries after the break, with Niamh Briggs becoming increasingly influential. The Waterford woman picked up loose possession and broke clear over halfway to make it 34-0.
Then Briggs won a turnover and took a quick tap penalty, as passes out to the right freed up Amee-Leigh Crowe to run in her first try of the Olympic Repechage.
Fellow replacement Audrey O’Flynn got on the scoresheet too, stepping in off her left to slice through a gap in midfield and go in under the posts for Kim Flood to convert.
Another turnover cost Trinidad & Tobago in the final minutes as Briggs and Nicole Cronin combined to good effect, and Crowe turned on the gas to raid in from the right and get Ireland past the half-century mark.
IRELAND: Niamh Briggs, Megan Williams, Ashleigh Baxter, Nicole Cronin, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Louise Galvin, Alison Miller.
Subs: Audrey O’Flynn, Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Aoife Doyle, Kim Flood.
IRELAND 24 PORTUGAL 12, UCD Bowl
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Crowe 2, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2
Portugal: Tries: Isabel Ozorio, Arlete Goncalves; Con: Isabel Ozorio
Ireland had a much stiffer challenge to negotiate in the second round as Portugal tested them throughout this finely-balanced game.
Portuguese captain Isabel Ozorio helped her side take an early lead, Audrey O’Flynn managing to tackle Sara Jessica Silva short of the try-line before Ozorio was up in support to score off the subsequent ruck.
Loose passing midfield was creating problems for Ireland but, with five minutes on the clock, Stacey Flood intelligently straightened up the attack and passed back inside for Crowe to spring through a gap and score to the left of the posts.
That try, converted by Lucy Mulhall, lifted Ireland’s game and they went further in front when Flood crossed wide on the left, profiting from Megan Williams’ initial turnover and accurating passing from O’Flynn and Ashleigh Baxter.
The gap was out to 17-5 by half-time, the Irish adding a third try past the hooter as Mulhall dangled an excellent kick towards the right corner and Crowe outpaced the cover to reach the bouncing ball first.
Portugal hung in there and scored early on the resumption, as they had done in the first half. Ireland were caught for numbers on the right and a nice sidestepping break from Silva played in Arlete Goncalves for a converted effort.
However, the 15-a-side experience of Niamh Briggs helped Ireland wrestle back control. Coming on for O’Flynn, she was a key cog in a purposeful left wing attack, linking with Baxter up into the 22, and Mulhall seized the opportunity to break off the back of the ruck and cross close to the posts.
IRELAND: Ashleigh Baxter, Megan Williams, Audrey O’Flynn, Aoife Doyle, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt).
Subs: Niamh Briggs, Nicole Cronin, Alison Miller, Louise Galvin, Kim Flood.
IRELAND 12 CHINA 0, UCD Bowl
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Crowe 2; Con: Lucy Mulhall
Another brace of tries from the in-form Amee-Leigh Crowe saw Ireland end the opening day with a 100% record and top spot in Pool C.
China had a lot of early possession but a combination of well-timed tackling and strong work at the breakdown saw the girls in green pin them back in their own half.
Indeed, Ireland struck for their first try with three minutes on the clock, using the lineout as a platform after a well-won ruck penalty. Stacey Flood passed for Crowe to go over in the right corner.
The second touchdown arrived barely a minute later and was engineered by some brilliant interplay between Flood and Lucy Mulhall in midfield. The latter’s flipped pass – before she was tackled – released the speedy Crowe for a run straight in under the posts, with Mulhall converting.
The second half was scoreless throughout, the counter-rucking skills of Ashleigh Baxter continuing to frustrate China and Crowe threatening on a couple of occasions as a broken-field runner. Stacey Flood also drew plaudits for winning another ruck penalty to break up a threatening Chinese attack.
Niamh Briggs, Nicole Cronin and Alison Miller came on for the closing stages, helping Ireland to see out the result. They had a decent chance to add to their lead, moving the Chinese to the right and left with improved width, before a Crowe knock-on brought the move to an end.
IRELAND: Ashleigh Baxter, Megan Williams, Kim Flood, Aoife Doyle, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Kim Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt).
Subs: Niamh Briggs, Nicole Cronin, Alison Miller, Louise Galvin, Audrey O’Flynn.
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (World Rugby Women’s Sevens Olympic Repechage, UCD Bowl, Saturday, June 25-Sunday, June 26):
Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Nicole Cronin (Shannon/Munster)
Aoife Doyle (Shannon/Munster)
Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Kim Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum/Leinster) (capt)
Amee-Leigh Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Audrey O’Flynn (Talent ID Programme)
Megan Williams (St. Mary’s)
WOMEN’S SEVENS OLYMPIC REPECHAGE – IRELAND SCHEDULE:
Saturday, June 25 –
IRELAND 51 Trinidad & Tobago 0
IRELAND 24 Portugal 12
IRELAND 12 China 0
Sunday, June 26 –
Cup Quarter-Finals –
Russia v Argentina, 11.28am
IRELAND v Tunisia, 11.50am
Kazakhstan v Samoa, 12.12pm
Spain v China, 12.34pm