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Orchard And Higgins Return As Ireland Women Make Winning Debut In Singapore

Orchard And Higgins Return As Ireland Women Make Winning Debut In Singapore

Orchard And Higgins Return As Ireland Women Make Winning Debut In Singapore

Switching from 15s to Sevens in less than a week, Eve Higgins was a try scorer for Ireland against New Zealand at the Singapore Sevens ©INPHO/Joe Hamby

The Ireland Women’s Sevens team (sponsored by TritonLake) ended day one of the Singapore Sevens with a won one-and-lost one record.

The Ireland Women are playing at the Singapore National Stadium for the first time, as this is a debut event for the Women’s SVNS Series in the Lion City, coming just a month before the inaugural Grand Final in Madrid.

Vicky Elmes Kinlan’s sixth-minute try saw Allan Temple-Jones’ side kick off the tournament with a hard-fought 5-0 win over Canada. The game marked the inspirational return of Ashleigh Orchard (née Baxter) to the HSBC SVNS Series circuit.

‘Bax’, the former dual international who won her last Sevens cap in Dubai in December 2018, had transitioned into coaching – and a player-coach role at Cooke – following a cruel run of luck with injuries.

Having given birth to her daughter Arabella last August, the 32-year-old showed immense determination to get back on the pitch only months later, lighting a fire that has led her back to the green jersey she first wore in 2012.

Showing her experience from 18 previous SVNS Series tournaments, forward Orchard was used off the bench against Canada and New Zealand, with the Series leaders proving too strong as they handed Ireland a 31-12 defeat.

Eve Higgins also had a cameo role during the first two rounds, finishing off a late try in the second game just over a week since playing in the final round of the Guinness Women’s Six Nations.

Seventh-ranked Ireland, who have already qualified for the Grand Final at the end of the month, are third in Pool A on three points, just one behind Canada.

Led by stand-in captain Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, they face bottom side Spain tomorrow at 11.44am local time/4.44am Irish time, aiming to reach their sixth Cup quarter-final in seven legs this season.

Two early turnovers won by Stacey Flood had the girls in green hunting down the opening try against Canada. Emily Lane went close with a snipe down the short side, but Krissy Scurfield denied her near the left corner.

Suddenly it was end-to-end stuff, as Canada’s Shalaya Valenzuela broke from deep and reached the Irish 22 before Murphy Crowe brilliantly reeled her in and got back on her feet to win a turnover penalty.

A nice set-up from Flood soon saw the Tipperary speedster raiding downfield, drawing a high tackle from Charity Williams. It was crucial possession and territory for Ireland, and they made it count on this occasion.

With little over a minute remaining before half-time, Lane injected pace from the penalty inside Canada’s 22, and Flood carried up cloose before Megan Burns dug a skip pass out for Elmes Kinlan to finish strongly from close range.

Orchard came on for the start of the second half, with Ireland maintaining the momentum thanks to a strong Burns carry. The scoreboard was untroubled as time ticked on, but Orchard quietly made an impact with a lineout win, and by snapping up a loose ball on the ground.

Canada advanced thanks to a Piper Logan break, but Higgins made an important tackle on her, and Alysha Corrigan then knocked on. Two closing penalties allowed Ireland to control possession and the tempo by taking scrums, before Flood kicked the ball dead.

Speaking in the aftermath, Higgins said of her immediate return to Sevens action: “I’m just glad there’s air con on this pitch, to be honest with you! It was tough, very tough.

“We knew it was going to be a physical game against Canada, but we just wanted to do everything we wanted to do on the pitch, and we did that, I think.

“It’s huge (to qualify for the Rugby World Cup and WX1). We’ve Olympics obviously this year for the Sevens, and then we’re straight in WXV1, leading into a year for a World Cup for the 15s.

“Ireland haven’t been in a 15s World Cup since 2017, so it’s huge. We call it ‘one programme’, it’s huge for the programme.”

Facing top seeds New Zealand in the second round of matches, Ireland fell behind to a first minute try. Jorja Miller’s arcing run took her in between Erin King and Vikki Wall, the only change to the starting line-up, to score from inside her own half.

Some patient build-up play saw Ireland advance past halfway, with the busy Wall stepping in at scrum half on occasion. However, Tysha Ikenasio pinched a lineout, and Shiray Kaka released Portia Woodman-Wickliffe on the opposite wing for her 250th SVNS Series try.

Murphy Crowe got off the mark before the interval, though, as Flood unlocked the defence by dangling a deft kick through. The Ireland skipper outpaced Woodman-Wickliffe to get her left boot to the ball, and then ground it impressively with her right hand.

Having reduced the arrears to 12-5, Temple-Jones’ charges coughed up a frustrating try inside a minute of the restart. Stacey Waaka evaded the clutches of Murphy Crowe to score, and then replacement Michaela Blyde made it a quick-fire double.

With New Zealand retaining possession from another restart kick, Shiray Kaka got away from Lane’s attempted tackle to make it 31-5 with little under three minutes remaining.

Nonetheless, Ireland made sure they ended the game on a positive note. Burns won a penalty at the breakdown, the newly-introduced Alanna Fitzpatrick did well to keep the ball in play, and a deliberate knock-on landed Manaia Nuku in the sin bin.

Further indiscipline from the Black Ferns Sevens allowed Ireland to build more pressure. Kate Farrell McCabe dummied through and almost scored, before Lane used the quick ruck ball to send Higgins over for a closing seven-pointer.

You can watch all of the HSBC SVNS Series matches for free on RugbyPass TV or on TNT Sports, while there is coverage of Ireland’s progress in Singapore across the @Ireland7s social media channels, and in our Ireland Sevens Hub.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (2024 HSBC SVNS Series – Singapore Sevens, Singapore National Stadium, Friday, May 3-Sunday, May 5, 2024):

Claire Boles (Railway Union RFC)
Megan Burns (Blackrock College RFC)
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union RFC) (capt)
Alanna Fitzpatrick (Portarlington RFC/Blackrock College RFC)
Stacey Flood (Railway Union RFC)
Eve Higgins (Railway Union RFC)
Erin King (Old Belvedere RFC)
Vicky Elmes Kinlan (Wicklow RFC)
Emily Lane (Blackrock College RFC)
Amy Larn (Athy RFC) *
Kate Farrell McCabe (Suttonians RFC)
Ashleigh Orchard (Cooke RFC)
Vikki Wall (Ireland Sevens)

* Denotes uncapped player at SVNS Series level

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Schedule – HSBC SVNS Series – Singapore:

Friday, May 3 –

POOL A:

CANADA 0 IRELAND 5, Singapore National Stadium
Scorers: Canada: –
Ireland: Try: Vicky Elmes Kinlan
HT: Canada 0 Ireland 5

Team: Vicky Elmes Kinlan, Erin King, Claire Boles, Emily Lane, Stacey Flood, Megan Burns, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (capt).

Replacements used: Ashleigh Orchard, Eve Higgins. Not used: Kate Farrell McCabe, Alanna Fitzpatrick, Vikki Wall.

NEW ZEALAND 31 IRELAND 12, Singapore National Stadium
Scorers: New Zealand: Tries: Jorja Miller, Portia Woodman-Wickliffe, Stacey Waaka, Michaela Blyde, Shiray Kaka; Cons: Tyla King 2, Risi Pouri-Lane
Ireland: Tries: Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins; Con: Eve Higgins
HT: New Zealand 12 Ireland 5

Team: Vicky Elmes Kinlan, Erin King, Vikki Wall, Emily Lane, Stacey Flood, Megan Burns, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (capt).

Replacements used: Eve Higgins, Alanna Fitzpatrick, Kate Farrell McCabe, Ashleigh Orchard, Claire Boles.

Saturday, May 4 –

POOL A:

IRELAND v SPAIN, Singapore National Stadium, 11.44am local time/4.44am Irish time

PLAY-OFFS & RANKING MATCHES

Sunday, May 5 –

PLAY-OFFS & RANKING MATCHES