Ireland won the third event of the women’s HSBC SVNS 2024 in Perth on Sunday, beating Australia 19-14 in the final to spark jubilant scenes at the final whistle.
In front of the biggest rugby crowd in the Western Australia capital since the Wallabies drew with the Springboks in a men’s 15s Tri Nations Series match in 2017, Ireland claimed their first series win in only their second final, ending a 29-game losing streak to Australia in the process.
The sell-out crowd at HBF Park, hosting a SVNS event for the first time, were treated to near-perfect weather conditions as both Australia teams made the final against the odds, but they didn’t get the perfect ending, with Ireland ultimately spoiling the party – and sparking one their own.
Ireland’s first victory “a long time coming”
Australia and Ireland both lost a game in the pool stage, including Australia’s first defeat of the season (against Great Britain), while Teagan Levi (AUS), missing through suspension since the first game of the tournament, made an eventful return to action.
She put the kick-off into touch on the full, then immediately forced the turnover that led to Charlotte Caslick’s opening score.
Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe (IRE) hit back immediately as concerted Ireland pressure began to force Australia into mistakes. Levi again put the kick-off out on the full before Caslick saw yellow after a series of Australia infringements. Lucy Mulhall put Ireland in front from the ensuing passage of play.
It was all Australia at the start of the second half, with Levi – who else? – drawing them level after a switch pass from Caslick, seconds after she’d returned to the field. But Ireland weren’t to be denied. Eve Higgins scored from their only sustained attack of the half and they held out to make history.
Ireland coach Alan Temple-Jones was almost speechless: “Playing Australia in Australia is an unbelievable opportunity for the girls,” he said. “We’re extremely chuffed … lost for words. We’ve had a good focus these last two weeks. We had a lot to improve on after Dubai and Cape Town … unreal.”
Captain Mulhall said the win had been “a long time coming”. She said: “It means a lot and we’ve been on a long journey. This is massive for women’s Irish rugby; we’ll be sure to celebrate.
Resurgent Great Britain boosted by bronze
Great Britain claimed the bronze medal – just their second in HSBC Sevens history – with a maiden series victory over USA.
Playing without injured captain Abbie Brown, GB ran in four tries, including a stunning kick-and-chase effort from Isla Norman-Bell. The New Zealand-raised flyer is fast becoming the star of an improving British team.
Earlier, Ireland had put a poor semi-final record of just one win from seven behind them to overpower Great Britain 31-7, themselves competing in just their second HSBC SVNS semi-final.
Mulhall was the difference with two of Ireland’s five tries in an individual display of pace, power and experience. Norman-Bell gave Great Britain some consolation with a stunning solo effort from inside her own half.
Australia, without the other Levi sister Maddison for the entire tournament through suspension, were too good for USA in the other semi-final. The Aussies had won both women’s SVNS 2024 events so far after closely fought finals in Dubai and Cape Town, but hadn’t reached a series final on home soil for five years before this weekend.
Despite suffering another setback early on when they lost Bienne Terita to injury, Australia eventually overwhelmed a resolute USA defence to win 24-7, the pick of the tries a 60-metre solo effort from Dominique du Toit.
Ireland leap to fourth in the overall SVNS standings, with Australia still well clear at the top. Great Britain are the other big winners from the weekend, moving out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.
The HSBC SVNS 2024 is in Vancouver, Canada for the next event in the series, on the weekend of 23-25 February.