The Ireland Women’s 7s saw off European rivals Russia to finish the Kitakyushu leg of the World Series in seventh position.
It is the first final in history of the Women’s Series not to feature one of Australia or New Zealand, while England reached their first decider in 16 tournaments.
The Irish, having made it through to the quarter-final against France on points difference, knew that a big performance would be needed to overcome Les Blues, who had yesterday beaten New Zealand in the pool stages to end the Black Ferns’38 game unbeaten run.
Ireland controlled possession well in the first half, but a turnover on their own line as the half-time buzzer sounded allowed Cecile Ciofani, who finished as top try scorer during the tournament with nine tries, to touch down and put her side 7-0 ahead at the break.
The French struck again in the opening minute of the second-half through Grace Okemba, and despite valiant efforts in defence from the Girls in Green, Chole Pelle sealed the victory for France, meaning Ireland would go into the 5th place semi-final against Australia.
They battled well in the opening exchanges with their Australian counterparts, being aggressive in defence and looking deny their opponents possession.
Emma Sykes got over for the Aussies, but Ireland immediately hit back through Amee-Leigh Murphy-Crowe who struck for her fifth try of the weekend.
Captain Lucy Mulhall converted to send Ireland into the break leading 7-5.The Australians upped their performance on the resumption and crossed for four unanswered tries to run out 29-7 winners, sending Ireland into the 7th/8th place play-off against Russia.
With Captain Mulhall sidelined for this game having picked up an injury against Australia, it was left to the younger players in the squad to step up, and that they did.
Twenty-year-old Emily Lane, winning just her third cap had a very encouraging tournament overall and she turned creator for Ireland’s fist try, taking a quick tap and then setting 19-year-old Eve Higgins free to touch down to make it 5-0.
Baizat Khamidova hit back for Russians, taking a nice inside line, with Daria Lushina converting to put her side in front.
The Irish players worked hard in defence, with Aoife Doyle’s tackling standing out as she kept the Russians at bay.Some strong running from Anna McGann and Brittany Hogan (both just 20) drew in the Russian defenders before Doyle showed soft hands to send Louise Galvin over and put the Irish back in front as the half-time buzzer sounded.
Russia caught the Irish napping on the restart and Daria Shestakova gathered, fended off Galvin and crossed to again give Russia the lead.
The Girls in Green continued to work hard, and they were rewarded when Higgins crossed for her second of the game to give them a 15-14 lead.
Despite some tense moments in the closing stages, the one-point buffer proved to be enough for victory.
The penultimate round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series takes place in Langford, Canada on the 11/12 May, and Ireland, who are currently in sixth place on the overall series table will be in Pool A with Australia, Canada and Brazil.
Canada won the tournament, defeating England 7-5 in the final.
The English looked on course to claim their first Cup title since April 2016 as the clock turned to red with them leading 5-0 after Amy Wilson Hardy's try late in the first half.
However, Canada dug deep and worked their way from one end of the field to the other before captain Ghislaine Landry found a gap in the defence to run round behind the posts to give herself a straightforward conversion to win the match.