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Lane And Higgins Lead Ireland Women Through To Quarter-Finals

Lane And Higgins Lead Ireland Women Through To Quarter-Finals

Out-half Eve Higgins takes on the Spanish defence during Irelands final round win in Kharkiv today ©Andrey Necheporenko/Ukrainian Rugby

Eve Higgins scored three tries and her half-back partner Emily Lane played the captain’s role to a tee as a youthful Ireland Women’s Sevens team qualified for the Cup quarter-finals at the Kharkiv leg of the Rugby Europe Sevens Grand Prix Series.

Stephanie Carroll, Lucinda Kinghan and Dorothy Wall also made their Ireland Sevens debuts as Stan McDowell’s side bounced back from losing 27-7 to Pool C winners Italy with hard-fought, confidence-boosting victories over both Wales (19-14) and Spain (14-12).

It is very valuable experience for the young squad in this season-closer in Ukraine, with the IRFU Sevens coaches giving opportunities to some of the up-and-coming players who will continue to push for selection next year. Tomorrow they will face fellow pool runners-up Belgium in the quarter-finals (kick-off 12.06am local time/10.06am Irish time).

Despite taking the lead through Higgins’ converted try, Ireland were outplayed by a Giulia Barbieri-inspired Italy side. They led 12-7 at the turnaround with scores from Barbieri and Benedetta Mancini, the latter getting over after Francesca Sgorbini had juggled and intercepted an Aoife Doyle pass.

The girls in green could not profit from second half breaks by Megan Burns and replacement Kinghan, as Italy showed the greater cohesion in attack. Sgorbini provided the assist for Barbieri to make it 17-7, and the latter added two more tries to her tally with Ireland losing Fethard youngster Wall to the sin-bin for a late tackle.

Ireland erased a 14-5 deficit to win their Celtic derby against Wales thanks to second half tries from Higgins and Lane. Earlier on Higgins had struck for a well-executed try which involved a wraparound with Burns, but seven-pointers from speedster Jasmine Joyce and Lisa Neumann had the Welsh ahead.

Nonetheless, Ireland got a grip on the game during the final seven minutes as quick scrum ball allowed Higgins to run in a classy try from halfway. With two minutes remaining, skipper Lane struck for the match-winning try from a quick tap, following up on ground-gaining carries by Higgins, Kinghan, Carroll and Claire Boles.

Kathy Baker’s leg-pumping run lit the touchpaper for another resilient performance from Ireland in the final round against Spain. The early pressure, with Kinghan prominent in the forwards, led to Lane sniping in under the posts for a second-minute try converted by Higgins.

Aoife Doyle’s try-saving tackle held Spain at bay until turnover ball from a scrum set up Maria Casado for a close-range score, cutting the gap to 7-5 for half-time. Inside a minute of the restart, Burns’ clever step and injection of pace took her away to score behind the posts and Higgins made it a nine-point advantage.

Maria Garcia just evaded the clutches of Higgins to whittle the lead down to two points again, yet despite being pinned back in their own half, Ireland held firm to see out another tight win. Newcomer Carroll caught the eye with some powerful carrying and tackling, while Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird won a crucial late penalty to keep her side in possession.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2019 Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series – Round 2, Dynamo Stadium, Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, July 20-Sunday, July 21):

Kathy Baker (Blackrock/Leinster)
Claire Boles (Railway Union/Ulster)
Megan Burns (Tullamore/Leinster)
Stephanie Carroll (Railway Union) *
Anna Doyle (Tullow/Railway Union/Leinster)
Aoife Doyle (Shannon/Railway Union/Munster)
Katie Heffernan (Mullingar/Railway Union/Leinster)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster)
Lucinda Kinghan (Railway Union/Ulster) *
Emily Lane (Mallow/Munster) (capt)
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Old Belvedere/Munster)
Dorothy Wall (Fethard/Munster) *

* Denotes uncapped player

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Results/Fixtures –

Saturday, July 20 –

POOL C:

Ireland 7 Italy 27, Dynamo Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Eve Higgins; Con: Eve Higgins
HT: Ireland 7 Italy 12

Team: Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Kathy Baker, Claire Boles, Emily Lane (capt), Eve Higgins, Aoife Doyle, Megan Burns.

Subs: Stephanie Carroll, Anna Doyle, Katie Heffernan, Lucinda Kinghan, Dorothy Wall.

Ireland 19 Wales 14, Dynamo Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Eve Higgins 2, Emily Lane; Cons: Eve Higgins 2
HT: Ireland 5 Wales 14

Team: Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Kathy Baker, Claire Boles, Emily Lane (capt), Eve Higgins, Aoife Doyle, Megan Burns.

Subs: Stephanie Carroll, Anna Doyle, Katie Heffernan, Lucinda Kinghan, Dorothy Wall.

Spain 12 Ireland 14, Dynamo Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Emily Lane, Megan Burns; Cons: Eve Higgins
HT: Spain 5 Ireland 7

Team: Lucinda Kinghan, Kathy Baker, Claire Boles, Emily Lane (capt), Eve Higgins, Aoife Doyle, Megan Burns.

Subs: Stephanie Carroll, Anna Doyle, Katie Heffernan, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Dorothy Wall.

Sunday, July 21 –

CUP QUARTER-FINAL: Belgium v Ireland, Dynamo Stadium, 12.06pm local time/10.06am Irish time

The full pools, results and fixtures are available on the Rugby Europe tournament page.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS – European Schedule:

June 29-30: Marcoussis, France – Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series First Leg (4th Place/14 Points)

July 13-14: Kazan, Russia – Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Olympic Qualifying Tournament (5th Place)

July 20-21: Kharkiv, Ukraine – Rugby Europe Women’s Sevens Grand Prix Series Second Leg