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Ireland Women Close Gap On England In Sevens World Series Rankings

Ireland Women Close Gap On England In Sevens World Series Rankings

Despite a tough second day in Las Vegas, the Ireland Women are now just four points behind eighth-placed England in the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series’ overall standings.

There was a sense of déjà vu for Ireland on day 2 at the Sam Boyd Stadium as they came up against the USA for the second time in as many days and for the third time in two World Series tournaments.

Sunday’s Cup quarter-final began in scrappy fashion, with both teams conceding turnovers in the opening minutes, and it was from a loose ball that the USA claimed their first try, with Kristen Thomas collecting it and then moving it to the powerful Naya Tapper who beat several Irish defenders to score in the corner.

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Some indiscipline from Ireland then saw the USA take a quick tap and the hosts’ direct running allowed them to score a second unconverted try to make it 10-0.

It was then the Americans’ turn to have their discipline let them down, as they conceded a penalty that Lucy Mulhall tapped quickly and then moved out wide where Stacey Flood spotted the blindside was left open and she picked from the ruck to touch down to half the deficit going into the break.

The USA were intent on using their physicality and Thomas ran hard at the Irish defenders and left a number of them trailing her as she powered through to make it 15-5.

Tapper doubled up when she used her strength to fend off some would-be tacklers before sprinting for the line for her second score, all but sealing victory for the Americans with just over a minute left. Megan Williams’ closing try closed the gap to 20-12 by full-time, the defeat meaning Ireland faced into a 5th-8th place play-off against Russia.

With both sides familiar with each other having met in Sydney and numerous times on the World Series and European Grand Prix Series, their latest clash would be a test of discipline and execution.

Russia were first on the board when Alena Mikhaltsova beat two Irish tacklers to dot down in the corner. Ireland managed to force a knock-on from the Russians and quickly recycled the ball to put it through the hands to Williams who raced from halfway to outpace the covering Russian defence and make it 5-5 at the interval.

Ireland lost skipper Mulhall to the sin-bin for two minutes due to a deliberate knock-on and Russia capitalised on their numerical advantage to stretch the Irish defence and score down the touchline, regaining the lead at 10-5.

Anthony Eddy’s charges were then guilty of chasing the game, and having over-committed to a ruck, Russia’s Baizat Khamidova ran a strong line into space to score Russia’s third try. With time not on their side, Ireland then fumbled the ball and Mikhaltsova gathered to get in for her second try – and her team’s fourth – and a final scoreline of 20-5.

With strong winds blowing into the stadium from the Nevada desert, Ireland played against the elements in the first half of their 7th-8th place play-off against France. The girls in green managed to control possession for the most part, however as the hooter sounded for half-time, the French forced a penalty and from the structured tap play, Elodie Guiglion sliced past two defenders for a 5-0 lead.

France began the second period in aggressive fashion and attacked Ireland at the ruck, forcing a turnover and from there they moved the ball to replacement Carla Neissen who managed to touch down despite the efforts of the covering Williams who almost did enough to prevent the score.

The French tagged on a third try from another set play, as they drew in Irish defenders to allow Lina Guerin score in the corner, make it 15-0 and effectively seal Ireland’s fate.

However, they did succeed in scoring late on through Katie Fitzhenry, who was out wide to receive the final pass after good work from Sene Naoupu, Mulhall and Susan Vaughan. A winless second day meant Ireland finished eighth of the 12 competing teams for the second consecutive tournament.

Anthony Eddy, the IRFU Director of Women’s and Sevens Rugby, said: “It was a challenging weekend. The girls probably came back from it a little frustrated with their overall performance. We got off to a really good start, beating the USA in our first pool game, but the girls probably didn’t play or perform as well as they would have liked.

“It was nice to make the Cup quarter-finals again, but we didn’t pick up a win on day two so we’re still looking to try and improve on that for the next tournament in Japan.”

Eddy’s squad will head to Kitakyushu in Japan for the next World Series leg on April 22-23 and will be in a pool with Australia, Fiji and Brazil – the same teams they played against in Sydney last month. Before that, they will take part in a training camp with France in Marcoussis.

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)

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Results –

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.

Day 1 Round-Up: Ireland Women Set For Top Eight Finish In Las Vegas

Saturday, March 4

Cup Quarter-Final: USA 20 Ireland 12
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Megan Williams, Stacey Flood; Con: Lucy Mulhall

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.

5th-8th Place Play-Off: Ireland 5 Russia 20
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Megan Williams.

Team: Audrey O’Flynn, Ashleigh Baxter, Megan Williams, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Hannah Tyrrell.

Subs: Susan Vaughan, Katie Fitzhenry, Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller, Claire Keohane.

7th-8th Place Play-Off: France 15 Ireland 5
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Katie Fitzhenry

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

Subs: Susan Vaughan, Alison Miller, Claire Keohane, Sene Naoupu.

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