The Ireland Women ended the first day of the Atlanta Sevens on a high as they held on for a deserved 12-10 victory over the Netherlands. Jon Skurr's young and inexperienced squad improved game-by-game through the pool stages, suffering defeats to England and New Zealand before bouncing back against the Dutch.
Tries from Nicole Cronin and captain Shannon Houston inspired Ireland's first win at the second leg of the IRB Women's Sevens World Series, with the result seeing the girls in green finish third in Pool B. Five Irish players took their first steps at this level and with the lessons learned from those two opening losses, this new-look panel certainly showed their resilience in overcoming a highly rated Dutch side.
China will provide the opposition for Ireland in Sunday's Bowl semi-finals and the winners of that tie will meet either Brazil or the Netherlands in the decider. England led from start to finish as Ireland's inexperience showed in their first outing of the tournament at the Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Natasha Brennan helped herself to a hat-trick of tries - the first coming after just 60 seconds - and despite their best efforts, Ireland were unable to respond.
The countries met in the Plate semi-final at the 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens, and captain Shannon Houston, Nikki Caughey and Laura O'Mahony were the only Irish survivors from that 22-0 defeat in Moscow. A series of missed tackles proved costly in Atlanta as Brennan showed her finishing skills with a brace inside three minutes, while Sarah McKenna converted Danielle Waterman's late effort for a 17-0 half-time lead. England continued to be clinical in possession after the break, working opportunities which were put away by Brennan again and also Claire Allan and captain Abigail Chamberlain as they boosted their scoring differential.
Ireland's work-rate and endeavour could not be questioned, but against an established Sevens team such as England their mistakes were ruthlessly punished. Newcomers Cronin, Aoife Doyle, Laura Lee Walsh and Megan Williams, who plays for Saracens in England, were all on from the start for Ireland who did put some better phases together in the second half. IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Niamh Ni Dhroma, Nicole Cronin, Claire Keohane, Megan Williams, Aoife Doyle, Laura Lee Walsh. ENGLAND: Claire Allan, Natasha Brennan, Abigail Chamberlain (capt), Heather Fisher, Sarah McKenna, Michaela Staniford, Danielle Waterman. This was a second heavy reversal for Ireland, but they put in a solid performance to build on and even finished the match with a hard-earned converted try.
New Zealand, the reigning World champions and so often the standard bearers of Women's Sevens rugby, rarely concede a try when facing some of the game's developing teams.
However, Jon Skurr's side managed to get over the whitewash late on here as they countered with a kick out of defence. They succeeded in retrieving possession near halfway and good running and distribution from Siobhan Barrett and Aoife Doyle, who fixed Michaela Blyde, released Nikki Caughey away along the right touchline and over out wide.
Caughey swung over an excellent conversion from the right to reduce the final margin to 29 points, leaving Ireland to take heart from their positive start and finish to this second round fixture. The Irish had some early pressure in the Kiwi half, building from a lineout on the left and sending Megan Williams bursting through on a crash ball. Cronin had a busy presence around the pitch and skipper Shannon Houston led by example, breaking over halfway in an attack that eventually saw Doyle closed down on the wing by Portia Woodman.
But Ireland began to slip off tackles and get caught for pace approaching half-time, with teenage talent Gayle Broughton breaking the deadlock with a fourth minute try. Selica Winiatia added the conversion and then followed her 17-year-old team-mate over the line two minutes later.
New Zealand went up a gear as Sarah Goss ran hard and passed inside for Winiata to score only 20 seconds after the restart.
Goss turned try scorer soon after as she used her strength to power over in the left corner past the covering Cronin.
Ireland responded by upping their physicality around the ruck and tackle areas, making some yardage through the middle with Williams, Claire Keohane and Niamh Ni Dhroma all getting on the ball. Replacement Blyde (18) rounded off New Zealand's six-try haul by crashing over in the right corner after a strong run close to the touchline. But Ireland gained some late consolation in the form of Caughey's try and it was a galvanising score as their next opponents, the Netherlands, had been held scoreless by New Zealand in their opener.
IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Niamh Ni Dhroma, Nicole Cronin, Claire Keohane , Megan Williams, Aoife Doyle, Laura Lee Walsh. NEW ZEALAND: Carla Hohepa, Jordon Webber, Sarah Goss, Gayle Broughton, Huriana Manuel (capt), Selica Winiata, Portia Woodman. Head coach Jon Skurr made one change for Ireland's final pool match, bringing in tall Tralee player Siobhan Barrett on the wing and she was prominent early on. A try out of nothing changed the complexion of the game though, a strong shove from the Irish scrum forcing the Netherlands into a loose pass and Nicole Cronin scooped the ball up and sprinted over halfway and all the way in under the posts. Her timely five-pointer was converted by Claire Keohane whose successful kick was to prove crucial in the end as it split the sides come the final whistle. Without van Harskamp, the Netherlands seemed off-colour and an error straight from the restart handed possession back to Ireland who were keen to build on their 7-0 interval lead.

Cronin took up the baton, passing crisply as Ireland made further yardage with two penalties.
The difficult conversion from the right was missed by Keohane and it was all up to the Dutch now with just five minutes left.
They mustered a quick response in the cold conditions when Elke van Meer broke a tackle and evaded Niamh Ni Dhroma's clutches to score to the right of the posts. Importantly, Annemarije van Rossum miscued the conversion and Lorraine Laros also failed to add the extras to fellow replacement Tessel van Dongen's last-gasp try.
That tenacity was a hallmark of Ireland's play, particularly in the tense final few minutes when players like 18-year-old Aoife Doyle and Laura O'Mahony showing the necessary composure when in possession.
The celebrations at the finish showed how much the result meant to the girls in green, and it gives them a good deal of momentum to take into the second day in Atlanta. IRELAND: Shannon Houston (capt), Niamh Ni Dhroma, Nicole Cronin, Claire Keohane, Megan Williams, Siobhan Barrett, Laura Lee Walsh.
NETHERLANDS: Joyce van Altena, Tessa Veldhuis, Pien Selbeck, Kelly van Harskamp, Anne Hielckert, Annemarije van Rossum, Elke van Meer.
Subs: Linda Franssen (capt), Dorien Eppink, Lorraine Laros, Tessel van Dongen, Jannicke Ijdens.
The Ireland Women's Sevens squad will compete in the final stage of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series this weekend when they take part in the Clermont 7s in France.
The Ireland Sevens management team have confirmed two squads to take part in the Amsterdam 7s Invitational and the Newcastle 7s Festival this weekend as part of the preparation for the European Championships in Malmo, Sweden and the Olympic Repechage in Monaco in June. Head coach Nigel Carolan talks about the squad selection for next month's World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Manchester, while captain James Ryan is looking forward to leading the side against pool rivals Wales, New Zealand and Georgia.
Backs Jacob Stockdale and Bill Johnston are looking forward to lining out for the Ireland Under-20s at next month's World Rugby U-20 Championship in Manchester. Managing Partner Feargal O'Rourke of PwC and IRFU Junior-Vice President Philip Orr explain the importance of the PwC sponsorship for the development of Irish Rugby.
Ireland Women's captain Niamh Briggs spoke about her excitement for the Women's Rugby World Cup as the official tournament logo was unveiled in UCD today.
Ireland Women's Sevens captain Lucy Mulhall is in Langford this week for the Canada leg of the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series. Ireland Women's Sevens captain Lucy Mulhall speaks about the build-up to the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens tournament in Atlanta, Georgia. IRFU High Performance Manager Colin McEntee reflects on the Easter matches played by the Ireland Under-18 and Under-19 teams, which ended last weekend with wins over the England Counties U-18s and France U-19s.
Watch highlights of the Ireland Under-18s' seven-try 43-0 victory over Scotland during the inaugural U-18 Five Nations Festival in Caerphilly, Wales. The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and World Rugby today unveiled the tournament identity for the Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 (WRWC 2017) which will be held in Dublin and Belfast in August of next year. The unveiling ceremony which took place at University College Dublin, the venue of the WRWC 2017 pool matches, was attended by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, incoming World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont, IRFU President Martin O'Sullivan, IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne and WRWC 2017 Tournament Ambassador and former Ireland Women's captain Fiona Coghlan. The WRWC 2017 design marries a distinctly Irish flavour to the World Rugby tournament logo. The Celtic design, symbols and pattern represent the heritage of the whole island of Ireland while the four interwoven green strands represent the four provinces and the close knit relationship of rugby on the island of Ireland.
Speaking at the launch event, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, said: "Irish people are great supporters of sport and I know that Ireland will host the best ever Women's Rugby World Cup. World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset commented: "The Women's Rugby World Cup has evolved into a major global sporting event and is truly the pinnacle of the Women's 15s game.
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said: "The IRFU has been working closely with World Rugby to ensure that all the necessary elements are in place for the hosting of a successful tournament. Fiona Coghlan, WRWC 2017 Ambassador, added: "There has been a lot of work done to date behind the scenes but today the tournament comes to life and can be seen as something to get really excited about.
WRWC17 will see 12 teams compete across 30 matches to determine the World champions of Women's rugby. Aon has been an official sponsor of the Irish Rugby Football Union Women's team since 2014, and will continue their support of Women's rugby as an Official Partner of the Women's Rugby World Cup 2017. John McGrillen, Tourism Northern Ireland Chief Executive, said: "Tourism NI is thrilled to be working in partnership across Northern Ireland and the Republic to deliver the Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 which we expect will make a significant contribution to our economy. Brendan Kenny, Deputy Chief Executive of Dublin City Council, commented: "We are delighted to be working with the IRFU in supporting the Women's Rugby World Cup 2017. The tournament tagline #BringIt was also unveiled as all sports fans are encouraged to experience the tournament first hand and show the passion and enthusiasm the country brings in supporting international sporting events.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best give their post-match views following the four-try 35-25 win over Scotland at the Aviva Stadium.
Irish Rugby TV brings you a behind the scenes look at today's RBS 6 Nations match at the Aviva Stadium where Ireland recorded a 35-25 victory over Scotland.

Railway Union's Kim Flood made her debut at full-back for the Ireland Women in last weekend's 14-3 Six Nations win over Italy. Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek spoke to Irish Rugby TV on the eve of the final round of the RBS 6 Nations Championship. Looking forward to the lineout battle with Scotland, Ireland lock Devin Toner said: "We went well again Italy, I think our set piece went well.
Sligo and Connacht flanker Cillian Gallagher speaks about the bonds formed within the Ireland Under-20 squad as thoughts turn to their final U-20 RBS 6 Nations game against Scotland on Friday. Number 8 Greg Jones looks back at the Ireland Under-20s' win over Italy and previews the Friday Night Lights clash with Scotland at Donnybrook. Ireland prop Mike Ross spoke to Irish Rugby TV about the threat posed by the Scottish scrum ahead of the RBS 6 Nations clash on Saturday. The Bank of Ireland eight week Munster Rugby Summer Camp programme gets started this July in a total of 22 venues throughout the province (please scroll down to see your nearest venue).
As the Ireland Men's Sevens squad gear up for the European Championships in Malmoe, Sweden and the Olympic Repechage in Monaco in June, the Ireland Sevens management team have confirmed two squads to take part in the Amsterdam 7s Invitational and the Newcastle 7s Festival this weekend.
The Ireland Women's Sevens management team have selected a squad of 12 to travel to the Amsterdam 7s Invitational Tournament this weekend as they continue to develop and build the playing experience of the Irish Women's panel. Irish rugby fans will experience the excitement of a major World Rugby Women's Sevens tournament for the first time this August with the announcement that 'Women's Sevens Dublin' will be held in UCD on Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23. UCD will host over 200 visiting players and management with games taking place at the UCD Bowl, which has a capacity of up to 3,000 spectators.
A family-friendly carnival atmosphere will provide the perfect backdrop to this important event in the Women's Sevens calendar, as Brazil, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Samoa, South Africa and Wales battle it out for the two qualification spots.
The announcement is yet another step forward for Women's sport in Ireland as it comes just weeks after World Rugby awarded the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby the Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 which will be held at in Dublin and Belfast in August 2017. World Rugby Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "With the 2016 Olympic Games looming large on the horizon and the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series now an important and popular fixture on the international rugby calendar, this qualifying tournament in Dublin is extremely important for World Rugby and of course the individual teams involved. On announcement of their selection, IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said: "We are delighted with today's announcement that Ireland is going to host the Women's Sevens Dublin tournament. She was a real bundle of energy in the scrum half role and crowned her day with a breakaway score. The breakdown was particularly competitive and the Dutch suffered an early setback when key player Kelly van Harskamp went off injured. Ireland had most of the territory initially, but they were unable to create much against a well-organised Dutch defence. The Shannon youngster took a quick tap and had to be brought down five metres out, but Houston pressed from the ruck and burrowed her way over for try number two. Rachael Ingle and Breda Farrell of Aon are delighted to be sponsors of the Ireland Women's team and to be associated with Women's Rugby World Cup 2017 coming to Ireland next year. She is also looking forward to facing England, Canada and New Zealand in November this year as part of the build-up to #WRWC2017.
Number 8 and captain Caelan Doris scored a hat-trick of tries and winger Daniel Hurley bagged a brace. Following the outstanding success of Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 in France, which engaged millions of fans and inspired so many girls around the world to get into rugby, the focus now turns towards 2017.
The 18 pool games will be played at University College Dublin, with the 12 play-off matches taking place at Queen's University Sport and Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Northern Ireland is fast gaining a reputation as another home of great sporting events and we will be encouraging fans from across Ireland and the world to make the trip to Belfast.
She is looking forward to experiencing the partisan crowd at Donnybrook again this Sunday when Scotland are the visitors.
He is happy that the team are focused but warns that it will be a tough encounter with Scotland tomorrow.
He talks about some of their back-line threats and how much he is enjoying his current injury-free run. There have never been so many exciting opportunities for Women's Sevens players as there are today.
This, in turn, is attracting more players, spectators and commercial partners into the game, which is having a significant, beneficial effect.

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