Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 0°C
# Comeback
Incredible Japan comeback sinks Ireland but there was plenty for us to celebrate
Anthony Eddy’s side were beaten by Japan in the final in UCD

Updated 18.30

IRELAND WOMEN HAVE secured a coveted place in the 2015 /16 World Rugby Sevens series, but had to settle for second place in the overall competition at the Dublin Sevens.

With two places up for grabs in this weekend’s tournament, Ireland went in to today’s knockout stage knowing a place in the final would be enough to achieve their goal.

However, after comfortably seeing off China in the quarter-final they met South Africa in the semi, less than 24 hours after losing a pool decider to the ‘Boks.

A new day though, brought a whole new ball game and the hosts cranked up the intensity to pile the pressure on South Africa right from the off.

Katie Fitzhenry celebrates her try with Ashleigh Baxter Colm O'Neill / INPHO Baxter arrives to celebrate Fitzhenry's try. Colm O'Neill / INPHO / INPHO

Katie Fitzhenry got Ireland on the board, going over off a fine Ashleigh Baxter pass in the second minute. Jenny Murphy relished the physicality that the wet conditions demanded and her hard yards paved the way for Lucy Mulhall to tenaciously break a tackle before stretching for the line.

After scoring twice in the win over China, Alison Miller needed to show her strength in defence to deny Veroeshka Grain before the break, but the ‘Boks captain dusted herself down and closed the gap by seven soon after.

Louise Galvin and Jenny Murphy celebrate qualifying for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series Gary Carr / INPHO Louise Galvin and Jenny Murphy celebrate Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

As ever, Mulhall was a lightning rod for Ireland. Along with her try and conversions she helped push Ireland to a 19 – 7 half-time lead by breaking the line and finding the prolific Miller.

Grain pounced on a loose bobbling ball to claim a second try for her country after the break. Mulhall would not to be denied. The fantastic captain chased her own kick over the top and finishing under the posts to restore the home side’s 12-point lead with the small crowd building a fervent atmosphere in Belfield.

That crowd undoubtedly played a role in the closing minutes as Anthony Eddy’s side knuckled down to prevent the southern hemisphere side whittling down the deficit any further. And when the final whistle blew to confirm the 26 – 16 victory, it was the sound of a job well done for Ireland. A collective slide along the pitch was richly deserved, as was the salute to the supporters who cheered them on in UCD.

In the final, Japan bossed the opening exchanges, camped in the Irish half for the first three-and-a-half minutes, but a breakaway try for Amee-Leigh Crowe put the Irish fans at ease, captain Lucy Mulhall converting to put Ireland 7-0 ahead.

They extended that lead at the start of the second half, with Crowe again crossing the whitewash, although this time captain Mulhall was wide with her conversion attempt.

With three minutes to play Japan were throwing everything they had at Ireland, and got over for their first score when Yoki Suziki crossed for a try.

The conversion was missed by Yume Okuroda, but the gap was down to two when scored Japan’s second try with 1:22 to play.

It looked like Ireland would hang on, but four seconds from time a high tackle and yellow card from Ashleigh Baxter gave Okuroda a penalty and a shot of goal, which she sent between the posts for an incredible win.

Elsewhere, Ireland and Japan may have taken the big prizes, but South Africa claimed third place by beating the Netherlands.

Keyna celebrate winning the bowl Colm O'Neill / INPHO Colm O'Neill / INPHO / INPHO

There was also something to celebrate for Kenya and Brazil, as they lifted the Bowl and Plate titles respectively.

IRELAND: 1. Audrey O’Flynn, 2. Jenny Murphy, 3. Stacey Flood, 4. Hannah Tyrrell, 5. Amee-Leigh Crowe, 6. Ashleigh Baxter, 7. Katie Fitzhenry, 8. Claire Keohane, 9. Lucy Mulhall, 10. Claire Molloy, 11. Louise Galvin, 12. Alison Miller.

Originally published 11.24

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