It was another mixed day for Ireland Women on Day Two of the Japanese leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series at Kitakyushu.
Having returned one win from three in Day One they delivered the same return in Day Two. However, their win against Russia was a significant one as both teams will be competing in the European 2020 Olympic Qualifying tournament in Kazan, Russia on 13-14 July this year.
Unfortunately though, they lost their first game of the knockout rounds, against France, who, alongside a resurgent England, will be hot favourites to qualify for the Olympics at Kazan.
France 19 Ireland 0
France were the only side to score in a tight fist half with Anne Cecile Ciofani crossing with the final play to give France a 7- 0 lead.
Unfortunately, France doubled their lead at the start of the second with Grace Okemba catching Ireland napping. Chloe Pelle completed the scoring with Ireland unable to find a response.
The result saw Ireland drop out of the cup and into the Fifth Place semifinals.
Australia 29 Ireland 7
Another tight first half saw Australia take a 12 – 7 lead into the break. Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe had responded to an earlier score from Australia’s Emma Sykes and, with Lucy Mulhall converting, Ireland had 5 – 7 lead.
However Australia’s Emma Tonegato scored just before the break to give Australia the edge and she doubled up on that mid way through the second half. The wonderful Charlotte Caslick added Australia’s fourth try before Sariah Paki completed the scoring with the last play of the game.
The result saw Ireland drop into the final for Seventh Place
Russia 14 Ireland 15
Due to injuries it was a very young Ireland side that took to the field and probably all the better for that as they were mostly all “ballers”, prepared to play what was in front of them rather than resolutely adhere to restrictive patterns.
They stood up well to a physical challenge from Russia and they took a 7 – 10 lead into the break thanks to unconverted tries from Eve Higgins and Louise Galvin, Russia responding through Baizat Khamidova.
Russia regained the lead at the start of the second half when Daria Shestakova crossed and Daria Lushina added her second conversion, the kicks giving Russia a four point lead.
However in a thrilling second half the wonderful Higgins stepped up for Ireland’s third score, and a one point lead, which they held to the end of the game.
What was significant about this tournament?
A resurgent England making it all the way to the final, hammering Ireland on the way, was the most significant aspect for all European teams.
With no European side in the top four of the World Series, they are all going to have to compete for Olympic qualification in Kazan in June, and a resurgent England, allied to a another solid performance from France, does not bode well for Ireland’s chances to qualify from the European conference.
However, there will be two repechage places on offer from that tournament, with Ireland likely to be battling it out with Russia for one of those places. They have had a good run of form against Russia in recent tournaments, including in this tournament so they may still be in with a chance for Olympic Qualification right up to the final of the Olympic Repechage in June 2020.
IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS SQUAD
Claire Boles, Megan Burns, Aoife Doyle, Louise Galvin, Katie Heffernan, Eve Higgins, Brittany Hogan, Emily Lane, Anna McGann, Lucy Mulhall (c), Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, Hannah Tyrrell.