The Ireland Women’s Sevens team have continued to re-write the history books as they guaranteed themselves a first ever semi-final spot at a World Rugby Sevens Series, after a dominant 22-7 win over Spain.
Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe has continued her meteoric rise as she touched down twice in the quarter-final victory. Murphy Crowe now has six tries to her name in this year’s Sydney 7’s tournament and 15 tries overall in this season’s combined Series. The Tipperary flyer is second to only New Zealand’s Michaela Blyde who tops the leading try scoring charts with 16.
It was Ireland who flew out of the blocks early and a tenacious defensive effort forced the Spanish into an early knock-on.
19-year-old play-maker Eve Higgins opened the scoring from the resulting scrum as she carried the ball from the right wing and drove into the heart of the Spanish midfield. Higgins skipped past three Spanish defenders before setting Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe off down the left. Murphy Crowe drew in the last covering defender before playing a lovely return pass back to the supporting Higgins to dive over the line. Captain fantastic, Lucy Mulhall, added the extra two points to give Ireland a 7-0 lead with just two minutes on the clock.
Eve Higgins has been pivotal to Ireland’s success this tournament as her all-round game has seen has ranked third on the DHL performance tracker. Higgins has 22 tackles, 10 line breaks, 7 offloads and 77 carries so far.
Ireland were reduced to 6 players after 20-year-old Anna McGann was sinbinned for a deliberate slap-down. The numeric disadvantage didn’t hinder the Girls in Green as their energetic and rock-hard defence forced the Spanish into a number of errors. When Ireland did get hands back on the ball, their pick and goes were too much to handle for the Spanish, with Hannah Tyrrell and Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird leading the charge.
Ireland were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time and Mulhall elected to go for the posts, sending a penalty straight through the uprights to give Ireland a 10-0 lead at half-time.
Straight from the break, Ireland continued where they left off as a number of ball-carriers made relentless metres going forward. Spain were forced to make tackle after tackle and the Irish pressure took its toll as Murphy Crowe showed her fantastic balance and speed to find the gap past two Spanish defenders and cross the line for Ireland’s second try of the game.
Immediately after the restart, Ireland took the lead up to 22-0 with Murphy Crowe’s second try of the game. Brilliant work from the kick-off saw Ireland regather possession. The ball moved through the hands where Murphy Crowe was able to isolate her defender one-on-one and display her world-class finishing skills as she crossed over again.
In her teenage years, the Tipperary star was a formidable sprinter and long-jumper and now at 23-years-old, she is quickly making a name for herself on the world stage in Seven’s rugby. The speedster now has 62 tries in 83 games for Ireland, making her Ireland’s most prolific sevens player ever.
As the game edged towards its conclusion, Ireland continued to display their relentless work-rate. Lucy Mulhall exemplified the Irish performance with her non-stop effort. As Anthony Eddy emptied his bench, Spain claimed a consolation try, but the victory was secured.
Ireland are now through to the semi-final of the tournament where they will play the tournament hosts and defending champions Australia, at 10.56pm Irish time. The Girls in Green will relish the opportunity to come up against Australia again, as they were narrowly defeated by a last minute try, the last time the two sides met in October.
This tournament has exhibited the sheer depth of the Irish talent pool as despite the absence of stellar names such as Stacey Flood, Ashleigh Baxter and Katie Fitzhenry, Ireland have continued to impress with 17-year-old Beibhinn Parsons and Emily Lane making their series debuts.
With such a young and exciting squad, Ireland will fancy their chances of making it all the way to the final. It will be a difficult task as Australia defeated France 21-17 in the other quarter-final. Australia edged the encounter in a tight affair and their physical presence will be a challenging factor for the Irish defence to deal with.
With victory over Spain, Ireland remain unbeaten so far in Sydney, having topped Pool B with some mightily impressive performances. Last night’s win also see’s Ireland as the only remaining European side left in the competition.