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Ireland Women Set For Top Eight Finish In Las Vegas

Ireland Women Set For Top Eight Finish In Las Vegas

Thanks to a terrific comeback win over hosts USA and a late draw with Spain, the Ireland Women will finish in the top eight of a HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series tournament for the second time this season.

Having finished eighth in the Sydney leg last month, Ireland ventured to Las Vegas with their confidence levels on the rise. The additions of Alison Miller, Audrey O’Flynn and Sene Naoupu to the travelling party were also a boost.

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Anthony Eddy’s charges kicked off the pool stages against the USA at the Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. With the Men’s World Sevens Series tournament also taking place on the same days, the Women’s competition kicked off early in the morning, with Ireland opening the day at 8.17am.

The early kick-off seemed to have an effect on both sides as the game began at a low intensity but it was the USA who scored first, with captain Alev Kelter dotting down. Ireland hit back with a well-worked lineout move which allowed Stacey Flood find space in midfield. She used her pace to get through a gap in the American defence and touch down under the posts with skipper Lucy Mulhall adding a straightforward conversion,

Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe was next on the scoresheet for Ireland, a neat switch on halfway saw the Tipperary speedster find a gap and she outmuscled one defender before sprinting for the line, giving Ireland a 12-7 lead at half-time.

The USA replied early in the the second half with the powerful Naya Tapper standing up the Irish defence before sprinting clear from her own half, giving her team a 14-12 lead. Ireland found themselves down another try less than a minute later, with Kelter again touching down after a number of missed tackles from Ireland.

The girls in green claimed the restart and used some strong and clever running to carry the ball downfield. Their direct style of play drew in the American defence, which then allowed the ball to be spread wide with Murphy Crowe completing her brace with a smart finish. Mulhall slotted the tricky conversion from out wide to bring the scoreline back to 21-19.

With the clock ticking down, Ireland did really well to win back possession from the restart – good work from Naoupu and Hannah Tyrrell saw to that – and a muscular carry from Mulhall took them into the USA’s 22. From the resulting ruck, the ball was moved wide for the 20-year-old Flood to score in the right corner and give Ireland a a superb 24-21 victory over the hosts.

Ireland’s second match of the day was against Fiji, a team they had faced twice already this season, with the sides drawing 17-all in Dubai and Ireland claiming their first win over the islanders in Sydney, winning 19-12.

Mulhall and her team-mates began the game well, with strong carries from Miller and Megan Williams, but as with all Fijian Sevens outfits, turnovers prove costly and a penalty conceded by Ireland on the opposition 22 allowed the Fijians to move the ball through the hands, breaking a number of tackles along the way and Miriama Naiobasali ran in the first try.

Fiji were aggressive from the restart and forced a number of errors from Ireland, leading to a scrum in the Irish 22. Scrum half Ana Maria Roqica spotted space on the blindside and got over for try number two, leaving it 12-0 at half-time.

Fiji showed why they are known as one of the best Sevens nations early in the second half, scoring a converted try that had offloads, clever footwork and searing pace with five minutes remaining.

Ireland were unlucky from the restart when Roqica intercepted a pass to score Fiji’s fourth try, before Flood collected her third try of the day after some strong running from Susan Vaughan and quick hands from Mulhall had created the opportunity.

Fiji had the final say, however, as a switch on their own line opened up the Ireland defence and Raijieli Daveua sprinted the length of the pitch to score under the posts and seal a comprehensive 31-5 success.

Ireland completed their Pool B campaign against European rivals Spain whom they had defeated in Dubai to lift the Challenge Trophy. In this rematch, Spain held the majority of the possession in the opening minutes and they scored first through captain Barbara Pla, who found space out wide to touch down. Patrica Garcia landed the tricky conversion for 7-0.

The Spanish found themselves down to six players just before half-time, as Uri Barrutieta was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on. It was early in the second period when Ireland capitalised as Williams showed great strength to hand off a defender before using excellent pace to cross the whitewash. Mulhall added the extras to bring her side level.

Ireland were guilty of indiscipline in their own 22, and from the resulting penalty, Spain moved the ball well and some confusion in the Irish defence allowed Anne Fernandez slice through to score by the posts. Garcia converted again to restore the seven-point margin.

With under a minute remaining, Ireland did really well to claim the restart and the ball was put through the hands to winger Miller who took off and made the try-line to make it two tries apiece. Mulhall stepped up fire over the pressure conversion and give Ireland a hard-fought 14-14 draw. That was enough to send them through to their second Cup quarter-final in succession.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – USA Sevens, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Friday, March 3-Saturday, March 4):

Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum/Leinster) (capt)
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Sene Naoupu (Aylesford Bulls)
Audrey O’Flynn (Ireland Sevens Programme)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Susan Vaughan (Railway Union/Leinster)
Megan Williams (Ireland Sevens Programme)


USA 7s – Pool B:

Friday, March 3

Ireland 24 USA 21
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 2, Stacey Flood 2; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Megan Williams, Katie Fitzhenry, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Alison Miller.

Subs: Susan Vaughan, Hannah Tyrrell, Audrey O’Flynn, Sene Naoupu, Claire Keohane.

Ireland 5 Fiji 31
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Stacey Flood

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Megan Williams, Katie Fitzhenry, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Alison Miller.

Subs: Susan Vaughan, Hannah Tyrrell, Audrey O’Flynn, Sene Naoupu, Claire Keohane.

Ireland 14 Spain 14
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Megan Williams, Alison Miller; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2

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

Subs: Susan Vaughan, Hannah Tyrrell, Audrey O’Flynn, Alison Miller, Claire Keohane.

Saturday, March 4

Cup Quarter-Final: USA v Ireland, Sam Boyd Stadium, 9.28am local time/5.28pm Irish time

To keep up to date with the Ireland Women’s Sevens squad in Las Vegas, follow Irish Rugby on Twitter @IrishRugby, on Instagram @IrishRugby and on www.Facebook.com/IrishRugby.

For more information on the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, visit http://www.worldrugby.org/womens-sevens-series.