The Ireland Women went agonisingly close to reaching the Cup quarter-finals on the opening day of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series tournament in Dubai.
Just as Ireland looked set to claim a dramatic late win over Fiji in their final Pool B game, a missed conversion from captain Lucy Mulhall left her side with a 17-all draw rather than a 19-17 win. As it turned out, even if Ireland had triumphed, their inferior scoring difference would have left them outside the top eight as France (-28) were just ahead of them.
Controversy reigned as the Sevens Stadium as Mulhall, standing just to the left of the posts, actually converted Aoife Doyle’s try at the first attempt. However, referee Aimee Barrett ruled that it had to be retaken due to the positioning of a couple of Fijian players. Unfortunately for Ireland, the Wicklow woman sent her second effort wide.
The draw left Ireland fourth in the pool, just a point behind France and two behind Fiji, meaning they will take part in the Challenge Trophy competition tomorrow where they meet the USA at the semi-final stage (kick-off 12.14pm local time/8.14am Irish time).
Day 1 began for Anthony Eddy’s side with a 27-5 defeat to New Zealand whose dominance of possession had Ireland 17-0 adrift at half-time. Michaela Blyde (2) and Rebekah Cordero-Tufuga both touched down.
Shakira Baker came off the bench to score the Olympic silver medallists’ fourth try of the pool opener, before speedster Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe brilliantly exploited some space out wide to run in an unconverted effort, just ahead of Portia Woodman – the Black Ferns’ hat-trick heroine against Ireland at the UCD Bowl last Sunday.
The Tipperary-born Murphy-Crowe (21) also got over the whitewash in Ireland’s second round tussle with France who ran out 24-14 winners. Excellent footwork from Stacey Flood, who stepped inside a covering defender, saw her score in the fourth minute, but les Bleues had two tries in each half from Montserrat Amedee, Camille Grassineau, Lina Guerin and Caroline Boujard.
Emma Murphy appeared as a replacement in those two games, making her World Series debut as the fourth Railway Union player in Ireland’s Dubai squad. The girls in green regrouped for a big final push against Fiji, who had beaten France (21-14) and lost to New Zealand (19-10).
The crunch clash seemed to be getting away from Ireland when they trailed 10-0, but another classy try from Murphy-Crowe had the gap down to three points for half-time. A Lavenia Tinai try made it 17-10 only for Mulhall and her team-mates to finish the stronger.
The ever-busy Nicole Cronin sniped through to make it a five-point game before Ireland flooded forward again, attempting to profit from Asena Yalewalili’s yellow card. Cronin’s Shannon club-mate Doyle used ruck ball to strike from close range for Ireland’s third try with 16 minutes on the clock, however the missed conversion made for a heartbreaking finish.
Murphy-Crowe (3 tries) will enter day 2 as the tournament’s joint-third top try scorer. She has made four line breaks – two behind New Zealander Blyde – and the tireless Mulhall leads the carries stats with 20 so far.
Looking at tomorrow’s challenge, Ireland defeated the USA 12-5 in the Dubai pool stages last year. The Americans gained revenge the following day with a 31-24 victory in the 11th-12th place play-off. The winners of tomorrow’s match will meet either Spain or Brazil in the Trophy final.
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2016/17 HSBC WORLD RUGBY WOMEN’S SEVENS SERIES, The Sevens Stadium, Dubai, Thursday, December 1-Friday, December 2):
Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Nicole Cronin (Shannon/Munster)
Aoife Doyle (Shannon/Munster)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Kim Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum/Leinster) (capt)
Emma Murphy (Railway Union/Leinster)
Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Megan Williams (Ireland Sevens Programme)
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS RESULTS/FIXTURES – DUBAI 7s:
Thursday, December 1 –
Ireland 5 New Zealand 27
Scorers: Ireland Try: Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe
Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Megan Williams, Hannah Tyrrell, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Alison Miller, Stacey Flood.
Subs: Nicole Cronin, Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe, Aoife Doyle, Emma Murphy, Kim Flood.
Ireland 14 France 24
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2
Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Megan Williams, Aoife Doyle, Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt).
Subs: Alison Miller, Kim Flood, Nicole Cronin, Emma Murphy, Hannah Tyrrell.
Ireland 17 Fiji 17
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe, Nicole Cronin, Aoife Doyle; Con: Lucy Mulhall
Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Megan Williams, Kim Flood, Hannah Tyrrell, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe.
Subs: Nicole Cronin, Alison Miller, Katie Fitzhenry, Aoife Doyle, Emma Murphy.
Friday, December 2 –
Trophy Semi-Final: Ireland v USA, 12.14pm local time/8.14am Irish time
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS MANAGEMENT –
Anthony Eddy – IRFU Director of Sevens
Gillian McDarby – Team Manager
Marian Earls – S&C Coach
Lorcan McGee – Physiotherapist
Alan Walsh – Performance Analyst
Alan Farrell – Team Doctor
Sam O’Byrne – Media & Communications