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Ireland Women Gain Ground In Race For Olympic Qualification

Ireland Women Gain Ground In Race For Olympic Qualification

Ireland Women Gain Ground In Race For Olympic Qualification

Eve Higgins is pictured on the attack during Ireland's Bronze final showdown with the USA in Cape Town ©INPHO/Christiaan Kotze

The Ireland Women (sponsored by TritonLake) missed out on a bronze medal in Cape Town, but have climbed up one place to fifth in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings after two rounds.

Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe finished as the HSBC Cape Town Sevens’ joint-top try scorer with seven tries, the last of them coming in a closely-fought 14-7 Cup quarter-final defeat to eventual champions New Zealand.

Béibhinn Parsons and Stacey Flood both crossed during the Bronze final, cancelling two earlier tries, only for the USA to answer back with a late brace in a bruising 20-12 win.

Their fourth place finish still means Ireland end 2022 sitting in an automatic qualification berth for the 2024 Olympics. France, currently in fourth, are out of the equation as hosts of the Paris Games.

Aiden McNulty’s side have accumulated 24 points so far, edging four clear of Fiji with Great Britain the next best on 16. The World Series resumes in January with back-to-back legs in Hamilton and Sydney.

New Zealand captain Tyla Nathan-Wong pointed the way for her team in this morning’s quarter-final, outpacing Erin King out wide to score inside the opening minute. Her well-struck conversion made it a seven-pointer.

Ireland met fire with fire, Risi Pouri-Lane winning a turnover penalty before Eve Higgins, who has been nominated for this weekend’s HSBC Dream Team along with captain Lucy Mulhall, responded with a strong counter ruck to get a decision in her favour.

Parsons fought hard to reach a kick downfield from Mulhall, but ace finisher Michaela Blyde soon stepped inside Kate Farrell McCabe to scamper clear and touch down under the posts.

Into the second half, Katie Heffernan and Megan Burns were quickly involved off the bench and King’s powerful leg drive helped to get the girls in green over the gain-line.

A Mulhall kick exposed the Black Ferns Sevens in the back-field, but an uncharacteristic error from the Wicklow native, who knocked on when attempting to take a quick tap, made it a missed opportunity.

There was nothing wrong with the Irish execution in the 12th minute, Mulhall moving swiftly from a penalty and releasing Murphy Crowe to go around the outside of Shiray Kaya for a 20-metre run-in.

Mulhall’s conversion from the right brought the deficit back to seven points, yet time ran out on Ireland’s comeback bid. Mulhall ended the game in the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.

Similar to last week’s low-scoring clash in Dubai (5-0), Ireland and the USA were cancelling each other out in the Bronze final until Sammy Sullivan broke the deadlock in the fifth minute.

Ireland’s best attack up to that point saw Mulhall up the tempo from a quick tap, her kick through being gathered by Murphy Crowe just inside the American 22. However, Naya Tapper forced a turnover penalty.

Sullivan was up in support to score following Kristi Kirshe’s lung-busting break from inside her own half. Ilona Maher made it a late double, taking a return pass from Tapper to go over to the right of the posts.

10-0 down at the interval, Ireland hit back in the ninth minute when Mulhall put boot to ball off a scrum and Parsons zoomed through to gather ahead of Maher for a well-crafted try. Mulhall hit the post with the conversion.

A nice link-up between Burns and Murphy Crowe sent the latter through a gap, and although she was tackled short, Mulhall secured the ball and allowed Farrell McCabe to send Flood crashing over beside the posts.

Ireland had the briefest of leads following Mulhall’s conversion, but a ruck ball squirted out for Sullivan to score a try out of nothing, showing impressive pace to complete her brace in the right corner.

The physical US outfit sealed the result by wearing down the Irish defence from the restart, teeing up their captain Tapper to make it a four tries-to-two triumph.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (HSBC Cape Town Sevens, Cape Town Stadium, December 9-11, 2022):

Kathy Baker (Blackrock College RFC)
Megan Burns (Blackrock College RFC)
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union RFC)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union RFC)
Katie Heffernan (Railway Union RFC)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union RFC)
Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere RFC)
Erin King (Old Belvedere RFC)
Vicky Elmes Kinlan (Wicklow RFC)
Claire Boles (Railway Union RFC)
Kate Farrell McCabe (Suttonians RFC)
Lucy Mulhall (Wicklow RFC) (capt)
Béibhinn Parsons (Blackrock College RFC)

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Schedule – HSBC Cape Town Sevens:

Friday, December 9 –


IRELAND 33 SPAIN 12, Cape Town Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 3, Béibhinn Parsons 2; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 4
Spain: Tries: Amaia Erbina, Bruna Elias; Con: Claudia Peña Hidalgo
HT: Ireland 14 Spain 7

Team: Katie Heffernan, Erin King, Béibhinn Parsons, Stacey Flood, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Eve Higgins, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs used: Kate Farrell McCabe, Megan Burns, Brittany Hogan, Kathy Baker, Vicky Elmes Kinlan.

IRELAND 24 SOUTH AFRICA 0, Cape Town Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe 2, Béibhinn Parsons, Megan Burns; Cons: Lucy Mulhall 2
South Africa: –
HT: Ireland 12 South Africa 0

Team: Katie Heffernan, Erin King, Béibhinn Parsons, Kate Farrell McCabe, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Eve Higgins, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs used: Megan Burns, Brittany Hogan, Vicky Elmes Kinlan, Kathy Baker, Claire Boles.

Day 1 Round-Up: Murphy Crowe Fast Out Of The Blocks With Five-Try Haul

Saturday, December 10 –


AUSTRALIA 29 IRELAND 0, Cape Town Stadium
Scorers: Australia: Tries: Sariah Paki, Madison Ashby, Faith Nathan, Bienne Terita 2; Cons: Sharni Williams, Dominique du Toit
Ireland: –
HT: Australia 10 Ireland 0

Team: Kathy Baker, Brittany Hogan, Vicky Elmes Kinlan, Katie Heffernan, Lucy Mulhall, Megan Burns, Béibhinn Parsons.

Subs used: Erin King, Kate Farrell McCabe, Eve Higgins, Claire Boles. Not used: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.


FRANCE 10 IRELAND 12, Cape Town Stadium
Scorers: France: Tries: Camille Grassineau, Alycia Chrystiaens
Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Béibhinn Parsons; Con: Lucy Mulhall
HT: France 0 Ireland 12

Team: Erin King, Stacey Flood, Béibhinn Parsons, Kate Farrell McCabe, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Eve Higgins, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs used: Megan Burns, Kathy Baker, Katie Heffernan. Not used: Claire Boles, Vicky Elmes Kinlan.

Day 2 Round-Up: Ireland Women Knock Out France To Reach Cape Town’s Final Four

Sunday, December 11 –


NEW ZEALAND 14 IRELAND 7, Cape Town Stadium
Scorers: New Zealand: Tries: Tyla Nathan-Wong, Michaela Blyde; Cons: Tyla Nathan-Wong 2
Ireland: Try: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe; Con: Lucy Mulhall
HT: New Zealand 14 Ireland 0

Team: Béibhinn Parsons, Erin King, Stacey Flood, Kate Farrell McCabe, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Eve Higgins, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs used: Katie Heffernan, Megan Burns, Claire Boles, Kathy Baker.


IRELAND 12 USA 20, Cape Town Stadium
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Béibhinn Parsons, Stacey Flood; Con: Lucy Mulhall
USA: Tries: Sammy Sullivan 2, Ilona Maher, Naya Tapper
HT: Ireland 0 USA 10

Team: Béibhinn Parsons, Erin King, Kathy Baker, Katie Heffernan, Lucy Mulhall (capt), Eve Higgins, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe.

Subs used: Kate Farrell McCabe, Stacey Flood, Megan Burns, Claire Boles.