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Ireland Women Make Strong Start But Miss Out On Dubai Quarter-Finals

Ireland Women Make Strong Start But Miss Out On Dubai Quarter-Finals

A day that began with much promise ended in bitter disappointment for the Ireland Women, as a 17-7 defeat to Spain saw them miss out on a Cup quarter-final place in the opening round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.

Ireland finished third in Pool C after opening the Dubai tournament with a terrific four-try 20-12 win over Fiji but then losing their way with frustrating defeats to Canada (31-0) and Spain (17-7).

Their scoring difference was hit badly in the last two rounds, meaning they missed out on a top-eight ranking at the end of the pool stages as the USA squeezed through to the quarter-finals ahead of them.

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Instead, Anthony Eddy’s charges, who include two World Series newcomers in Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird and the 18-year-old Eve Higgins, will try to bounce back in tomorrow’s Challenge Trophy competition, which they won last year. They begin day 2 with a semi-final clash with Japan (kick-off 10.28am local time/6.28am Irish time).

Fiji were first up at the start of a sun-kissed morning session, and impressive early continuity off a lineout set Ireland up for a second-minute try. From Audrey O’Flynn’s tap penalty, Ashleigh Baxter broke a tackle in midfield and then captain Lucy Mulhall’s long skip pass put Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe over in the left corner.

Mulhall missed the difficult conversion from out wide and a second unconverted try soon followed, as O’Flynn competed strongly for the restart, Stacey Flood brilliantly weaved away from a couple of defenders and good hands from Mulhall and Katie Fitzhenry released Baxter to finish off, wide on the left, for a 10-0 lead.

A knock-on prevented Louise Galvin from scrambling through for try number three, and Murphy Crowe had to show her pace in defence to reel in Tima Ravisa who had broken from her own try-line up to halfway.

The Fijians’ handling let them down when they reached the Irish 22 for the first time, and it was all Ireland when the second half got underway. Fitzhenry slipped past a couple of defenders and Baxter carried up closer before play was switched out to the right where Fitzhenry shrugged off two attempted tackles and used her strength to ground the ball successfully.

There were 10 minutes on the clock when Nic a Bhaird won a lineout just moments after entering the fray and Flood gobbled up the bouncing ball to break up the left touchline, carrying Ana Maria Roqica with her over the whitewash.

Now four tries down, Fiji salvaged some pride with a late two-try blitz. Excellent carrying and offloading from Rusila Nagasua put Ravisa over in the left corner, and the latter completed her brace with a terrific individual score, evading the clutches on Murphy Crowe on halfway and stepping inside Flood to dart in under the posts.

Nic a Bhaird came into the starting line-up for the Canada match which turned into a one-sided affair as the powerful Canadians dominated. Hannah Darling cut inside Flood, the final defender, for a slick opening try inside two minutes.

A prolonged and high-tempo attack ended with captain Ghislaine Landry going in under the posts from a couple of metres out. She converted for a 12-0 advantage as Ireland’s defensive workload began to take its toll.

Flood, a silky runner with ball in hand, got away from a couple of defenders to raise Irish hopes of a swift response. Fitzhenry also gained impressive ground on the right wing but her offload back inside was too strong for Baxter.

Having forced a knock-on, Ireland attacked from a scrum in scoring range. There was a turnover apiece in midfield before Nic a Bhaird’s bouncing pass saw Murphy Crowe stopped short near the left corner. Baxter took a great line onto a Flood pass but fumbled it and Jen Kish led a cracking counter attack for Canada, at the end of which Brittany Benn broke away from Murphy Crowe to make it 19-0 at the break.

Canada were celebrating their fourth try just a minute into the second half, Breanne Nicholas taking advantage of a defensive gap between the inexperienced duo of Nic a Bhaird and Higgins. There was better approach play by Ireland in response, with Flood, Murphy Crowe and lively replacement Aoife Doyle carrying more of a threat in the Canadian half.

Nonetheless, it was the victors who had the final say as Tausani Levale, one of the fresh faces in their squad, broke clear from inside her own half to score at the posts. The assistant referee confirmed the grounding, and the score stood despite TV replays showing that Levale had, in fact, dropped the ball as Claire Boles flew in with a last-ditch tackle.

That left a quarter-final shootout with Spain, whom Ireland had beaten five times in previous World Series campaigns. However, the Spanish struck first, just two minutes in, when Amaia Erbina stretched over after Anne Fernandez de Corres had been hauled down short of the line.

Flood led Ireland’s response with some hard running from just outside her own 22. Her pace drew both Patricia Garcia and Maria Ribera and as the former covered across, she inadvertently tripped Ribera and cleared the way for Flood to break free up the left wing and score an opportunist try, converted by Mulhall.

Ireland had a 12-7 interval deficit to overcome, though, as they were caught flat in defence in the first half’s final play. Garcia’s neatly-threaded kick through was touched down by Iera Echebarria ahead of the covering Higgins.

With Mulhall going off for a HIA and Ireland struggling on restarts and at the breakdown, Spain continued to show the greater urgency and they conjured up a crucial third try from a Garcia turnover. They attacked towards the left wing and then out to the right where Echebarria beat Fitzhenry on the outside to make it 17-7.

That score came while Baxter was down receiving treatment and showed how clinical Spain could be when offered space. Ireland were poor with ball in hand, with static receivers and an inability to create space out wide for speedster Murphy Crowe.

Boles, who was one of Ireland’s better players in the game, was pinged for not releasing under pressure from Garcia in the final seconds, as Spain saw out a deserved 10-point victory which earned them second spot in the pool – behind unbeaten Canada.

The Dubai Rugby Sevens is expected to welcome over 100,000 fans over the three days with many coming in fancy dress and enjoying the Rugby Village and sporting action all weekend long. Tickets for the Dubai Rugby Sevens can be purchased online at www.dubairugby7s.com.

Buy the new Ireland Sevens jersey exclusively from Elverys – click here.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2017/18 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – Dubai 7s, The Sevens Stadium, Dubai, Thursday, November 30-Friday, December 1):

Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Claire Boles (Railway Union/Ulster)
Aoife Doyle (Shannon/Railway Union/Munster)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Louise Galvin (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster) *
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum) (capt)
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (UL Bohemians/Munster) *
Audrey O’Flynn (Ireland Sevens)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

* Denotes uncapped player at this level

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS RESULTS/FIXTURES – DUBAI 7s:

Thursday, November 30 –

Pool C:

Fiji 12 Ireland 20, Sevens Stadium, Dubai
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Stacey Flood

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Audrey O’Flynn, Louise Galvin, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt).

Subs used: Claire Boles, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird. Not used: Aoife Doyle, Hannah Tyrrell, Eve Higgins.

Canada 31 Ireland 0, Sevens Stadium, Dubai
Scorers: Ireland: –

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Louise Galvin, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt).

Subs used: Aoife Doyle, Hannah Tyrrell, Claire Boles, Eve Higgins. Not used: Audrey O’Flynn.

Ireland 7 Spain 17, Sevens Stadium, Dubai
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Stacey Flood; Con: Lucy Mulhall

Team: Claire Boles, Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Stacey Flood, Aoife Doyle, Lucy Mulhall (capt).

Subs used: Hannah Tyrrell, Eve Higgins. Not used: Audrey O’Flynn, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Louise Galvin.

HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – Results & Pool Tables

Friday, December 1 –

Challenge Trophy Semi-Final: Ireland v Japan, Sevens Stadium, Dubai, 10.28am local time/6.28am Irish time

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