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Ireland Women Bounce Back In Dubai To Win Challenge Trophy

Ireland Women Bounce Back In Dubai To Win Challenge Trophy

The Ireland Women won the Dubai 7s Challenge Trophy for the second year in a row as they enjoyed a brace of wins on the final day of the opening leg of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.

Having lost 17-7 to Spain yesterday in a straight shootout for a Cup quarter-final place, Ireland got back on track with a comprehensive six-try 38-5 victory over Japan this morning, before overcoming South Africa 24-7 in the Challenge Trophy final, which was played on the main pitch at the Sevens Stadium.

World Series newcomer Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird crossed for a try in both games, while Ireland’s 10-try haul on day 2 also included a trio of scores from Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, whose enviable all-time Irish scoring record in the series now stands at 35 tries in 59 matches, with Louise Galvin (2), captain Lucy Mulhall (2) and the ever-influential Stacey Flood sharing out the rest.

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The Ireland Women finished ninth overall in last season’s World Series, so they have hit that mark again in the 2017/18 opener. The hope is that they will learn the lessons from two costly pool defeats to Canada and Spain yesterday and make it count in pursuit of a top-eight finish when the series resumes in Sydney in late January.

Nic a Bhaird was over for the opening try against Japan after just 28 seconds, going over untouched after a hack downfield and Ashleigh Baxter’s quick-fire turnover at the breakdown. Strong running from Murphy Crowe and Mulhall got them into scoring range for Galvin to step off her right and run in a fourth minute try, which was also converted by Mulhall for 14-0.

Some neat interplay from the Galvin-won restart saw some space created on the right for Murphy Crowe to cut inside and out and score from 10 metres out. There was no conversion this time from the skipper, and Japan reduced the arrears to 19-5 by half-time courtesy of a Chiharu Nakamura effort, which came after a scrum won against the head and a couple of penalties in the Irish 22.

Mulhall hit back for her side with an early second half try via a quick tap from Flood, seven metres out. Flood showed her ability with another top class assist for Ireland’s next try, running hard out to the left and sucking in three defenders before laying off a superb overhead pass back inside for Galvin to score and make it 31-5.

Japan continued to be frustrated by handling errors in the 30-degree heat and Ireland duly ran in their sixth and final try through Mulhall with just over a minute remaining. She snapped up possession from a ruck and broke clear form her own half after initial bursts by replacements Claire Boles and Hannah Tyrrell. However, the game ended on a sour note for Ireland with the injured Baxter having to be stretchered off.

Audrey O’Flynn shook off a hip injury to start the Challenge Trophy final, making up for Baxter’s absence in what was Ireland’s first ever World Series clash with South Africa. The white-shirted South Africans controlled much of the early possession but the Irish tackling was tigerish and they pinned their opponents back in their own half.

An excellent move, sparked by Galvin and Mulhall, led to Aoife Doyle inviting Flood forward on the left and, faced with two defenders just outside the South African 22, the Dubliner’s classy in-and-out run took her clean through for the opening try with three minutes gone. Mulhall narrowly missed the conversion.

However, a switch move in the fifth minute saw Nadine Roos touch down for South Africa while Ireland were down a defender due to Katie Fitzhenry’s dead leg. She added the straightforward conversion but Ireland’s persistence paid off past the hooter, as Roos’ scuffed kick failed to find touch and after a couple of phases and a tap penalty, Flood freed up Murphy Crowe to dive over in the right corner, giving Ireland a 10-7 lead at the break.

The girls in green got some crucial breathing space midway through the second half. Having had the possession but not the territory, a penalty saw them attack out to the left and teenage starlet Eve Higgins made a half-break and got her hands free in a tackle to release Murphy Crowe, who raided in behind the posts for Mulhall to convert.

Ireland were now dominant as they continued to wear down the tiring South African defence, with Flood, who made nine carries and three line-breaks in the decider, playing a starring role. Phumeza Gadu prevented Murphy Crowe from claiming a hat-trick and Higgins also went close to scoring her first try at the level, before Nic a Bhaird picked from the ruck and muscled her way in under the posts. Mulhall’s conversion completed a 17-point success for Eddy’s side.

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 – 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 – Dubai Results & Pool Tables

Friday, December 1 –

Challenge Trophy Semi-Final: Ireland 38 Japan 5, Sevens Stadium, Dubai
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Louise Galvin 2, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Lucy Mulhall 2; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 4

Team: Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Katie Fitzhenry, Ashleigh Baxter, 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.

Challenge Trophy Final: Ireland 24 South Africa 7, Sevens Stadium, Dubai
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 2, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2

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

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

HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – Rankings After Dubai

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