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Ireland Complete Stirring Comeback To Win WXV3 Title
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Ireland Complete Stirring Comeback To Win WXV3 Title

Ireland Complete Stirring Comeback To Win WXV3 Title

Ireland centre Aoife Dalton is pictured on the attack during their final round clash with Spain in Dubai ©Christopher Pike/World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Ireland recovered from a 10-point deficit and two yellow cards to edge out Spain 15-13 in gritty fashion and claim the inaugural WXV3 title in Dubai.


IRELAND 15 SPAIN 13, The Sevens Stadium 2
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Grace Moore, Neve Jones; Con: Dannah O’Brien; Pen: Dannah O’Brien
Spain: Try: Claudia Peña Hidalgo; Con: Amalia Argudo; Pens: Amalia Argudo 2
HT: Ireland 3 Spain 13

Two maul tries from Grace Moore (60 minutes) and Neve Jones (72) guided Ireland to their first international silverware since the 2015 Six Nations success, as they made it three wins out of three in the desert heat.

A fast-paced first half ended 13-3 in Spain’s favour, with Claudia Peña Hidalgo’s intercept try punishing Ireland co-captain Edel McMahon’s third-minute yellow card. Composed goal-kicker Amalia Argudo added eight points.

A Dannah O’Brien penalty opened the Irish account in the 35th minute and despite Linda Djougang’s yellow just before the break, Scott Bemand’s side gradually got on top with their powerful pack getting a grip of this tense encounter.

Las Leonas leaked penalties and the Irish maul took full advantage, with a brave call to turn down a kickable penalty resulting in hooker Jones’ match-winning effort.

One slip could have given Argudo a chance to kick Spain back ahead in the dying embers, but replacement Eimear Corri stole a lineout to ensure Ireland closed out their first ever WXV campaign with a trophy.

It also means there will be three European teams playing in WXV2 next year, with regional qualifiers in 2024 to decide the identity of those sides. A higher finish than in last season’s Six Nations should ensure that Bemand’s charges move up to WXV’s second division.

McMahon’s sin-binning for a high tackle on Laura Delgado was an early setback, but Ireland were first to threaten with Jones making a midfield break and Natasja Behan twice making good ground on the right wing.

However, some loose handling prevented the second round leaders from striking for the opening score, and it was Spain who pounced against the run of play.

A move broke down between Aoife Dalton and Mastercard player-of-the-match O’Brien, allowing talented teenager Peña Hidalgo to swoop on the bouncing ball and embark on a 65-metre run-in.

Following Argudo’s straightforward conversion for a 7-0 lead, Djougang led the way with her work-rate and physicality in both defence and attack. Dalton’s neat footwork and pass set up Behan but she was tackled into touch just five metres out.

There were positive signs from the strong Irish set-piece platform and an Eve Higgins turnover penalty, yet Spain’s rush defence and crisper passing were paying dividends. Full-back Argudo landed a penalty from just outside the 22.

Ireland’s execution let them down in and around the Spanish 22, with a lineout throw from Jones going out the back and Méabh Deely’s pass to put Béibhinn Parsons away, a few phases later, was ruled forward.

Despite Brittany Hogan’s breakdown work being rewarded with that three-pointer from O’Brien, Argudo’s defence-slashing break led to late maul pressure from Spain, and a crucial try-saving tackle out wide from Dorothy Wall.

Nonetheless, an offside Djougang soon saw yellow, allowing Argudo to restore the 10-point gap. The game resumed with an edgy tactical kicking battle early in the second period, before Argudo was at the heart of a promising Spanish attack down the left wing.

Nearing the hour mark, things began to click again for Ireland with a couple of penalties and O’Brien’s big left boot putting them right into scoring range.

Getting their second wind, the forwards did the rest as a surging lineout drive ended with flanker Moore piling over the whitewash. O’Brien’s crisp conversion reduced the arrears to just 13-10.

Buoyed by a scrum penalty and the likes of Aoife Wafer and Fiona Tuite bringing impact off the bench, Ireland continued to make inroads during the final quarter.

Sam Monaghan’s decision to turn down a shot at a levelling penalty kick paid off when a second successive maul opportunity resulted in Jones squeezing over in a breathless passage of play.

O’Brien slid the conversion wide from the left and there were some nervy moments, as both lineouts came under intense pressure. Ireland were now winning the tight calls, though, and Corri’s well-timed jump delivered a final turnover to complete a stirring comeback victory.

TIME LINE: 3 minutes – Ireland yellow card: Edel McMahon; 10 mins – Spain try: Claudia Peña Hidalgo – 0-5; conversion: Amalia Argudo – 0-7; 24 mins – Spain penalty: Amalia Argudo – 0-10; 35 mins – Ireland penalty: Dannah O’Brien – 3-10; 40+1 mins – Ireland yellow card: Linda Djougang; 40+1 mins – Spain penalty: Amalia Argudo – 3-13; Half-time – Ireland 3 Spain 13; 60 mins – Ireland try: Grace Moore – 8-13; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 10-13; 72 mins – Ireland try: Neve Jones – 15-13; conversion: missed by Dannah O’Brien – 15-13; Full-time – Ireland 15 Spain 13

Referee: Doriane Domenjo (France)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Méabh Deely (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht); Natasja Behan (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Eve Higgins (Railway Union RFC/Leinster), Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Béibhinn Parsons (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht); Dannah O'Brien (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union RFC/Leinster); Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury), Christy Haney (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC/Munster), Sam Monaghan (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby) (co-capt), Grace Moore (Saracens/IQ Rugby), Edel McMahon (Exeter Chiefs) (co-capt), Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere RFC/Ulster). Replacements used: Aoibheann Reilly (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht) for Scuffil-McCabe (45 mins), Sadhbh McGrath (City of Derry RFC/Cooke RFC/Ulster) for McMahon (47-53), Aoife Wafer (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster) for McMahon (53), Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere RFC/Ulster) for Moore (67), Leah Tarpey (Railway Union RFC/Leinster) for Behan, McGrath for Haney (both 72), Clara Nielson (Exeter Chiefs) for Jones, Eimear Corri (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster) for Wall (both 76). Not used: Niamh O'Dowd (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster).

Away Team

Amalia Argudo; Claudia Pérez Pérez, Claudia Peña Hidalgo, Zahia Perez, Clara Piquero; Ines Bueso-Inchausti, Maider Aresti Felix; Ines Antolinez Fernandez, Cristina Blanco Herrera (capt), Laura Delgado, Anna Puig, Carmen Castellucci, Vico Gorrochategui Juste, Alba Capell, Maria Calvo. Replacements used: Maria del Castillo for Antolinez Fernandez, Sidorella Bracic Rodriguez for Delgado (both 54 mins), Julia Castro for Aresti Felix, Tecla Masoko Bueriberi for Pérez Pérez, Nadina Cisa for Puig, Alba Vinuesa for Bueso-Inchausti (all 71), Maria Roman Mallen for Blanco Herrera (74). Not used: Beatriz Rivera.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Grace Moore, Neve Jones; Con: Dannah O'Brien; Pen: Dannah O'Brien

Away Team

Try: Claudia Peña Hidalgo; Con: Amalia Argudo; Pens: Amalia Argudo 2