A last-minute England try denied the Ireland Women a clean sweep of victories on the opening day of the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series tournament in the Russian city of Kazan.
Anthony Eddy’s charges will meet Portugal in tomorrow’s Cup quarter-finals (kick-off 10.06am local time/8.06am Irish time), after finishing as runners-up to England in Pool C.
Jo Richardson-Watmore’s late try split the sides in the pool decider, with England triumphing 21-17 at the end of a bruising battle. Earlier on, Ireland had opened the tournament by beating Poland 17-7 and racking up 48 unanswered points against 2016 Trophy champions Sweden.
Ireland immediately had Poland on the back foot in their pool opener at the Central Stadium. Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe threatened on the right wing before a nice line of passes and Megan Williams’ hand-off and final delivery released Louise Galvin for the left corner.
With Poland leaking a series of ruck penalties, Ireland maintained their stranglehold of possession and territory. Accurate passing freed up Williams to score wide on the right with four minutes on the clock.
Both Irish tries went unconverted and Poland answered back before the break, Anna Klichowska showing impressive speed close to the right touchline to score a seven-pointer from her own 10-metre line and cut the gap to 10-7.
Ireland were quick off the mark again when the second half got underway. They used a quick tap on halfway to create an opportunity on the left, Murphy Crowe evading two defenders for a converted try after being teed up by Stacey Flood and Galvin.
Stacey Flood showed her defensive capabilities by tracking down a Polish attacker and saving a certain try. Williams also came up with an important defensive read before captain Lucy Mulhall’s kick-and-collect made sure Ireland ended the match in the Polish 22. They had one further scoring chance but Hannah Tyrrell could not hold onto Claire Boles’ offload off the deck, only a couple of metres out.
Ireland swiftly made inroads at the start of their second round match against Sweden, Audrey O’Flynn taking a great angle and going close before Stacey Flood fed Tyrrell for a simple seven-pointer to the right of the posts.
O’Flynn had to come off injured unfortunately, but Tyrrell forced a ruck penalty and then popped up in attack again, darting over halfway for a long range second try, midway though the first half.
Nice work off a lineout saw captain Mulhall’s inside pass send Stacey Flood flying in under the posts, and Flood finished smartly on the left for a fourth try past the half-time hooter. She went over thanks to a quick tap by her sister Kim, which was set up by Katie Fitzhenry’s foraging at the breakdown.
26-0 turned into 31-0 by the tenth minute, Mulhall and Tyrrell combining to send the prolific Murphy Crowe on her way, while Mulhall was next over the whitewash thanks to her own snappy, sidestepping run.
Enniskillen teenager Boles was prominent in the build-up to the penultimate try, winning a turnover and then driving up close before having the awareness to send the inrushing Kim Flood over. Boles showed good strength to add the final try wide on the left, with Kim Flood splitting the posts with the conversion.
Ireland were now targeting their third win of the Grand Prix Series against England, having defeated James Bailey’s side twice in Malemort. Williams almost broke free up the left wing as Ireland got off to a strong start in the Kazan encounter.
However, they had no points to show for it and Alice Richardson-Watmore’s fifth-minute try opened the scoring at the other end. It was a soft score to concede, and particularly frustrating as a poor call from referee Katy Pickert – she gave England a penalty despite the English tackler never releasing before going for the poach – had set up the scoring opportunity.
Nonetheless, a two-try blast before the interval saw Ireland turn around with a 12-7 advantage. A determined Fitzhenry won a ruck penalty and Tyrrell, linking in midfield with Mulhall, showed a good turn of pace to open up the defence and raid in under the posts. From the restart, Williams did brilliantly to snap up an English ball at the breakdown and run in an opportunist score.
A prolonged period of attack, with England leaking successive penalties, led to Ireland’s third try, scored in the left corner by Mulhall via Stacey Flood’s overhead pass. Kim Flood narrowly missed the conversion, while her sister required treatment for a bloody nose.
England hit back after Ireland failed to take advantage of Claire Keohane’s break up to the 22. Holly Aitchison did the damage with a clever solo run for a seven-pointer, and with Jo Richardson-Watmore going unpunished for being ahead of the kicker at the restart, Ireland were denied the platform of a penalty.
Indeed, the girls in green duly paid the price for some tired defending in the dying seconds when Jo Richardson-Watmore got past Boles and Williams near the left touchline to score the match winner behind the posts.
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series – Leg 2, Central Stadium, Kazan, Russia, Saturday, July 8-Sunday, July 9):
Claire Boles (Enniskillen/Ulster)
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Kim Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Katie Heffernan (Mullingar/Railway Union (dual status))/Leinster)
Anna McGann (Buccaneers/UCD (dual status))/Leinster)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum/Leinster) (capt)
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Audrey O’Flynn (Ireland Sevens Programme)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Megan Williams (St. Mary’s)
RUGBY EUROPE WOMEN’S SEVENS GRAND PRIX SERIES – KAZAN 7s RESULTS:
Saturday, July 8 – Pool C:
Ireland 17 Poland 7, Central Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Louise Galvin, Megan Williams, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe; Con: Kim Flood
Team: Katie Heffernan, Megan Williams, Katie Fitzhenry, Kim Flood, Stacey Flood (capt), Louise Galvin, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.
Subs: Audrey O’Flynn, Lucy Mulhall, Claire Keohane, Hannah Tyrrell, Claire Boles.
Ireland 48 Sweden 0, Central Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Hannah Tyrrell 2, Stacey Flood 2, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Lucy Mulhall, Kim Flood, Claire Boles; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 3, Kim Flood
Team: Audrey O’Flynn, Megan Williams, Kim Flood, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Hannah Tyrrell, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.
Subs: Katie Heffernan, Claire Keohane, Katie Fitzhenry, Louise Galvin, Claire Boles.
Ireland 17 England 21, Central Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Lucy Mulhall, Hannah Tyrrell, Megan Williams; Con: Lucy Mulhall
Team: Megan Williams, Kim Flood, Katie Fitzhenry, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Hannah Tyrrell, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.
Subs: Katie Heffernan, Claire Keohane, Louise Galvin, Claire Boles.
Sunday, July 9:
Cup Quarter-Final: Portugal v Ireland, Central Stadium, kick-off 10.06am local time/8.06am Irish time