The Ireland Women made their debut at the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens this morning, securing a well-earned draw with a powerful USA team in their opening Pool A game.



IRELAND 12 USA 12,  7he Sevens Stadium, Dubai, UAE

Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Ashleigh Baxter, Claire Keohane; Con: Claire Keohane
USA: Tries: Megan Lee Bonny, Rebekah Siebach; Con: Amelia Villines

This was a vital first match for both teams in a pool which contains defending World Series champions New Zealand and a fast-improving Fijian outfit.

Ireland met the USA at the quarter-final stage of June’s Rugby World Cup Sevens and lost out 14-5, so the girls in green had revenge on their minds in Dubai.

Jon Skurr’s side got to an ideal start with a try from Ashleigh Baxter after just 41 seconds. Baxter won the initial turnover and Alison Miller ran into space on the right before Larissa Muldoon kept the move going and sent Baxter through for the five-pointer.

Claire Keohane’s difficult conversion attempt fell short, but the try was a statement of intent from Ireland as was their ability to keep the Americans in their own half for much of the first period.

The US finished third in the World Cup Sevens and showed the first glimpse of their quality when danger woman Victoria Folayan had a powerful charge over halfway.

Folayan soon popped up on the left wing, but the busy Miller did well to keep her out and the Grand Slam star followed up by bundling Amelia Villines into touch.

However, the resulting lineout was stolen by Kelly Griffin and the USA duly pounced for a try, putting Megan Lee Bonny in behind the posts. Villines’ successful conversion split the sides at 7-5.

Ireland responded with a seven-pointer before the break as good hands from Baxter sent Miller thundering through on the right and the Portlaoise flyer went on a diagonal run towards the left corner where Folayan managed to haul her down in the 22.

The Irish recycled quickly from a couple of rucks, with Muldoon doing well at close quarters, before Keohane found enough space to raid in to the left of the posts. She added the conversion herself to make it 12-7 at half-time.

The athletic Americans tried to hit back on the resumption with a series of early drives that looked promising, however Christine Arthurs showed great commitment at a ruck near the try-line to force a relieving penalty.

It was advantage Ireland when they won another penalty near halfway and Folayan was sin-binned for throwing the ball away, following a Miller run from deep.

But Ireland were struggling for territory at this stage and their six-woman opponents almost broke through for a levelling try, with a knock on denying replacement Lauren Doyle.

The US did get back on terms in the closing stages as they disrupted an Irish scrum in the 22 and Rebekah Siebach, who was part of a strong American bench, ran in the try out wide on the right.

Griffin missed the opportunity to add the extras and Ireland – despite some strong running late on from the likes of captain Shannon Houston and replacements Niamh Ni Dhromaand Nikki Caughey – were happy to see out the draw which gives them plenty to build on for the rest of day 1.

This was a very good result for this new-look Ireland squad at the start of their first season as a core team on the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series circuit.

Next up for the girls in green is a mouth-watering clash with New Zealand, who beat Fiji 33-7 in their opening game. The Ireland v New Zealand match gets underway at 12.42pm Irish time and you can watch it live here.

TIME LINE: 1 minute – Ireland try: Ashleigh Baxter – 5-0; conversion: missed by Claire Keohane – 5-0; 5 mins – USA try: Megan Lee Bonny – 5-5; conversion: Amelia Villines – 5-7; 7 mins – Ireland try: Claire Keohane – 10-7; conversion: Claire Keohane – 12-7; Half-time – Ireland 12 USA 7; 12 mins – USA sin-bin: Victoria Folayan; 14 mins – USA try: Rebekah Siebach – 12-12; conversion: missed by Kelly Griffin – 12-12; Full-time – Ireland 12 USA 12

IRELAND: Christine Arthurs, Shannon Houston (capt), Larissa Muldoon, Alison Miller, Claire Keohane, Ashleigh Baxter, Amy Davis.

Subs used: Niamh Ni Dhroma (10 mins), Siobhan Barrett, Nikki Caughey (both 14). Not used: Anna Caplice, Laura O’Mahony.

USA: Jillion Potter, Kelly Griffin, Kathryn Johnson, Deven Owsiany, Victoria Folayan, Amelia Villines, Megan Lee Bonny.

Subs used: Lauren Doyle, Dana Meschisi (both 10 mins), Rebekah Siebach (13). Not used: Liz Sowers, Lorrie Clifford.

Referee: Sherry Trumbull (Canada)

IRELAND WOMEN’S SEVENS Squad (Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens, Dubai, UAE, November 28-29):

Christine Arthurs (Tralee/Connacht)
Siobhan Barrett (Tralee/Munster)
Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Anna Caplice (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster)
Amy Davis (Blackrock College/Ulster)
Shannon Houston (Blackrock College/Leinster) (capt)
Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians/Munster)
Alison Miller (Portlaoise/UCC/Connacht)
Larissa Muldoon (UWIC/Exile)
Niamh Ni Dhroma (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Laura O’Mahony (Tralee/Munster)


Thursday, November 28 –

IRELAND 12 USA 12,  7he Sevens Stadium
IRELAND v New Zealand,  7he Sevens Stadium, 4.42pm local time/12.42pm Irish time
IRELAND v Fiji,  7he Sevens Stadium, 7.40pm local time/3.40pm Irish time

Friday, November 29 –

Cup, Bowl and Plate competitions (11.40am-9.16pm local time/7.40am-5.16pm Irish time)


First leg: Dubai, United Arab Emirates – November 28-29, 2013

Second leg: Atlanta, Georgia, USA – February 15-16, 2014

Third leg: Arena Barueri, São Paulo, Brazil – February 21-22, 2014

Fourth leg: Guangzhao University Town Stadium, Guangzhao, China – April 4-6 2014

Fifth leg: National Rugby Centrum, Amsterdam, Netherlands – May 16-17, 2014



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