The Olympic aspirations of the Ireland Women’s Sevens team came to an end yesterday, as they claimed a third-place finish at the Global Sevens Qualification Tournament at University College Dublin.
The Lucy Mulhall-led Irish recorded a 17-5 triumph over Kazakhstan in the Bronze Match in the penultimate encounter of the two-day rugby festival, but with just one team from the 16 in competition progressing to the Summer Games in Rio, it wasn’t to be for Anthony Eddy’s charges.
There was some solace for Ireland on the day, though, with third spot ensuring that they will be in next season’s World Series, and with this mind, Eddy revealed afterwards that he had mixed feelings about the tournament overall.
“A little bit mixed feelings. It was vital for us to get back on the World Series,” said Eddy.
“The way the girls came back after the semi-final, losing to Russia, it was full credit to them. They’re desperate to achieve high standards and everything else. It showed during that last game against Kazakhstan.
“Their dedication and commitment to the programme and to the cause and to the playing at the World Series. That’s probably the closest we’ve come to Russia. Obviously going to Rio meant a lot to them. They’ve given up a lot to try and get to Rio, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
“I’m really pleased and proud with their efforts over the weekend, and really pleased and proud with the way they played in that semi-final.”
The hosts had emerged from Pool C on Saturday with minimal fuss, and with Alison Miller and Railway Union’s Amee Leigh Murphy-Crowe in fine form, they comfortably booked their place in the Championship quarter-final on Sunday morning with victories over Trinidad & Tobago, Portugal, and China.
They faced Pool C runners-up Tunisia in the last-eight, where five-pointers from Alison Miller (two), skipper Mulhall, Ashleigh Baxter, Nicole Cronin and Stacey Flood helped them towards a 38-0 success.
This brought them head-to-head in the semi-final with the hotly-fancied Russian outfit, who in addition to scoring 198 points in their four previous fixtures, had also failed to concede a single point to their opponents.
Their line was finally breached by Shannon star Aoife Doyle in the opening half of their game with Ireland, but thanks to tries from Iulia Guzeva and Ekaterina Kazakova, they developed a 12-5 interval period lead.
Indeed, another score from Elena Zdrokova after the restart left Ireland with a mountain to climb, and even though Miller dived over for her seventh try of the competition, it was Russia who progressed to the Championship decider with Spain for a place in the Rio Olympics — which was eventually sealed by the Spanish on a scoreline of 19-12 in a gripping contest.
Meanwhile, Madagascar, Cook Islands, and China had reason to be cheerful in the Belfield venue, as they were victorious in the 13th place match, the Challenge Trophy final and the 5th place match respectively.
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