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Ireland Women Narrowly Miss Out On Paris Quarter-Final Place

Ireland Women Narrowly Miss Out On Paris Quarter-Final Place

Despite producing their best ever performance against New Zealand, the Ireland Women’s Sevens team were squeezed out in a desperately tight three-way battle for the last of the Cup quarter-final spots at the Paris leg of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series.

Scoring difference decided the two best third-placed sides on day one of the hotly-contested Paris Sevens tournament, with Fiji (-15) and Spain (-16) both making it through to the last-eight and Ireland (-17) missing out by just a single point.

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Anthony Eddy’s side overcame invitational team Wales 24-5 in their Pool A opener at Stade Jean-Bouin, before a frustrating second half saw England hand Ireland a 31-12 defeat, and a quarter-final final eluded them despite a tenacious display against defending series champions New Zealand (17-0).

The youthful Ireland squad, with an average age of 23-and-a-half, will meet Wales again in tomorrow’s Challenge Trophy semi-finals (3.02pm local time/2.02pm Irish time), with the winners battling it out with either Japan or Russia for ninth place and the silverware.

Scrum half Stacey Flood touched down twice as Ireland kicked off the tournament with an encouraging four-try win. Invitational side Wales certainly put it up to them, especially in a closely-fought first half, but the girls in green seized control during the concluding seven minutes.

Welsh speedster Jasmine Joyce showed her impressive pace on a slaloming early break, yet she was tracked down by Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Flood followed up by winning a penalty at the breakdown. Still, it was Wales who took the lead with just over a minute on the clock.

Profiting from a rip in the tackle, they moved the ball wide to Hannah Jones and her offload out of a tackle sent 19-year-old Kayleigh Powell clear to run in the opening try from the edge of the Irish 22. The experienced Elinor Snowsill was unable to convert.

Hannah Tyrrell, captain Lucy Mulhall and the excellent Louise Galvin gained ground as Ireland gradually got into try-scoring range, taking the Welsh defence through a number of phases before Galvin’s run out to the right and pass out of the tackle teed up the supporting Flood to finish off the 20th try of her World Series career.

Mulhall’s conversion from the right took Ireland ahead at 7-5 and they extended their lead a few minutes later despite losing Galvin to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on. Ashleigh Baxter’s pressing in defence forced a Welsh knock-on, and Ireland broke downfield through Murphy Crowe to score past the half-time hooter. Joyce brought down Murphy Crowe but a quick recycle and Baxter’s long skip pass fed Katie Fitzhenry to go over in the left corner.

12-5 at the break became 19-5 following a scrappy start to the second period by both sides. With nine minutes on the clock, Fitzhenry’s well-timed tackle forced a turnover and replacement Eve Higgins’ quick pass released Murphy Crowe to score out wide on the right. Mulhall tagged on a pinpoint conversion from a tight angle.

Fitzhenry soon split the Welsh defence after taking a quick tap, and although both she and Mulhall were tackled short of the line, Flood flung a pass wide to Higgins and backed up her team-mate to pick from the ruck and shrug off Lucy Packer’s attempted tackle and complete her brace, with three minutes remaining.

Ireland hunted for a fifth and final try in the dying embers of the game but replacement Katie Heffernan ran out of space on the right wing, as she had a foot in touch as she dived over the line under pressure from a covering defender.

Meeting for the first time in the series since Langford last year, it was England who got off to the stronger start in the second round game with a try after just 45 seconds. Their captain Abbie Brown released Emily Scarratt over halfway and she evaded a tackle from the chasing Tyrrell to touch down.

It was five points apiece by the midpoint of the first half, with the evasive running of Galvin, Baxter and Flood getting Ireland on the front foot. The latter gobbled up the metres from a quick tap and her well-timed pass put Tyrrell darting over near the right corner to square things up.

English skipper Brown took a return pass from Alex Matthews to run in her side’s second try, this time Emily Scott converted, and they also got the rub of the green when referee Ben Crouse failed to blow for a Scarratt offside from the restart. It gave them field position to set Deborah Fleming free on the right wing for a 17-5 lead closing in on half-time.

Ireland hit back past the hooter, Flood getting replacement Aoife Doyle involved off a free-kick and Mulhall and Flood’s clever interplay propelled the inrushing Galvin through a crowded midfield with some terrific footwork from the Kerry woman for try number two. Mulhall’s conversion closed the gap to 17-12.

Ireland’s frustration with the match officials grew, as Scarratt appeared to be ahead of the kicker when the second half got underway and Fleming should have been penalised for making no attempt to roll away. Instead, play continued and a subsequent turnover led to England’s fourth try as Murphy Crowe bit in and Scarratt’s flat delivery sent Fleming raiding over to complete her brace.

The girls in green lost momentum when Galvin was whistled up for a high tackle and then a Murphy Crowe mistake ruined Flood’s hard work in winning a penalty and launching a promising attack from the tap. Scarratt stretched her legs against a tiring defence to add a gloss at 31-12, and Doyle lacked support on a weaving run past halfway as Ireland failed to add to their first half tally.

However, Eddy’s charges bounced back in impressive fashion for their third round clash with New Zealand. The in-form Galvin led by example by forcing two early knock-ons, leaping high to compete for the kick-off and then catching Ruby Tui with a tackle, as Ireland laid down an early marker.

A hugely intense and physical battle developed, both teamss swarming the other with tackles and Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird was quick in at the breakdown to win a penalty and launch Ireland forward again. Clean ball was very hard to come by and Ireland could not capitalise on a Flood break.

It was the Black Ferns who nipped ahead just before the interval as the lightning-quick Portia Woodman passed out of a tackle for Niall Williams to crash over in the right corner, just evading the clutches of Fitzhenry.

Only five points behind at the turnaround, Ireland started the second half encouragingly with Flood winning the restart and linking with Fitzhenry and Murphy Crowe up the right wing. They had New Zealand scrambling back in defence, but their ruck ball was slow and Baxter, when found out on the left wing, was closed down by Woodman.

However, the New Zealanders were the more dangerous outfit off limited ball, and although Murphy Crowe did superbly to tackle Gayle Broughton into touch, a subsequent turnover by Woodman saw play switch out to the right where Michaela Blyde’s pace took her over for a 10th minute try.

Teenagers Higgins and Kathy Baker, who were both sprung from the bench, gained priceless experience against a world class line-up, but the Irish challenge was killed off by Blyde’s second score, a fleet-footed run through from the left wing after Stacey Waaka had gobbled up Tyla Nathan-Wong’s well-placed restart.

Still, the 17-0 loss was Ireland’s best ever result against the Black Ferns, showing their continual improvements following last January’s 36-0 reversal to the same opposition and last season’s brace of series defeats to the Kiwis – 27-5 and 26-5.

Disappointingly, Mulhall and her team-mates fell agonisingly short of qualifying for their third Cup quarter-final appearance of the season. The Wicklow woman is ranked sixth (30 points) on the DHL Performance Tracker list after day one in Paris, just behind the third-placed Murphy Crowe (32) and pace-setting Australian Charlotte Caslick (35).

World Rugby are broadcasting the Women’s Sevens Series games via www.worldrugby.org and the World Rugby Sevens Facebook page – www.facebook.com/worldrugby7s, with Sunday’s final matches live on Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports Action. The Paris Sevens is the final stage of the World Series, and Ireland lie in ninth place in the overall standings with 25 points, just a point behind England. Click here to buy Paris Sevens tickets.

The Ireland Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams will both compete at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco over the weekend of July 20-22 at AT&T Park. RWC Sevens tickets are available here.

HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – Paris Sevens Pools/Results/Fixtures

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.

– Paris Sevens photos by Sam O’Byrne and Neil Kennedy

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2017/18 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – Paris Sevens, Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris, France, Friday, June 8-Sunday, June 10):

Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Kathy Baker (Blackrock/Leinster)
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)
Katie Heffernan (Mullingar/Railway Union/Leinster)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum) (capt)
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)


Friday, June 8 –

Pool A:

Ireland 24 Wales 5, Stade Jean-Bouin
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Stacey Flood 2, Katie Fitzhenry, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2

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

Subs used: Eve Higgins, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Katie Heffernan. Not used: Aoife Doyle, Kathy Baker.

Ireland 12 England 31, Stade Jean-Bouin
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Hannah Tyrrell, Louise Galvin; Con: Lucy Mulhall

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

Subs used: Eve Higgins, Aoife Doyle, Katie Heffernan, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird. Not used: Kathy Baker.

New Zealand 17 Ireland 0, Stade Jean-Bouin
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: –

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

Subs used: Kathy Baker, Eve Higgins. Not used: Aoife Doyle, Hannah Tyrrell, Katie Heffernan.

Saturday, June 9 –

Challenge Trophy Semi-Final: Ireland v Wales, Stade Jean-Bouin, 3.02pm local time/2.02pm Irish time

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