Delight for Irish women's Sevens as they qualify for World Series
It was another memorable weekend for Irish women's rugby, as Anthony Eddy's charges secured their place in the 2015/16 Women's Sevens Series at the end of an eventful two-day Qualifier Tournament at the UCD Bowl.
Thanks to their semi-final victory over South Africa, Ireland were already guaranteed a spot in the series before their Cup decider with Japan. Two tries from Amee-Leigh Crowe had given the Green Army a 12-0 lead with just four minutes remaining in the final, but a late rally (which included a last-gasp penalty from Yume Okuroda) helped Japan to secure the title in sensational fashion.
With Wicklow native Lucy Mulhall leading a supremely-organised squad, Ireland got their Pool C campaign off to a perfect start on Saturday with comprehensive triumphs over Mexico (64-0) and Hong Kong (50-0).
Portlaoise's Alison Miller contributed four tries in the latter encounter, and even though a 17-5 defeat to South Africa in their third game meant that they had to settle for second place in Pool C, they nevertheless progressed to the quarter-final showdown with China yesterday morning.
A brace of tries from Alison Miller and Claire Keohane helped Ireland to return to winning ways, and with South Africa defeating Hong Kong 21-5, they were offered a shot at redemption in the first Cup semi-final.
They set their stall out in the penultimate round with excellent tries from Katie Fitzhenry and Mulhall, and although, Zenay Jordaan subsequently opened the Springboks account, the dynamic Miller crossed over to give Ireland a 19-7 mid-way cushion.
Another try for the impressive Veroeshka Grain increased the pressure on Ireland, before another seven-pointer by the outstanding Mulhall provided some breathing space.
This was Ireland's fifth win from six games, and with the top-two sides qualifying for the much-vaunted World Series, they had effectively achieved their objective.