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Ireland Women Earn Best Ever Finish As A Core Team

Ireland Women Earn Best Ever Finish As A Core Team

It was a breakthrough weekend for the Ireland Women’s Sevens squad at the Canada 7s in Langford, as they claimed sixth place for their best ever finish as a core team in a HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series tournament.

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In the penultimate round of the 2017/18 World Series before Paris next month, Ireland’s highlights were wins over Spain (7-0) and Fiji (19-7) as well as their highest ever points tally (19) against Australia, while the ever-influential Stacey Flood earned a spot on the HSBC Dream Team.

The Dubliner was also second in the DHL Performance Tracker standings (53 points), with captain Lucy Mulhall fourth on 47 and France’s Camille Grassineau (56) topping the list. Tipperary speedster Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe was unable to replicate her fine form from the first day – scoring four tries in the pool stages – as a dead leg sidelined for Ireland’s final two games.

Day two began on a disappointing note for Ireland as France won the all-European Cup quarter-final in convincing fashion – 27-0. Good defensive pressure forced early knock-ons from both sides and Eve Higgins, making her third start of the weekend, put in a superb cover tackle to deny French captain Fanny Horta a try in the left corner.

Ireland tried to play their way out of their 22 but coughed up a penalty at ruck time, and Monserrat Amedee was able to put Grassineau darting over to the right of the posts for the opening try. She grabbed a quick-fire second after Audrey O’Flynn fumbled the restart and Jade Le Pesq provided a flat final pass.

Ireland’s 10-0 half-time deficit quickly grew with Horta’s pace off the mark taking her past Ashleigh Baxter, Flood and Mulhall for try number three. Receiving the restart, O’Flynn was hit hard and lost possession which allowed the skilful French to build for another score, their clever footwork and crisp passing sending Lina Guerin over in the right corner.

The girls in green were too lateral at times, allowing France to fan across in defence and also push up strongly, forcing Mulhall to knock on just outside her own 22. Flood won a penalty at the breakdown to launch Ireland forward and there were promising signs as Baxter and Mulhall gained ground up the left wing. However, with Murphy Crowe hobbling with that injury, France used a turnover penalty to fashion a fifth and final try with Amedee the scorer.

Louise Galvin, who had missed the France game with a stiff neck, returned to play a key role in Ireland’s fifth victory in twelve series meetings with Fiji. She broke the defensive line in the opening minute and stepped around the last defender for a well-taken try, although Baxter was fortunate to get away with a knock-on in the build-up.

Mulhall converted but Fiji were level by the third minute, Raijieli Daveua scoring from deep with a slick show-and-go. The Fijians’ indiscipline became a factor as the match wore on, Miriama Naiobasali’s high tackle on O’Flynn seeing her yellow carded with just under two minutes left in the first half.

Ireland took full advantage from the resulting tap penalty, Hannah Tyrrell threatening on the right before Flood sidestepped on a diagonal burst towards the left wing where her nicely-floated pass played in O’Flynn for a seven-pointer and a 14-7 interval lead. Ireland were facing six players again soon after the restart, as Asinate Ufa Savu paid the price for a deliberate knock-on.

As Anthony Eddy’s charges continued to control possession, Naiobasali was sent off – on the touch judge’s recommendation – for a kick at a ruck which made contact with Katie Fitzhenry’s head. Taking the quick tap, Flood accelerated through to score in the left corner and put Ireland 19-7 up in the 11th minute, the scoreline remaining unchanged with Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Higgins and O’Flynn ensuring possession and territory was Ireland’s in the final play.

Advancing to the 5th-6th place play-off, Mulhall and her team-mates were hoping to gain revenge for Saturday’s last-gasp 19-17 pool defeat to Canada. However, the hosts started Bianca Farella this time around and she was effectively the difference between the sides, scoring a hat-trick of tries in a 29-12 success.

Canadian captain Ghislaine Landry laid the groundwork for Farella’s opener after just 24 seconds, handing off Mulhall and drawing in Galvin to release the winger who dashed clear from halfway. Hannah Darling looked offside from the restart but there was no whistle from referee Ben Crouse, and Canada went through the phases to create a second-minute score, finished off on the left by Darling.

Baxter broke up Canada’s momentum with a great penalty win at the breakdown, and Ireland conjured up a try from their first bit of possession. Mulhall, Flood and Galvin all handled the ball before the latter sucked in a defender and passed for O’Flynn to charge over from the Canadian 10-metre line. Mulhall missed the conversion at 10-5 down.

However, with Galvin soon joining Murphy Crowe on the sidelines and Baxter knocking on just as Ireland pressed for another score, Canada managed to develop a 12-point cushion by half-time. Baxter had her hands on the ball at the breakdown and Landry should have been penalised for not releasing, but the referee felt otherwise and the possession led to Farella running in her second try.

That was effectively the winning of the game, Farrella completing her hat-trick in the 10th minute for a 24-5 scoreline before Nic a Bhaird and Higgins led Ireland’s response, the latter denied a try by a high tackle from Farella five metres out. Flood was a pass away from putting Nic a Bhaird over, but a subsequent turnover saw the lightning-quick Charity Williams score from her own 22.

Teenagers Claire Boles and Kathy Baker came on to add energy to Ireland’s play, a belated penalty from offside bringing the girls in green downfield where Baxter did really well to secure ruck ball and Tyrrell’s snappy step wrong-footed a defender and took her clear to score from 35 metres out. Mulhall converted Ireland’s twelfth and final try of the weekend.

The fifth place finish at the 2013 China Sevens when the Ireland Women (including Baxter) were an invitational team remains the highest rung they have reached, but the current squad’s sixth-place ranking in Langford gives them a timely boost heading towards Paris, the start of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series, and July’s Rugby World Cup Sevens.

Eddy’s side were the second highest European finishers at the Canada 7s – picking up 10 points behind fourth-placed France – and are now just a single point behind eighth-placed England, their opening World Cup opponents, in the overall World Series standings.

The Ireland Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams will both compete at July’s Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in San Francisco, and tickets are available to buy online here.

Follow the Ireland Women’s and Men’s Sevens sides this season in our exclusive behind-the-scenes series – On The Road with the Ireland 7s.

The Ireland Sevens jerseys are available to buy online here from Elverys Intersport, official sports retailer of the IRFU.

– Photos by Sam O’Byrne and Neil Kennedy

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2017/18 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – Canada 7s, Westhills Stadium, Langford, Canada, Saturday, May 12-Sunday, May 13):

Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Kathy Baker (Blackrock/Leinster)
Claire Boles (Railway Union/Ulster)
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)

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS RESULTS – CANADA 7s:

Saturday, May 12 –

Pool C:

Spain 0 Ireland 7, Westhills Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Louise Galvin; Con: Lucy Mulhall

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Louise Galvin, Katie Fitzhenry, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins, Stacey Flood.

Subs used: Audrey O’Flynn. Not used: Claire Boles, Kathy Baker, Hannah Tyrrell, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird.

Australia 31 Ireland 19, Westhills Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 2, Eve Higgins; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2

Team: Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Audrey O’Flynn, Katie Fitzhenry, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins, Stacey Flood.

Subs used: Ashleigh Baxter, Claire Boles, Hannah Tyrrell. Not used: Louise Galvin, Kathy Baker.

Ireland 17 Canada 19, Westhills Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 2, Stacey Flood; Con: Lucy Mulhall

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

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

Day 1 Round-Up: Murphy Crowe And Flood Fire Ireland Women Into Last-Eight

Sunday, May 13 –

Cup Quarter-Final: France 27 Ireland 0, Westhills Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: –

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

Subs used: Hannah Tyrrell, Claire Boles. Not used: Kathy Baker, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird.

5th-8th Place Play-Off: Ireland 19 Fiji 7, Westhills Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Louise Galvin, Audrey O’Flynn, Stacey Flood; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Audrey O’Flynn, Katie Fitzhenry, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Hannah Tyrrell, Stacey Flood, Louise Galvin.

Subs used: Eve Higgins, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird. Not used: Claire Boles, Kathy Baker.

5th-6th Place Play-Off: Ireland 12 Canada 29, Westhills Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Audrey O’Flynn, Hannah Tyrrell; Con: Lucy Mulhall

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Audrey O’Flynn, Katie Fitzhenry, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Hannah Tyrrell, Stacey Flood, Louise Galvin.

Subs used: Eve Higgins, Kathy Baker, Claire Boles, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird.

Follow the Ireland Women’s and Men’s Sevens teams this season in our exclusive behind the scenes series – On The Road with the Ireland 7s.

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