Ireland Women claim important victories over Rio 2016 rivals
By Megan Williams (Ireland Women Sevens player)
'You have to be your best on your worst day.'
This has been a momentous season so far for the Ireland Sevens team.
We came 12th in the earlier legs of the HSBC World Series tour and were underestimated going into the next rounds at Atlanta and Langford. We overcame a bad start in Atlanta to win the Bowl final and finish ninth.
This has definitely planted a seed in the minds of two of the higher ranked teams that will also compete in the Olympics qualifier at U.C.D this summer.
We flew straight to Canada, the day after Atlanta 7s. We wouldn’t be used to such a quick turn-around so it was a challenge of its own. Tough, mentally and physically.
We had less than a week to recover so it was imperative we sleep as much as we can and eat well to prepare our bodies for the next round of action. Usually we would be settling back in Dublin with our home comforts and a good week rest, completely off rugby.
Even with some tired and sore bodies, the spirits were high and the determination even higher.
Recovery was of paramount importance. Our coach made it clear that the team that recovers best will perform at their best. To do that we focused on key elements, which included:
- Foam rolling
- Pool recovery
- Mobility sessions
- Functional movement
- Sports massage
- Rehab exercises
- Gym & pitch sessions
As a team we had set our standards high. We were pleased with our finish in Atlanta. It was a huge step in the right direction, and a massive achievement for us. We want to improve on that every tournament. A higher ranking was not out of reach. We would gain respect by proving Atlanta was no fluke.
As Kim Flood has said in many occasions - 'We are just a snake in the grass ready to pounce.'
"In the heat of battle, you don’t rise to your level. You sink to the habits you have created in your practices."
I’m a sucker for a good quote and love this one. Fact is, like it or not, you’re not going to play exactly how you like to every time you step out to compete. It’s hard to expect to play your best rugby at all times, but something we’ve learned along the way - and are still learning - is that you’ve got to be your best on your worst day.
A successful athlete understands that to win on bad days, you need to continually give your best effort and believe you can actually win.
This is something I have to work on. As a collective, we can improve on this aspect as well. I was told once, you become your habits under pressure so they better be good ones, with time comes experience and with experience comes good habits.
Dusting ourselves off
A gruelling video analysis meeting - after Day One - showed silly errors individually, poor work-rate, missed tackles and letting the games slip far, far away from us. We didn’t stick to the game plan. It could have been nerves or simply a bad day at the office. Either way, we had to dust ourselves off and give Russia a run for their money.
I was ruled out of that game as I picked up a knock against Canada. From the sidelines, it was like watching a completely different team.
We were confident, controlled and kept possession for 80% of the match. We had nothing to lose and everything to fight for. The Russian game was going to determine whether we lay down and surrendered or grew a pair [excuse the expression] and contested.
We did fantastically but ran out of time and lost 10-7.
All or nothing
It was all or nothing now. We had been in this exact moment only a few weeks previous. Not much was said in the huddle before the game we agreed less talk more action. Just pounding hearts and strong gazes at one and other.
Spain were a team we had yet to beat but we came close every time. This was a statement of intent.
We went down 0-5 with Spain taking an early lead. However, we started to build fantastic momentum throughout the game with slick hands, quick taps and strong carries. The hooter blew with a 17-5 win over the Spanish.
The starting team, to face Japan, was unchanged, the confidence was high but we knew this was not going to be a walk-over. We would have to fight, and fight hard, to put points on the score board.
Again we fell behind to an early try but recovered well and, with great vision and skill from each member of the team, we took the lead just before half time.
Unfortunately due to a high tackle we had a player sin-binned. Playing 6-on-7 is tough but we kept calm and even managed a break-away try from Aimee-Leigh Murphy. Japan struck back rapidly but we held on for a 26-15 win.
We missed out on the Bowl after losing to Brazil but that win over Japan meant we finished 11th.
Ireland have been drawn in Pool C with Australia, France and Fiji for the next stage of the World Series, on May 28-29.
These groups are always tough, but we hope to keep building and improving tournament by tournament. With such a big rivalry between Ireland and Australia you won’t have to ask if we will be up for that game. We can’t wait.
All it takes is one good win in our pool games to get us through to the quarter finals. We know what to expect.
It is important to us, when we do play the higher ranked teams, that we go hunting for the win. However, if we don’t achieve that we must keep the scoreline down. That can often be the difference between going through to the quarter finals or not.