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Strength to strength as Ireland Women win qualification for 7s World Cup

Anthony Eddy’s side are heading to San Francisco next summer.

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS squad secured World Cup qualification yesterday thanks to a 40 – 0 trouncing of France in Kazan.

The win gave Ireland third in the Rugby Europe Grand Prix second leg. The performance backed up their third place in Malemort in the first leg a fortnight ago to put them second in the overall Grand Prix standings, second only to the all-conquering Russia.

Anthony Eddy’s squad, which left many of the more recognised 15-a-side stars at home as they headed for Russia, only suffered losses at the hands of the eventual finalists this weekend.

Tipperary speedster  Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe  lit up the Irish scoreboard time and again, ending the weekend with nine tries to her name, helping Ireland build early momentum on Saturday with wins over Poland (17 – 7) and Sweden (48  - 0) before being forced to settle for a runners-up spot as England – the only team to stop Murphy Crowe crossing the whitewash – edge Ireland out 17 – 21.

First time out Sunday morning, Ireland put that loss well behind them with a relentless aggression with and without the ball putting Portugal to the sword 49 – 7. While Murphy Crowe grabbed a brace in the six-try rout – the first an easy finish as reward for intense defensive line speed five metres from the Portuguese posts – Megan Williams scorched in one of the individual tries of the day, dummying to power through one tackle and stepping a second before opening up her stride in the first half.

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Attacking opportunities were few and far between against the hosts in the semi-final, with Russia’s powerful defence stopping Eddy’s side from gaining a foothold in enemy territory and forcing errors to be picked off on their way to a 27 – 5 win.

Fortunately it was role reversal time in the third place play-off, with Tyrell’s agility proving crucial in reclaiming restarts as Ireland took a 28 – 0 half-time lead thanks to tries from Murphy Crowe (who hit Les Bleus for four), Lucy Mulhall and Stacey Flood who also put in a terrific try-saving tackle to keep France scoreless while Williams was sin-binned for a deliberate knock on.

The combination of Murphy Crowe’s finishing and solid Irish defence continued to pay dividends in the second half as Ireland ended up 40 -0 victors, a scoreline that proved crucial as points difference were needed to separate Ireland, France and England after the two-legged tournament.

The three nations trailed runaway winners Russia (40 points) with 32 points apiece, but Ireland’s final points difference of +208 helped edge out France (149) and England (85).

Next year’s Sevens World Cup (San Francisco 20 – 22 July) will be Ireland’s second. However, with a growing pool of talent that has almost eliminated reliance on 15-a-side players, improving results that have pushed Ireland to ninth in the World Series and landmark wins over Fiji and England, Ireland will go to next summer’s tournament very good shape.

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