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Bronze Medal Joy For Ireland U-18 Sevens Girls

Bronze Medal Joy For Ireland U-18 Sevens Girls

The Combined Provinces Under-18 Girls Sevens squad secured Ireland’s best ever finish at the UK School Games over the weekend in Loughborough, coming home with well-deserved bronze medals after winning four of their six fixtures.

Guided by IRFU Sevens development coach Stan McDowell, the young Ireland side reached the Cup semi-finals for the first time and then edged out England South West 14-10 in Sunday’s titanic Bronze final.

Portlaoise speedster Eimear Corri, one of only two returning players from last year’s squad, topped the try-scoring charts with six touchdowns, while the fleet-footed Megan Burns (one of our #GiveItATry players from Tullamore), Katie Heffernan and Anna Doyle also shone in attack.

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Textbook tackling and resilient defending were the bedrock of Ireland’s progression through the pool stages on Friday and Saturday, with the likes of Ellie Rix, Enya Breen and Bethany McDowell typifying the team’s determination to keep the opposition out.

The girls have been part of a wider Girls Sevens squad that is preparing for the Rugby Europe tournament in Vichy, France which takes place this coming weekend (September 10-11).

The Irish girls opened the UK School Games at Loughborough University with a hard-fought 22-19 victory over England South West. Corri scored a try inside two minutes, going clear up the right wing with a first burst of pace. Burns converted.

Great defence kept England South West pinned back in their own half, and lovely feet on a brilliant diagonal run saw Heffernan cross just before half-time.

Ireland were almost through for a third try, but a foot in touch denied the fast-breaking Burns. The early part of the second half was all England South West, with back-to-back tries squaring things up at 12-all.

Another superb run from deep by Corri saw Ireland hit back to make it 17-12. Heffernan then picked up scrappy scrum ball and weaved away from a couple of defenders to go over wide on the right, with just over a minute left. England South West responded with their third try, but Ireland had done enough to deserve the three-point victory.

McDowell’s charges began day 2 with a 24-15 defeat to England Midlands whose neat interplay and passing saw them establish an early lead. A very well-taken solo try from Burns was Ireland’s lone score of the first half as they trailed 17-5 at the turnaround.

Corri blitzed up the left wing to make it a seven-point game and Ireland increased the pressure further with Burns’ second effort of this round 2 clash, benefiting from Heffernan’s high quality pass in the build-up which took out two defenders. Despite some sterling work in defence from the likes of Enniskillen’s Rix, the English side had the final say with Jess Weaver grabbing the clinching try in the final seconds.

Ireland bounced back with a very impressive 20-0 victory over Wales West in their next outing. Backed by the wind in the first half, they led 5-0 at the interval thanks to a opportunist score from Burns as she forced a turnover and hacked through to dot down near the right corner.

Another arcing run from Corri – right from her own 22 – saw Ireland double their lead before Tullow’s Anna Doyle picked off a terrific brace of tries. Typifying their unyielding defence, it was Doyle’s interception that broke up a threatening Welsh attack and she was first up to support Emily Lane’s break and then evade two defenders on her way to the posts. She completed the scoring in the final minute, racing clear on the right after an initial midfield bust by the hard-working Heffernan.

Into the knockout stages, Ireland won their quarter-final encounter with Wales East, taking a 26-15 verdict under the floodlights on Saturday night. Coming back from leaking an early try, a high work-rate in attack led to Brittany Hogan darting over in the left corner after good work from Lane, Heffernan and Burns, who left-footed a cracking conversion.

A Carly Jones try saw the Welsh lead 10-7 at half-time, but Ireland held the edge in the second period, outscoring their opponents by 19 points to five. Corri, who did brilliantly to hold up a Welsh player before the break, showed her attacking class again with a trademark long range try.

Burns tagged on a tremendous conversion for 14-10 and then turned try scorer, retrieving a kick on her own 10-metre line and sprinting clear of three Welsh players for one of the scores of the tournament. In an exciting finale, Wales East brought the deficit back to 19-15 before the pacy Doyle – sidestepping clear on an epic 80-metre run to the line – sealed Ireland’s passage through to the last-four.

The semi-final saw eventual champions England South East prove too strong, however, as a run of second half tries gave them a 29-12 success.

Ireland’s two tries came in the opening sevens minutes – a magnificent try from her own 10-metre line by Burns, who was freed up by a deft pass from Corri, and the latter, a Leinster Under-18 regular, then sped clear up the left touchline for her sixth touchdown of the competition.

Ireland’s final game saw them take on England South West in the bronze medal decider, with an early Doyle try setting them on their way to a 14-10 triumph. Strong tackling and harrying from Rix forced a hurried clearance and from the lineout, some lovely midfield interplay between Burns and Heffernan allowed Doyle the space to slice through from wide out on the left.

The strong-carrying McDowell and Rix led the Irish charge on the resumption as they tried to extend their 7-5 interval lead, and Heffernan’s 11th-minute effort – expertly converted from the right by Burns – was enough to seal a very well-merited fourth win in three days.

Full replays of the girls’ matches from days 1, 2 and 3 at the 2016 UK School Games in Loughborough can be viewed here.

IRELAND U-18 COMBINED PROVINCES SQUAD – 2016 UK SCHOOL GAMES RUGBY SEVENS:

Claire Boles (Enniskillen RFC/Ulster)
Enya Breen (Bantry Bay RFC/Munster)
Megan Burns (Tullamore RFC/Leinster)
Eimear Corri (Portlaoise RFC/Leinster)
Anna Doyle (Tullow RFC/Leinster)
Katie Heffernan (Mullingar RFC/Leinster)
Brittany Hogan (Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster)
Ellie Ingram (Enniskillen RFC/Ulster)
Emily Lane (Mallow RFC/Munster)
Bethany McDowell (Malone RFC/Ulster)
Aoife O’Shaughnessy (Rockwell College/Munster)
Ellie Rix (Enniskillen RFC/Ulster)

IRELAND U-18 COMBINED PROVINCES’ RESULTS – 2016 UK SCHOOL GAMES RUGBY SEVENS:

POOL B –

ENGLAND SOUTH WEST 19 IRELAND COMBINED PROVINCES 22, Loughborough University
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Eimear Corri 2, Katie Heffernan 2; Con: Megan Burns

IRELAND COMBINED PROVINCES 15 ENGLAND MIDLANDS 24, Loughborough University
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Megan Burns 2, Eimear Corri

WALES WEST 0 IRELAND COMBINED PROVINCES 20, Loughborough University
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Megan Burns, Eimear Corri, Anna Doyle 2

CUP QUARTER-FINAL –

IRELAND COMBINED PROVINCES 26 WALES EAST 15, Loughborough University
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Brittany Hogan, Eimear Corri, Megan Burns, Anna Doyle; Cons: Megan Burns 3

CUP SEMI-FINAL –

ENGLAND SOUTH EAST 29 IRELAND COMBINED PROVINCES 12, Loughborough University
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Megan Burns, Eimear Corri; Con: Megan Burns

BRONZE FINAL –

ENGLAND SOUTH WEST 10 IRELAND COMBINED PROVINCES 14, Loughborough University
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Anna Doyle, Katie Heffernan; Cons: Megan Burns 2