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Ireland Women Finish Third Overall In European Sevens

Ireland Women Finish Third Overall In European Sevens

The Ireland Women’s Sevens team ended the Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series in third place overall thanks to their top four finishes in both Kazan in June and Malemort over the weekend.

It was a really positive tournament for Ireland in France where new caps Chloe Blackmore and Katie Heffernan made their presence felt, and the girls in green secured wins over two of their World Series rivals, England (who were playing as GB Lions) and Spain.

Captain Lucy Mulhall and Amee-Leigh Crowe, who excelled in the scoring stakes with eight tries, played leading roles, while Megan Williams, Stacey Flood and Katie Fitzhenry were also to the fore.

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IRFU Director of Women’s and Sevens Rugby, Anthony Eddy, said: “The team warmed into the tournament and certainly showed improvement over the the two days. It’s an important tournament and provided the opportunity for some valuable game-time for several players.

“It was great to be able to introduce two new players to senior level Sevens rugby and Chloe Blackmore and Katie Heffernan acquitted themselves very well and will certainly learn form the experience.

“The squad now prepares for the start of the World Series in December and we hope to gain some more tournament experience with some training days against other World Series teams in November.”

Ireland started slowly on day 1, with Italy holding them to a 12-all draw. An incisive run from Fitzhenry, followed by Williams’ well-timed pass, released Crowe for the opening try after four-and-a-half minutes.

A breakaway effort, finished by Sara Barattin, saw the Italians take a 7-5 half-time lead, before Crowe opened the second half with an early score, raiding in from the left after a fine midfield break by Mulhall. Sofia Stefan grabbed Italy’s second try from quick turnover ball, but a stalemate ensued over the closing two minutes.

In the second round, a terrific cover tackle denied Crowe the opening try against Belgium who edged 5-0 ahead for half-time courtesy of a brilliant long range run from Sytske D’haeseleir. But a much-improved second half saw Crowe burst clear from halfway for a seven-pointer and Kim Flood’s try from a nice dummy earned a hard-fought 12-5 Irish win.

Ireland saved the best for last in Saturday’s sunny conditions, running out very impressive 27-5 winners over the new-look GB Lions. Well-organised Irish defence forced a number of English errors and Crowe cut clear from 40 metres out for the opening try, four minutes in.

Excellent support play from injury replacement Sene Naoupu earned her a try in the left corner, following up on a smashing initial break from Stacey Flood and a final feed from Crowe. Containing the Lions in their own half, Ireland entered the interval with a 15-0 lead, skipper Mulhall taking advantage of a Fitzhenry interception to canter in for try number three.

Kelly Smith broke from deep to open the Lions’ account, two minutes into the second half, but further tries from Stacey Flood and Ashleigh Baxter sealed a comfortable victory. Hannah Tyrrell was hugely prominent in the build-up to Flood’s effort, with a big clearout, a forceful run and then laying off the final pass, and Baxter’s angled run, coupled with a strong hand-off, saw her crash over by the posts in the closing seconds.

There were overcast and wet conditions for the play-off matches on Sunday, with Ireland taking on much-changed Spain in the third of the Cup quarter-finals. After a cagey opening, a yellow card for Olivia Fresneda Fernandez gave Ireland a numerical advantage and Crowe’s sudden injection of pace saw her sprint clear for a 7-0 lead.

Having fed into a scrum, Stacey Flood broke free on the blindside to go over in the left corner, giving Ireland a 12-0 buffer at the break, and Mulhall’s sidestep and pass put Crowe charging away from Patricia Garcia for a well-worked 10th minute score, converted by Mulhall.

The Wicklow woman put her name to Ireland’s fourth try of the game, expertly jinking her way through from the Spanish 22-metre line after some stellar work at the breakdown by Fitzhenry. Spain, who included five Under-18 players in their squad, battled on but were unable to get into scoring range.

That convincing victory put Ireland on a collision course with Pool B winners Russia in the last-four. The girls in green were first out of the blocks, Stacey Flood’s skip pass and a precise delivery from Naoupu releasing Crowe for another run towards the left corner – 5-0.

However, the Russians, who were the eventual champions, snapped back to lead 12-5 at the turnaround thanks to tries from Arina Bystrova and Elena Zdrokova. 27-5 is how it finished as Marina Petrova, Baizat Khamidova and Alena Bogacheva all scored in the second period as turnovers killed off Ireland’s challenge.

In a very tight 3rd/4th place play-off played amid a deluge of rain, the GB Lions squeezed past Ireland on a 12-5 scoreline. Charlotte Clapp scored early in both halves with Crowe sandwiching in her seventh try of the tournament just before half-time, profiting from two crisp passes from Kim Flood and Tyrrell.

The final European Championship standings show Ireland in third following their fourth place finishes in Kazan and Malemort. Great Britain finished third overall in the Women’s Grand Prix Series but are not a Rugby Europe member, so they are not ranked in the European Championship.

Russia Women Crowned European Champions

Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series – Malemort Results/Final Standings

Full match replays are available to watch on www.rugbyeurope.tv.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series – Second Leg, Stade Raymond-Faucher, Malemort, France, September 24-25):

Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Chloe Blackmore (St. Mary’s/Munster) *
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Kim Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Katie Heffernan (Mullingar/Leinster) *
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum/Leinster) (capt)
Amee-Leigh Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Sene Naoupu (Unaffiliated)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Megan Williams (St. Mary’s)

* Denotes new caps

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS RESULTS –

Day 1 – Saturday, September 24

POOL C:

IRELAND 12 ITALY 12, Stade Raymond-Faucher
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Crowe 2; Con: Lucy Mulhall

IRELAND: Stacey Flood, Megan Williams, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Kim Flood.

Subs: Sene Naoupu, Katie Heffernan, Claire Keohane, Hannah Tyrrell, Chloe Blackmore.

IRELAND 12 BELGIUM 5, Stade Raymond-Faucher
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Crowe, Kim Flood; Con: Lucy Mulhall

IRELAND: Sene Naoupu, Megan Williams, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Ashleigh Baxter, Claire Keohane, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Hannah Tyrrell.

Subs: Katie Heffernan, Stacey Flood, Katie Fitzhenry, Kim Flood, Chloe Blackmore.

GB LIONS 5 IRELAND 27, Stade Raymond-Faucher
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Crowe, Sene Naoupu, Katie Fitzhenry, Stacey Flood, Ashleigh Baxter; Con: Lucy Mulhall

IRELAND: Sene Naoupu, Stacey Flood, Megan Williams, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Lucy Mulhall (capt).

Subs: Katie Heffernan, Claire Keohane, Kim Flood, Hannah Tyrrell, Chloe Blackmore.

Day 2 – Sunday, September 25

PLAY-OFFS –

CUP QUARTER-FINAL:

IRELAND 26 SPAIN 0, Stade Raymond-Faucher
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Crowe 2, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 3

IRELAND: Sene Naoupu, Stacey Flood, Megan Williams, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Lucy Mulhall (capt).

Subs: Katie Heffernan, Claire Keohane, Kim Flood, Hannah Tyrrell, Chloe Blackmore.

CUP SEMI-FINAL:

RUSSIA 27 IRELAND 5, Stade Raymond-Faucher
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Amee-Leigh Crowe

IRELAND: Sene Naoupu, Stacey Flood, Megan Williams, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Lucy Mulhall (capt).

Subs: Katie Heffernan, Claire Keohane, Kim Flood, Hannah Tyrrell, Chloe Blackmore.

3RD/4TH PLACE PLAY-OFF:

GB LIONS 12 IRELAND 5, Stade Raymond-Faucher
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Amee-Leigh Crowe

IRELAND: Stacey Flood, Megan Williams, Amee-Leigh Crowe, Katie Fitzhenry, Kim Flood, Hannah Tyrrell, Chloe Blackmore.

Subs: Sene Naoupu, Katie Heffernan, Ashleigh Baxter, Claire Keohane, Lucy Mulhall (capt).