The Ireland Women’s Sevens team have recorded their best ever finish in a World Rugby Seven’s Tournament, after finishing fourth at the Sydney 7’s. Ireland were defeated 24-12 to hosts Australia in the semi-final before losing to the USA in the third place play-off. Defeat see’s Ireland return home empty handed but this doesn’t tell the full story in what has been a magnificent tournament for the Girls in Green.
Ireland vs Australia – Semi-Final
Competing in their first ever semi-final, Ireland came up against a physically dominant Australian side. The last time the two sides met in October, Australia needed a last-gasp Elia Green try, to snatch victory away from Ireland.
Despite the 24-12 score-line, there wasn’t much between the two sides. It was the 23-year-old Elia Green who once proved to be the major difference, as a sensational hat-trick took the game away from Ireland. Green is undoubtedly one of the finest athletes in the game and her speed and power was too much too handle for the Irish defence.
Ireland started off the more dangerous of the two sides. Rising star and Ireland play-maker Eve Higgins continued her sensational tournament with more line breaks and elusive running. Higgins is remarkably comfortable stepping off both feet and never shirks away from her defensive responsibilities – setting a great platform for her teammates.
The 19-year-old was nominated for Rookie of the Year at last year’s World Series awards and her performances continue to earn rave reviews, finishing the tournament with 4 tackles, 5 breaks, 2 offloads and 36 carries. Her dazzling feet and ability to find space has drawn comparisons to that of Jordan Larmour.
In spite of Ireland dominating the early possession and territory, Australia scored against the run of play after great work at the breakdown from skipper Sharni Williams. After a quick-tap and go from a penalty in their own 22, Australia fed the ball to Elia Green who showed remarkable gas, reaching a mind-blowing top-speed of 32km/h to score race away under the Irish posts.
Immediately after the restart, Australia regathered their own kick-off and scored down the Irish right-hand side to take the score to 14-0. Ireland couldn’t get their hands on the ball as Australia once more recovered possession off the kick-off. Ireland were unable to suppress the Aussie’s physical power as a scrum on the Irish five-metre line saw Australia cross over for their third try of the game and enter half-time with a 19-0 lead.
One thing that can never be questioned with this Irish side is their never-say-die attitude. Despite being 19 points down Ireland came back fighting in the second half. Great work from Hannah Tyrell from the restart saw Ireland steal possession and gather momentum.
Pick and goes from the industrious and dynamic Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird forced Australia back into their own 22. More great work from Higgins with a show and go had Ireland camped on the Australian try-line. Eventually Ireland spread the ball out wide to captain Lucy Mulhall who showed a quick hand’s to move the ball onto the try-machine Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe to mount the Irish comeback.
Ireland began to believe and after some great defensive work in midfield by Nic a Bhaird and Higgins, Ireland earned a scrum in the centre of the pitch. A lovely set piece move saw Mulhall isolate her on-rushing defender before putting Murphy Crowe through for her second try of the game – cue her trademark celebration.
Ireland Women’s 7s give it a good crack but come up short in the #Sydney7s semi-finals, losing 24-12 to Australia.
Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe with her 7th and 8th tries of the weekend in defeat.
Great progress for Ireland to get to the semis for the first time on the Series. pic.twitter.com/WtrpgxHk5Y
— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) February 2, 2019
With two and a half minutes remaining, it looked like only a matter of time before Ireland completed the comeback and took the lead. Nic a Bhaird was carrying the fight to Australia with her unbelievable carrying and work rate.
Unfortunately for Ireland however, a huge tackle from Elia Green resulted in a penalty deep in the Australian 22, a massive turning point in the game. From the resulting Australia once again scored against the run of play as Green’s ridiculous pace saw her run the length of the field to seal the game for Australia.
The score-line flattered Australia who were extremely clinical in their performance. It was one hell of a comeback from Ireland but unfortunately they left themselves with too much of a mountain to climb. Elia Brown was the difference between the two-sides and defeat mean Ireland would progress to the third-place play-off to take on the USA.
Ireland vs USA – 3rd Place Play-Off
Ireland rung the changes for their final game of the tournament, with a number of new faces coming into the starting line-up. World Series debutants Emily Lane and Beibhinn Parsons were amongst the new-comers in the starting seven. Ireland had beat the USA in last year’s 7th place-play off at the same tournament, showing just how far both teams have come in a year.
It was déjà vu for Ireland as they found themselves 19-0 down at half-time after another slow start. The USA’s Kris Thomas punished an inexperienced Irish back-line with two quick tries early on. Ireland’s young stars didn’t hit the ground running as a lack of communication and experience played it’s part in the USA taking a taking a well-deserved lead at half-time.
As we have become accustomed to, Ireland didn’t throw in the towel at half-time. Changes were made with Eve Higgins and Nic a Bhaird coming onto the field. Immediately the intensity from Ireland improved and straight from the kick-off after a barnstorming run down the middle from Lucy Mulhall, the ball was spread out to Eve Higgins. Higgins drew in her defender and flung the ball out to the left to the try-machine Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe who showed why she is Ireland’s best finisher in the game as she ran home her ninth try of the weekend. The Tipperary superstar ended the tournament as the leading try scorer.
Soon after, Eve Higgins once again displayed some jaw-dropping awareness and dancing feet as she created a try from nothing with a sublime break from inside Ireland’s own half. Higgins was named in the Sydney 7’s Dream Team of the tournament alongside skipper Lucy Mulhall.
The @IrishRugby Women’s 7s finish fourth at the HSBC Sydney 7’s. Ireland were defeated 26-12 after a valiant fight back!
Check out this incredible try from Eve Higgins, who at 19-years-old, is frighteningly good at splitting world-class defences!
: WorldRugby Youtube pic.twitter.com/r38BeKMyTt
— HerSport (@HerSportDotIE) February 3, 2019
It looked like Ireland would kick-on to victory but the USA put all Irish hopes to bed with an immediate response. Ireland looked to have run out of steam and couldn’t stop the USA from registering their fourth try of the game.
In the end it finished 26-10 to the USA. Ireland narrowly missing out on a bronze medal. The tournament will go down in history for Ireland as they registered their best ever finish. There are an abundance of positives to take with a number of new young players gaining international experience whilst plenty of the Irish squad have proven they can easily mix it up with the best.
Next up is the Kitakyushu 7’s in Japan, taking place from April 20-21.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) February 3, 2019