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Ireland U-18 Women Win Bronze With Best Ever European Sevens Finish

Ireland U-18 Women Win Bronze With Best Ever European Sevens Finish

The Ireland Under-18s made history by winning bronze at the Rugby Europe U-18 Women’s Sevens Championship in Vichy yesterday, with Lucinda Kinghan’s try completing a memorable comeback win over Italy in the 3rd-4th place play-off.

Coached by Matthew Wilkie and Adam Griggs, it was Ireland’s best ever finish in a Rugby Europe U-18 Women’s Sevens Championship as the class of 2018 won five out of their six matches, only losing their semi-final to hosts and eventual champions France who qualified for the Youth Olympic Games.

The girls in green topped Pool D on Saturday with wins over Latvia (50-0), Andorra (64-0) and the Netherlands (19-15), and qualified for the last-four with an impressive 29-0 dismissal of Russia. They then lost out to a very strong French side (27-0), but came from two tries down against Italy to win the 3rd-4th place play-off 15-10 thanks to tries from Kelly McCormill, Megan Burns and Lucinda Kinghan.

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Half of the squad had played in last year’s European Championship, including co-captains Anna Doyle and Dorothy Wall, while new caps Katelynn Doran, Beibhinn Parsons, Grace Browne Moran, Alexandra Dunne, Saoirse O’Reilly and Maggie Boylan acquitted themselves really well, particularly Ballinasloe and Connacht centre Parsons who top-scored with five tries – a tally matched by co-captain Doyle from Tullow.

Wilkie and Griggs were delighted with the young squad’s efforts during two training camps and over the course of the weekend, with yesterday’s final rounds hampered by heavy showers and a rain-sodden pitch, and said that the IRFU Women’s Sevens pathway is continuing to bring through talented players and possible future senior stars.

Griggs, who coaches the Ireland Women’s 15s squad and joined the IRFU High Performance Unit Women’s Programme earlier this month, said: “It was hugely pleasing to see the quality of performance from our girls throughout the two days. It’s a great stepping stone for our young players to give them a feel of what it means to be professional with all aspects of international rugby – not only on the field but in preparation and recovery off it. 

“It’s an exciting time for us with the quality of players coming through our pathway and gaining the knowledge and experience which will hopefully lead them to higher honours in the future.”

Ireland U-18 Women’s Sevens head coach Wilkie noted: “To finish third at a tournament of this magnitude is a tremendous achievement for this squad and is reflective of the hard work and dedication of every player both on and off the field this weekend. To win five of our six games in testing conditions against quality opposition from across Europe just further demonstrates the talent coming through Rugby Sevens in Ireland at the moment.”

With the UK School Games, of which Ireland are current champions, and Rugby Europe U-18 tournament proving ideal breeding grounds, it is hoped that a number of these players will push through and make their mark at senior level, following in the footsteps of Kathy Baker, Eve Higgins, Anna McGann, Claire Boles, Chloe Blackmore and Katie Heffernan who have all come through the U-18 Sevens pathway in recent seasons and played for Ireland on the World Sevens Series circuit.

Another strong start, a feature of Ireland’s play throughout the tournament, set them up for a well-judged 29-0 quarter-final win over Russia yesterday. Co-captain Wall got her side on the board after just 36 seconds, powering over after backing herself from 40 metres out and getting the better of three defenders.

The Fethard ace impressed in defence soon after, halting a potential breakaway with a thumping tackle, and from a well-won Burns penalty, Ireland broke downfield for their second try in the fifth minute. McCormill drew in a defender and released her Monaghan club-mate Kinghan to gallop away up the left touchline and in behind the posts.

Deely converted and also added the extras to Wall’s second score on the stroke of half-time, Ireland doing damage again on the left wing as Kinghan tiptoed through and sucked in the defence to release the supporting Wall to finish off behind the posts. The girls in green went into their huddle at the turnaround with a 19-0 lead.

Early in the second half, ultra-consistent scrum half Meabh Deely had a clever cut down the blindside to run in a unconverted try from 45 metres out, and a fifth and final try arrived in the last minute when replacement Parsons tidied up possession off a scrum and went through the gears to go past three defenders for an eventual 29-point winning margin.

France came into the semi-final as warm favourites given they had yet to concede a point. The teams returned to a soggy pitch for the afternoon session with some pools of surface water adding to the difficulty. Wall was penalised for holding on in the early exchanges, and the French showed their clinical edge, putting Melanie Daumelle over near the right corner.

Scrappy ball out the back of an Irish scrum was held up by the water, with France able to dive on it and then release Alycia Christiaens for the first of her two tries before the break. With Ireland struggling to get out of their own half, France put pressure on to force a couple of penalties and Christiaens threw a dummy to make it over to the left of the posts – 15-0.

Despite promising runs from Burns, Parsons and then O’Reilly later on, Ireland could not get into scoring range and France, who went on to beat Britain 22-0 in the decider, continued to control the breakdown. From one such penalty, Charlotte Escudero sent Alexandra Chambon over for France’s fourth try from five metres out. Lovely hands then put Escudero over for the final score, three minutes from the end.

There were plenty of handling errors early on in the 3rd-4th place-play-off as conditions worsened even further. Ireland, now wearing white jerseys, had a lineout stolen in their 22, midway through the first half, and Italy worked numbers on the right where Alissa Rannucci touched down to open the scoring.

An Irish fumble invited Italy forward again, building from a scrum and an offload out of a double tackle set the wheels in motion for Sofia Rolfi to slide over in the left corner for a 10-0 lead. Crucially, Ireland hit back just past the half-time hooter, McCormill splashing down for a five-pointer following a terrific burst out of her own half from Wall and Boylan’s pop pass off the deck after she had been tackled just short.

The game turned in Ireland’s favour when Martina Giampaglia saw yellow for a dangerous tackle and although Italy defended the initial Irish surge, Burns soon claimed an opportunist try as she hacked on a loose ball from halfway, left-footing it through on two more occasions before picking up under pressure from a chasing defender and successfully grounding the ball.

Deely missed the difficult conversion from the right at 10-all, before Ireland, who were roared on by their family members in a vocal travelling support, manufactured the match-winning try with little over two minutes remaining.

Doyle won a vital turnover, pouncing on a loose ball near the Italian 10-metre line, Deely threatened on the right wing before Parsons had a cut on the left, linking with Kinghan who slipped away from a tackler and ran in from the edge of the 22.

Five points remained the difference after Deely’s conversion attempt dropped short, and Ireland ground out the result with Parsons forcing a player into touch inside the Italian half and then Doyle preventing a potential break from halfway. A subsequent knock-on signalled the end of Italy’s determined challenge and sparked joyous Irish celebrations of their victorious three-try fight-back.

IRELAND UNDER-18 WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2018 Rugby Europe Under-18 Women’s Sevens Championship, Stade Darragon, Vichy, France, Saturday, April 28-Sunday, April 29):

Maggie Boylan (Carrick-On-Suir RFC/Munster)
Grace Browne Moran (Westport RFC/Connacht)
Megan Burns (Tullamore RFC/Leinster)
Meabh Deely (Ballinasloe RFC/Connacht)
Katelynn Doran (Port Dara RFC/Leinster)
Anna Doyle (Tullow RFC/Leinster) (co-capt)
Alexandra Dunne (Denston College/IQ Rugby)
Lucinda Kinghan (Monaghan RFC/Ulster)
Kelly McCormill (Monaghan RFC/Ulster)
Saoirse O’Reilly (Wicklow RFC/Leinster)
Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe RFC/Connacht)
Dorothy Wall (Fethard RFC/Munster) (co-capt)

IRELAND UNDER-18 WOMEN’S SEVENS Management:

Head Coach – Matthew Wilkie
Assistant Coach – Adam Griggs
Women’s Sevens Programme Manager – Eimear Flannery
Team Manager – Elaine Ryan
Physiotherapist – Niamh Connolly

IRELAND UNDER-18 WOMEN’S SEVENS Results –

Day 1 – Saturday, April 28:

Pool D –

Ireland U-18s 50 Latvia U-18s 0, Stade Darragon
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Anna Doyle 2, Beibhinn Parsons 2, Megan Burns, Maggie Boylan, Saoirse O’Reilly, Dorothy Wall; Cons: Meabh Deely 3, Megan Burns, Maggie Boylan

Team: Dorothy Wall (co-capt), Megan Burns, Alexandra Dunne, Anna Doyle (co-capt), Lucinda Kinghan, Maggie Boylan, Meabh Deely.

Subs used: Katelynn Doran, Beibhinn Parsons, Grace Browne Moran, Saoirse O’Reilly, Kelly McCormill.

Ireland U-18s 64 Andorra U-18s 0, Stade Darragon
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Anna Doyle 3, Dorothy Wall, Megan Burns, Beibhinn Parsons, Maggie Boylan, Katelynn Doran, Saoirse O’Reilly, Meabh Deely; Cons: Meabh Deely 5, Megan Burns, Maggie Boylan

Team: Dorothy Wall (co-capt), Grace Browne Moran, Megan Burns, Kelly McCormill, Beibhinn Parsons, Anna Doyle (co-capt), Meabh Deely.

Subs used: Lucinda Kinghan, Saoirse O’Reilly, Katelynn Doran, Maggie Boylan, Alexandra Dunne.

Ireland U-18s 19 Netherlands U-18s 15, Stade Darragon
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Maggie Boylan, Megan Burns, Beibhinn Parsons; Cons: Meabh Deely 2

Team: Dorothy Wall (co-capt), Megan Burns, Kelly McCormill, Anna Doyle (co-capt), Lucinda Kinghan, Maggie Boylan, Meabh Deely.

Subs used: Beibhinn Parsons, Alexandra Dunne, Grace Browne Moran. Not used: Katelynn Doran, Saoirse O’Reilly.

Day 2 – Sunday, April 29:

Cup Quarter-Final: Ireland U-18s 29 Russia U-18s 0, Stade Darragon
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Dorothy Wall 2, Beibhinn Parsons, Lucinda Kinghan, Meabh Deely; Cons: Meabh Deely 2

Team: Dorothy Wall (co-capt), Megan Burns, Kelly McCormill, Anna Doyle (co-capt), Lucinda Kinghan, Maggie Boylan, Meabh Deely.

Subs used: Beibhinn Parsons, Katelynn Doran, Saoirse O’Reilly, Grace Browne Moran, Alexandra Dunne.

Cup Semi-Final: France U-18s 27 Ireland U-18s 0, Stade Darragon
Scorers: Ireland: –

Team: Dorothy Wall (co-capt), Megan Burns, Kelly McCormill, Beibhinn Parsons, Anna Doyle (co-capt), Lucinda Kinghan, Meabh Deely.

Subs used: Alexandra Dunne, Saoirse O’Reilly, Grace Browne Moran, Katelynn Doran, Maggie Boylan.

3rd-4th Place Place-Off: Italy U-18s 10 Ireland U-18s 15, Stade Darragon
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Kelly McCormill, Megan Burns, Lucinda Kinghan

Team: Dorothy Wall (co-capt), Megan Burns, Kelly McCormill, Anna Doyle (co-capt), Lucinda Kinghan, Maggie Boylan, Meabh Deely.

Subs used: Alexandra Dunne, Beibhinn Parsons. Not used: Grace Browne Moran, Katelynn Doran, Saoirse O’Reilly.

The full tournament results and standings are available to view on the Rugby Europe website.