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Ireland Women Retain Sevens World Series Place

Ireland Women Retain Sevens World Series Place

The Ireland Women went from the disappointment of missing out on Olympic qualification to the joy of securing their World Series status for next season, as the World Rugby Olympic Sevens Repechage came to a thrilling close at UCD.

Ireland won five of their six matches over the weekend, with top seeds Russia the team to trip them up at the semi-final stage and end their hopes of reaching Rio.

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But Anthony Eddy’s side bounced back just a couple of hours later with a crucial 17-5 victory over Kazakhstan in the Bronze final which was effectively a shoot-out for a 2016/17 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series place.

Retaining their World Series core team status is vital for the development of the Irish squad. Seven of players who competed in UCD are aged between 20 and 24, so the future certainly looks bright for the ever-improving girls in green.

Spain and Russia, who had both finished ahead of Ireland in this season’s World Series, contested the Cup final where playmaker Patricia Garcia inspired las Leonas to a memorable 19-12 success which booked their Olympic berth.

Tipperary speedster Amee-Leigh Crowe, who is just 20, was Ireland’s joint-top try scorer along with 2013 Grand Slam heroine Alison Miller – the pair scored seven tries each over the two days.

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World Rugby Women’s Sevens Olympic Repechage – Results

WORLD RUGBY WOMEN’S SEVENS OLYMPIC REPECHAGE:

CUP QUARTER-FINAL:
 
IRELAND 38 TUNISIA 0, UCD Bowl
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Lucy Mulhall, Ashleigh Baxter, Alison Miller 2, Nicole Cronin, Stacey Flood; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 3, Kim Flood
Tunisia: –

 
Ireland enjoyed an ultimately comfortable passage through to the semi-finals, with a four-try second half salvo ending Tunisia’s challenge.
 
The tournament hosts started confidently in the wet underfoot conditions, however an awkward fall as she broke out of a tackle saw Niamh Briggs hobble off with a knee injury.
 
They regrouped to hit the front in the fourth minute, Ashleigh Baxter and Nicole Cronin supplying quick ruck ball for captain Lucy Mulhall to hare through a gap and score a seven-pointer just to the right of the posts.
 
There were some missed opportunities – Baxter was tackled into touch and Louise Galvin threw a bad pass after her initial outside break – before some aggressive defending off a five-metre Tunisian scrum saw Baxter dive on a loose pass to touch down.


 
Mulhall’s conversion made it 14-0 for half-time and her quick tap set the wheels in motion for Alison Miller to sprint clear and swiftly open the scoring in the second half.
 
The same two players were involved in the build-up to Cronin’s ninth-minute try, Miller contesting Mulhall’s well-weighted kick through and the Limerick youngster gobbled up the breaking ball to score, leaving Tunisia trailing by 26 points.


 
Ireland kept hunting for scores in the final minutes and tagged on two more, Stacey Flood cruising clear in impressive fashion from a quick tap and Miller completed her brace by showing a clean pair of heels to two covering defenders.
 
IRELAND: Niamh Briggs, Megan Williams, Kim Flood, Nicole Cronin, Alison Miller, Louise Galvin, Lucy Mulhall (capt).
 
Subs: Ashleigh Baxter, Aoife Doyle, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Stacey Flood, Audrey O’Flynn.
 
CUP SEMI-FINAL:
 
RUSSIA 19 IRELAND 10, UCD Bowl
Scorers: Russia: Tries: Iulia Guzeva, Ekaterina Kazakova, Elena Zdrokova; Cons: Daria Lushina 2
Ireland: Tries: Aoife Doyle, Alison Miller

 
It was all or nothing for both teams in this high-octane semi-final, with the high stakes of Olympic qualification and the boisterous crowd producing a fervent atmosphere.
 
Megan Williams set the tone by winning Lucy Mulhall’s kick-off and then getting a big tackle in on the formidable Baizat Khamidova, amid a frantic opening spell.


 
Ireland made promising strides to get out of their own half, but Russia edged ahead thanks to Iulia Guzeva’s quick tap in the Irish 22 and neat run to the line.
 
Amee-Leigh Crowe was well marshalled on the left wing before a Williams-won lineout saw Mulhall feed Aoife Doyle and she took off brilliantly, aided by a strong hand-off, to bring Ireland level at five-all.
 
However, the Russians answered back just past the half-time hooter, working an opportunity for Ekaterina Kazakova to streak clear from halfway with Daria Lushina converting for 12-5.
 
Ireland pressed from a Williams kick over the top in a tense start to the second period, however a second breakaway score for Russia – this time from Elena Zdrokova – tightened their grip on the game.
 
Khamidova saw yellow for a high tackle on the advancing Nicole Cronin, though, and good width from Ireland via passes from Mulhall, Cronin and Louise Galvin released Alison Miller for a try wide on the left.


 
Unfortunately Mulhall’s conversion attempt, with just a minute left, missed on the near side, and Russia held on to end Ireland’s hopes of making Rio.
 
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.
 
BRONZE FINAL:
 
IRELAND 17 KAZAKHSTAN 5, UCD Bowl
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Aoife Doyle 2, Amee-Leigh Crowe; Con: Lucy Mulhall
Kazakhstan: Try: Alina Askerova

 
Having missed out on Olympic qualification just two hours earlier, Ireland bounced back to defeat Kazakhstan and retain their World Series core team status for next season.
 
An early try from Amee-Leigh Crowe – her seventh of the tournament – set Anthony Eddy’s charges on their way, with Megan Williams and Lucy Mulhall combining to release the Munster-capped back up the right wing.


 
Crowe and Williams were both prominent in the build-up to Aoife Doyle’s third-minute try. With Audrey O’Flynn’s presence drawing in a covering defender, the 21-year-old from Limerick sliced through over halfway and finished neatly to the left of the posts.


 
The Mulhall-converted try was cancelled out by the Kazakhs in the sixth minute, as strong counter-rucking secured turnover ball and Alina Askerova was teed up to score out wide.
 
Ireland’s response was decisive, though, with Doyle going over past the half-time hooter, profiting for a superb skip pass from Mulhall.
 
17-5 is how it remained throughout a scoreless second half, dogged defending from Crowe and Doyle thwarting an early Kazakh surge and the ruck ‘smarts’ of Ashleigh Baxter and the returning Niamh Briggs seeing Ireland home.
 
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 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 RESULTS:

Saturday, June 25 –

Pool C:

IRELAND 51 Trinidad & Tobago 0
IRELAND 24 Portugal 12
IRELAND 12 China 0

Sunday, June 26 –

Play-Offs –

Cup Quarter-Final: IRELAND 38 Tunisia 0

Cup Semi-Final: Russia 19 IRELAND 10

Bronze Final: IRELAND 17 Kazakhstan 5