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Ireland Women Finish Second In Series And Qualify For Sevens World Cup

Ireland Women Finish Second In Series And Qualify For Sevens World Cup

The Ireland Women’s Sevens squad saved their best for last in Kazan today, romping to a 40-0 play-off win over France to claim third place in the final leg and finish second overall in the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series.

It was a day to remember for Anthony Eddy’s side as they qualified for the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens thanks to back-to-back third-place finishes in the Grand Prix Series. England, the Kazan runners-up, and Ireland have secured the last two European qualifying spots for next year’s World Cup tournament in San Francisco.

In addition, Ireland’s superior scoring difference over the two legs – +208 compared to France’s +149 and England’s +85 – means they have broken new ground by finishing second in the Grand Prix Series standings for the first time. All three teams ended up with 32 series points, behind winners Russia (40 points).

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It completes a tremendous 2016/17 campaign for the Irish squad, which included a best ever finish of ninth on the World Series, first ever wins over Fiji, England and France, a number of new caps blooded, and a prized second-place ranking in Europe to continue their upward trajectory. Just three short years ago, Ireland were eighth at European level and without a World Series place.

Seven converted tries, including a brace from predatory winger Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, saw Ireland hammer Portugal 49-7 in the morning’s Cup quarter-finals, before hosts Russia’s clinical finishing ended Ireland’s hopes of silverware with a 27-5 semi-final defeat.

However, Lucy Mulhall and her team-mates regrouped in impressive fashion to post a 40-0 victory over a new-look French side in the 3rd-4th place play-off. Murphy Crowe scored four tries against les Bleues to take her tally for the weekend to nine overall – matching the nine she scored in Malemort last month.

A first-minute try from Katie Fitzhenry, who was teed up by well-timed passes from captain Mulhall and Megan Williams, set the wheels in motion for a convincing seven-try success against Portugal at the Central Stadium.

Mariana Marques cut through to get Portugal level midway through the first half, but Ireland controlled play up to half-time with Williams streaking clear for a terrific try from her own 22 and Mulhall chipping over the top and dribbling through for the third try and a 21-7 buffer.

The scores kept coming early in the second period, Stacey Flood taking a quick tap and racing over from the left wing and her sister Kim then doing likewise following some crisp passing.

A brace from Murphy Crowe wrapped up the result, the Tipperary speedster pouncing first on a loose ball near the Portuguese line after Ireland had exerted huge pressure in defence. The final try came when Murphy Crowe slipped through a gap between two defenders, having been invited forward by Claire Keohane’s precise pass.

Ireland were down to 10 players for their semi-final against Russia, who retained their Grand Prix Series crown after finishing top of the pile in both Malemort and Kazan. Audrey O’Flynn unfortunately suffered a tournament-ending injury on day one, while Hannah Tyrrell did not tog out for the last-four tie.

Russia were clinical in taking their chances, with Ireland playing more of the rugby but lacking the necessary penetration to get into scoring range. Murphy Crowe’s third try of the day proved to be the only Irish score in a 22-point reversal.

The Russians built a 15-0 half-time lead and the exchanges were very physical from the off. Kim Flood was caught with a high arm in the tackle and also a knee on the ground, but Portuguese referee Paulo Duarte ruled there was no infringement.

With the breakdown battle going their way, the defending champions used a couple of key turnovers to manufacture tries. Marina Kukina broke clearing from the Irish 10-metre and then Alena Mikhaltsova get over past Murphy Crowe after sniping around the blindside of a last-minute ruck.

In between, Marija Perestiak had the legs to score from her own half after another Irish attack had broken down due to Fitzhenry dropping a difficult pass. The wet underfoot conditions made things difficult for both sides, and despite the missed conversions, Ireland had it all to do at 15-0 down.

Kukina then unlocked the Irish defence again, bagging her brace within a minute of the restart as she profited from a couple of missed tackles. Some of the tackling was bordering on high and when it looked like Stacey Flood might be punished for going too high on the advancing Daria Bobkova, referee Duarte instead sin-binned Bobkova for throwing the ball away before the lineout.

Ireland produced some good width in response, with Mulhall and Louise Galvin running hard and gaining ground. Murphy Crowe eventually scrambled over for a hard-earned try in the left corner, midway through the half. Nonetheless, Russia underlined their supremacy with ball in hand when the long-striding Baizat Khamidova burst clear to dive over by the posts and complete the scoring.

For Ireland’s final outing in Kazan, Tyrrell returned to the fray and played a huge role as she consistently caught Mulhall’s restarts or tapped them back into Irish hands. Mulhall was hauled down short after taking a quick tap, but Murphy Crowe was rewarded for her support run as she picked up off the ground to score with two minutes gone.

Mulhall converted and it was her pass out of the tackle that sent Murphy Crowe away for try number two, four minutes in. Tyrrell’s excellent catch from the restart, coupled with a strong Williams carry, paved the way for Stacey Flood to break from a ruck and show good pace to score.

France fell 28 points in arrears by half-time, Tyrrell coming up with another great challenge in the air and Mulhall scooped up a pass and went up through the gears to race through the middle and go over untouched. She tagged on her fourth successful conversion.

Les Bleues held the advantage when Williams was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on past the half-time hooter, however a superb cover tackle from the ever-influential Stacey Flood prevented France from running in a long range try.

Ireland continued to find holes in the French defence on the resumption, taking just 19 seconds for Murphy Crowe to sprint clear from her own half after gathering Mulhall’s brilliantly-timed pass. At the other end of the pitch, a multi-phase attack from France ended in frustration as the green-shirted wall forced them into a handling error.

Murphy Crowe continued to gain yards, one leg-pumping run bringing Ireland back to the French 22 before Coralie Bertrand was sin-binned for a foot trip on Williams. Mulhall was the instigator again for the final Irish try, her quick tap leading to Stacey Flood drawing in a defender and putting Murphy Crowe over wide on the right.

2018 will mark the second time that the Ireland Women have competed in a Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament. They reached the quarter-finals in 2013 on the way to finishing seventh overall. Ashleigh Baxter was part of the Ireland side that played in Moscow four years ago, while Claire Keohane – another member of the current squad – missed out through injury.

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.

Day 1 Round-Up: Ireland Women To Play Portugal In Kazan’s Last-Eight

Sunday, July 9:

Cup Quarter-Final: Portugal 7 Ireland 49, Central Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Katie Fitzhenry, Megan Williams, Lucy Mulhall, Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 2; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 6, Kim Flood

Team: Megan Williams, Kim Flood, Katie Fitzhenry, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Louise Galvin, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs: Hannah Tyrrell, Katie Heffernan, Claire Keohane, Claire Boles.

Cup Semi-Final: Russia 27 Ireland 5, Central Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe

Team: Megan Williams, Kim Flood, Katie Fitzhenry, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Louise Galvin, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs: Katie Heffernan, Claire Keohane, Claire Boles.

3rd-4th Place Play-Off: Ireland 40 France 0, Central Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 4, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 5

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

Subs: Katie Heffernan, Kim Flood, Claire Keohane, Claire Boles.

For the full Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series results, pool tables and final tournament and series standings, please visit the tournament website.