Ireland overcame Sweden to finish 7th
Ireland’s final match of the European Championship qualifiers seen them take on Sweden in the 7th/8th Place Playoff. The game got off to a quick start with the teams trading tries early on. A coach’s timeout was called with 5.50 remaining in the period after neither side was able to gain a foothold, but it made little difference as the game continued to flow from end-to-end. Ireland extended their lead to two with 2.09 left on the clock when a technical foul was called on a Swedish player for a very hard hit on Jade Flynn-Hurley as she crossed the line to score. Sweden changed their defensive structure after this but to no avail, with Ireland maintaining their 2-point advantage to finish the quarter 14-12 in front.
The second quarter seen little difference in the flow of the game. Ireland made it more difficult for Sweden on their inbound and moved out to a three-point lead with 2.15 left in the half, but this was the biggest lead either side would hold in the entire half. Ireland managed the clock well, but Sweden reduced the deficit to two before the half ended, the score line reading 24-22 in favour of the Irish at the buzzer.
Both sides began the third quarter tentatively, both acutely very aware of the score and neither wanting to give too much away. A timeout was called by Ireland with 3.16 to go in the quarter with only two points still separating the teams. This proved to be the catalyst for Ireland, and they returned to the court with renewed vigour. Ireland soon extended their lead to four points and didn’t employ clock management until the final play of the quarter, such was the intensity of their offense. Ireland finished the quarter 36-32 in front.
Sweden changed it up at the start of the fourth, introducing three pickers in an attempt to slow Ireland’s progress. Sweden scored on the first play after the ball was turned over twice in quick succession by both sides, but Ireland didn’t relent. Ireland made sure they retaliated quickly after each Swedish point, keeping their four-point lead, and slowing the Swedish offense on every inbound. Ireland pulled out a five-point lead with four minutes to go and began to manage the clock from here. This killed the game, with Ireland being extremely methodical throughout the final minutes. Ireland closed the tournament with a comfortable victory and a final score of 45-38.