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Ireland Women Finish World Series On A High With Paris Silverware

Ireland Women Finish World Series On A High With Paris Silverware

An Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe brace guided the Ireland Women’s Sevens team to their first ever win over Russia as they lifted the Challenge Trophy in the final match on day two of the Paris Sevens tournament tonight.

Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe scored a 15th-minute match winner in a gritty 10-5 comeback victory over the Russians at Stade Jean-Bouin, ensuring Anthony Eddy’s side ended the five-stage HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series on a high with their second Challenge Trophy success of the season.

Recovering from the frustration of missing out on a Cup quarter-final place yesterday by a single point to Spain, Ireland strung together back-to-back wins against European rivals Wales and Russia with teenagers Eve Higgins and Kathy Baker among the starters as they claimed ninth spot in Paris.

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It was a historic weekend for the IRFU Sevens Programme as both the Ireland Women’s and Men’s squads competed at the same World Series tournament for the first time. There was also a milestone achievement for Ashleigh Baxter who won her 27th Sevens cap to become Ireland’s most-capped Sevens international of all-time.

Speaking to IrishRugby.ie afterwards, Baxter, who was sporting a shiner below her right eye, said of the caps record: “It’s pretty cool. I didn’t expect to find that out this week. It was a bit of a shock. At the end of the day a cap is just a number, it’s about how you play and the girls that we’re with. It’s an exciting squad to be a part of.

“We were disappointed to to miss out on the top eight here. Day one we hoped to do better, we were up there almost. To lose out by a point was disappointing. But it’s been good preparation for the World Cup Sevens (next month). England are our first game at the World Cup and it’s going to be knockout. We’ve a lot of work to do but we know we’re better than our performance against them yesterday.”

Stacey Flood added: “It was important for us to get back on track today with two wins and it was a big squad effort against Russia, with all the substitutes coming on to finish it off. We want to keep improving, we’ll go back and train and look at that England game again and see what areas we can improve on to hit them hard at the World Cup.”

The girls in green book-ended this season’s series with Challenge Trophy titles in Dubai and Paris, secured a best-ever core team finish of sixth in Langford last month, were seventh-place finishers in Sydney, defeated both Canada and Russia for the first time, registered wins over the higher-ranked Fiji (three times), USA and Spain (twice), and had their closest losing margins against Australia (31-19) and New Zealand (17-0).

Higgins, the youngest member of the Irish squad at 18, turned ‘super sub’ as she set up one try and scored the clincher in a hard-fought 17-7 Challenge Trophy semi-final triumph over Wales. The invitational side led this scrappy contest until Higgins helped to turn the screw.

Murphy Crowe had the game’s first try within reach in the second minute after Wales had leaked a serious of penalties. Flood, Baxter and captain Lucy Mulhall chipped away at the short side but Murphy Crowe could not gather her skipper’s pass cleanly and the scoreboard remained blank.

Ireland’s discipline was poor, giving away cheap penalties at ruck time and in the tackle, and a good spell of possession past halfway saw flying Welsh winger Jasmine Joyce cut in past Flood and evade Louise Galvin’s despairing tackle to run in an opening fifth-minute try, converted by Elinor Snowsill.

However, Snowsill’s miscued restart handed possession straight back to Ireland and following some good carrying from the likes of Galvin and Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Flood sprung up the left touchline, handing off Snowsill twice in quick succession to cross in the corner.

When the second period got underway, the 7-5 half-time deficit was unmoved and it was still very much a dog-fight. A crooked Welsh lineout gave an eager Higgins the opportunity to link with Murphy Crowe on a fleet-footed attack from deep. Nonetheless, a knock-on by Higgins a few phases later allowed Wales to draw breath.

A hair pull on Flood went unnoticed by the match officials, but the same player gobbled up a turnover out the back of a Welsh scrum, and the ball was spread wide to the right where Higgins sliced past one defender and passed out of a tackle for Murphy Crowe to finish off a vital try with just less than two minutes remaining.

Mulhall converted and it was the Wicklow woman’s improvised restart which immediately set Ireland on the attack again. Murphy Crowe won the short ball and when possession came back to Higgins on the Welsh 10-metre line, she fended off Lucy Packer’s tackle and outpaced Shona Powell-Hughes on the outside to touch down and seal Ireland’s progress through to the final.

Eddy and his Russian counterpart Andrey Kuzin refreshed their starting line-ups for the floodlit Challenge Trophy decider, Ireland more so with regulars Flood, Murphy Crowe, Baxter and Galvin all on the bench. Aoife Doyle, who recently returned from injury, set the early tone with some energetic tackling and chasing in Russia’s 22.

Nic a Bhaird’s stepping ability and powerful carrying was well utilised when Ireland had possession, but despite some ground-gaining runs from Higgins and Doyle, Russia held them at bay and won a clearing penalty. Indeed, from their first real attack, the ball was moved wide for the rangy Elena Zdrokova to leave three Irish players in her wake on a terrific try-scoring run from inside the Russian half.

Hannah Tyrrell did enough to force her away from the posts and the conversion was duly missed. Seeking a quick response, Mulhall freed up Higgins for a strong break past halfway but the youngster’s pop back to her captain was knocked on. The first half ended in Russian territory with tigerish Irish tackling forcing their opponents back into their 22.

With his charges 5-0 down at the turnaround, Eddy added more experience off the bench, and although Russia lost try scorer Zdrokova to injury, they were able to introduce their formidable captain Alena Mikhaltsova as a replacement. However, she missed a tackle on Murphy Crowe as the Tipperary flyer left her for dead on the outside to run in a cracking 10th-minute score.

Mulhall missed the conversion from a very difficult angle, leaving the contest tantalisingly poised at five points each. Russia’s passing was letting them down as they struggled to move past halfway, but they were winning the breakdown battle to keep Ireland from building pressure in attack.

Just when extra-time was looking likely, Murphy Crowe came up trumps for Ireland. Firstly, she stretched to win a Russian kick in the air, and then after Maria Perestiak was yellow carded for a deliberate slap-down on Mulhall which dislodged the ball, Flood initiated a move out to the left where Ireland’s record series try scorer displayed superb finishing skills to reach over past both Daria Bobkova and Baizat Khamidova.

The match-winning try kept up the 23-year-old’s enviable strike-rate. She has now amassed 49 tries in 79 World Series appearances, with an excellent 18 touchdowns in 25 matches during the 2017/18 campaign. Play-maker Flood joined Murphy Crowe in hitting double figures this term with 10 tries, closely followed by Galvin on nine.

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 Results

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)

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS RESULTS – PARIS 7s:

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.

Day 1 Round-Up – Ireland Women Narrowly Miss Out On Paris Quarter-Final Place

Saturday, June 9 –

Challenge Trophy Semi-Final: Ireland 17 Wales 7, Stade Jean-Bouin
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins; Con: Lucy Mulhall

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

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

Challenge Trophy Final: Ireland 10 Russia 5, Stade Jean-Bouin
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 2

Team: Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird, Kathy Baker, Katie Fitzhenry, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Eve Higgins, Hannah Tyrrell, Aoife Doyle.

Subs used: Katie Heffernan, Stacey Flood, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Ashleigh Baxter, Louise Galvin.

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