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Ireland Women Lay Down Marker With Sixth-Place Stateside Run

Ireland Women Lay Down Marker With Sixth-Place Stateside Run

The Ireland Women were a whisker away from upsetting Australia, the reigning HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series champions, as they began the new season with a momentum-building sixth place finish at the USA 7s in Glendale, Colorado.

The Australians needed a last-gasp Elia Green try, coupled with Samantha Treherne’s all-important conversion, to hand Ireland an agonising 21-19 defeat in their 5th-6th place play-off, although the result failed to take the shine off a weekend of serious progress for the girls in green.

Coach Anthony Eddy and Allan Temple-Jones, the IRFU Sevens’ Head of Athletic Performance, had the Irish squad primed for the World Series opener, with the players benefiting from recent altitude training in Dublin. The testing conditions at Infinity Park, which is a mile above sea level, were matched by a punishing schedule which saw Ireland play the top four finishers in last season’s series.

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After losing to France (21-12) and Canada (24-12), the girls in green romped to a record World Series win – trouncing a new-look Fiji side 59-7 – to advance to the Cup quarter-finals as the best third-place finishers. New Zealand proved too strong in a 34-7 quarter-final defeat, but captain Lucy Mulhall inspired Ireland’s third consecutive victory over Russia (21-10) to set up a shot at fifth place.

In the end, Mulhall and her team-mates matched their sixth place finish from last season’s Langford leg, which is their highest ranking yet as a core team, and the Rugby World Cup Sevens, slotting in as the second highest placed European team in Glendale behind fourth-placed France.

On a weekend when Ireland hit a number of performance markers, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe joined a select group of players in scoring 50 World Series tries – she currently stands at 52 tries in 84 matches – and Mulhall finished second on the DHL Performance Tracker list with 48 points, including 26 tackles, three breaks and 17 tackles.

Aoife Doyle, who top-scored with four tries across the two days, and fellow 23-year-old Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird both impressed with consistent and dynamic displays, as did 19-year-old talent Eve Higgins, a World Series Rookie of the Year nominee last term, who served up a scintillating solo try against the Black Ferns, the eventual champions.

In the morning session’s quarter-final clash, New Zealand’s impressive ball retention was rewarded with a second minute try from Michaela Blyde, who blasted clear from her own 22. A loose ruck ball was gobbled up by Kelly Brazier, just ahead of Nic a Bhaird, for try number two, before better play from Ireland saw Nic a Bhaird hammer up past halfway with Higgins also evading a couple of defenders.

Ireland had numbers on the left but crucially failed to use them, and with Tyla Nathan-Wong winning a turnover penalty despite appearing to be offside initially, the Black Ferns built for a strong finish to the first half. Replacement Shakira Baker put Sarah Goss over and Theresa Fitzpatrick used a clever dummy to make it 24-0.

Eddy’s charges were guilty of taking the wrong option again with no return from Nic a Bhaird’s turnover-winning tackle and charge up towards halfway. New Zealand had a stranglehold of the breakdown too and it led to Blyde breaking away from Hannah Tyrrell on the right wing for a 10th-minute score.

Higgins hit back with a terrific 50-metre solo score, using a Katie Heffernan-won lineout to step in between Brazier and Portia Woodman and stay clear of the latter with a nice burst of pace. The young Dubliner tapped over the conversion, but New Zealand had the final say with Stacey Flood hounded at the back of a scrum and Brazier using the turnover to tee up Blyde’s hat-trick try.

Ireland’s frustrating trend of conceding early tries at Infinity Park continued with Russia using a two-on-one to send Baizat Khamidova over in the right corner inside a minute. There were some very physical exchanges as Nic a Bhaird and company battled hard at the breakdown, and a tremendous recovery from Mulhall prevented Khamidova from scoring.

Katie Fitzhenry’s excellent try-saving tackle on Khamidova, who was turned over the touchline, lifted Ireland approaching half-time. Baxter got more involved, and as Russia lost their discipline and conceded metres, Higgins’ quick feet and pass off the deck released Doyle to score by the posts. Mulhall’s conversion gave her side a 7-5 lead.

Russian captain Alena Mikhaltsova got her hands free in a double tackle to release Daria Noritsina for a try just 30 seconds into the second half. A poor conversion attempt from Daria Lushina left it at 10-7, and Ireland had more in reserve – their excellent fitness coming to the fore – as their European rivals began to tire and lose their discipline again.

Lifting the tempo, Mulhall and Doyle took Ireland into the 22, and directed by Baxter, Higgins was able to spin away from a ruck and run clean through under the posts for an 11th minute. Mulhall converted and turned provider for the clinching try with just a minute to go. The in-form skipper’s dazzling dancing feet saw her step inside three defenders in the Russian 22 before laying off for Murphy Crowe to seal the result.

Ireland were playing catch-up in their final game of the weekend, having coughed up a first-minute try to Australia’s Demi Hayes, set up by Evania Pelite’s barnstorming run and Charlotte Caslick’s scoring pass. Emma Sykes’ sidestepping run earned her a try straight from the restart as the Australians made it a quick-fire double.. However, Ireland scored from their first possession.

Baxter snaffled a loose ball and then showed her breakdown expertise to keep a purposeful attack going, at the end of which Doyle sprinted over in the left corner with four minutes gone. Sprung from the Australian bench, Green denied Murphy Crowe and Doyle as the green shirts flooded forward in search of a second score, and it arrived past the hooter when Nic a Bhaird brilliantly stretched over despite being outnumbered by three covering defenders.

Mulhall swung over a pinpoint conversion from the right, reducing the arrears to 14-12 at the interval, and some quick-witted interplay produced Ireland’s third try soon after the resumption. Nic a Bhaird twice gained ground, using a fend to power through the second time and she looped a pass back for Murphy Crowe to go over untouched with Mulhall’s right boot putting the underdogs five in front.

Ireland’s Audrey O’Flynn-powered scrum drove Australia back, with Flood going close to intercepting, and as the tension increased, Page McGregor knocked on in a try-scoring situation. However, an unfortunate knock-on from Higgins gave the Olympic champions crucial possession and from a last-minute scrum, they worked an opportunity out wide for speedster Green who took it with both hands.

Relive the Ireland Women’s and Men’s Sevens teams’ 2017/18 campaigns 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.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2018/19 HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series – USA 7s, Infinity Park, Glendale, Colorado, Denver, USA, Saturday, October 20-Sunday, October 21):

Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster)
Claire Boles (Railway Union/Ulster)
Aoife Doyle (Shannon/Railway Union/Munster)
Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster)
Katie Heffernan (Mullingar/Railway Union/Leinster)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster)
Emily Lane (Mallow/Munster)
Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum) (capt)
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster)
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Old Belvedere/Munster)
Audrey O’Flynn (Ireland Sevens Programme)
Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS RESULTS – USA 7s:

Saturday, October 20 –

Pool C:

France 21 Ireland 12, Infinity Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Aoife Doyle, Hannah Tyrrell; Con: Lucy Mulhall

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

Subs used: Aoife Doyle, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Hannah Tyrrell, Katie Heffernan. Not used: Claire Boles.

Canada 24 Ireland 12, Infinity Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall; Con: Lucy Mulhall

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Claire Boles, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Aoife Doyle, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs used: Katie Heffernan, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Eve Higgins, Audrey O’Flynn, Hannah Tyrrell.

Fiji 7 Ireland 59, Infinity Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Aoife Doyle, Ashleigh Baxter 2, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins, Lucy Mulhall, Hannah Tyrrell, Katie Heffernan, Stacey Flood; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 7

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Eve Higgins, Aoife Doyle, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs used: Stacey Flood, Claire Boles, Audrey O’Flynn, Katie Heffernan, Hannah Tyrrell.

Day 1 Round-Up – Record World Series Win Sends Ireland Through To Glendale’s Last-Eight

Sunday, October 21 –

Cup Quarter-Final: New Zealand 34 Ireland 7, Infinity Park
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Eve Higgins; Con: Eve Higgins

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Eve Higgins, Hannah Tyrrell.

Subs used: Claire Boles, Audrey O’Flynn, Aoife Doyle, Katie Heffernan. Not used: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

5th-8th Place Play-Off: Ireland 21 Russia 10, Infinity Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Aoife Doyle, Eve Higgins, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 3

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Eve Higgins, Aoife Doyle, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs used: Audrey O’Flynn, Stacey Flood. Not used: Katie Heffernan, Claire Boles, Hannah Tyrrell.

5th-6th Place Play-Off: Ireland 19 Australia 21, Infinity Park
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Aoife Doyle, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 3

Team: Ashleigh Baxter, Katie Fitzhenry, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Eve Higgins, Aoife Doyle, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs used: Audrey O’Flynn, Stacey Flood. Not used: Katie Heffernan, Claire Boles, Hannah Tyrrell.

2018/19 HSBC WORLD RUGBY WOMEN’S SEVENS SERIES:

USA (Denver), Infinity Park, Glendale, October 20-21
DUBAI, Sevens Stadium, Dubai, November 29-30
AUSTRALIA (Sydney), Spotless Stadium, Sydney, February 1-3
JAPAN (Kitakyushu), Mikuni World Stadium, Kitakyushu, April 20-21
CANADA (Langford), Westhills Stadium, Vancouver Island, May 11-12
FRANCE (Paris), Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris, May 31-June 3

For more information on the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, click here.