Ireland Women secured their first ever Grand Slam in a hard fought 6 – 3 win against Italy in wet and wintry conditions in Parabiago, Italy.
It was unfortunate that the Irish girls didn’t have the conditions to showcase their attacking skills, the trademark of their performances so far in the 2013 Six Nations, but they showed fantastic match day maturity and grit as they ground out this hard fought win.
Rain and sleet tumbled down as the match kicked off and Ireland quickly found themselves on the back foot as a determined Italy forced an early penalty. Italian out-half Schiavon slotted converted to give the hosts a 3 – 0 lead.
Ireland looked to hit back and despite the difficult conditions they managed to work their way into the Italian half.
As the pitch began to cut up Ireland kept things tight and after a series of phases they were awarded a penalty on the 13th minute for the reliable Niamh Briggs to level the score.
The bulk of the game was fought out in the middle of the park with neither side dominating but a break and chip ahead by Niamh Kavanagh was nearly chased down by Briggs only for the Irish fullback to struggle to gather in the conditions.
The traffic was far from one way and Italy responded with Veronese looking to have broke clear only for a fantastic cover tackle from Alison Miller to save the day.
Ireland worked a chance late in the half but Briggs was just wide with a difficult kick from close to the touchline leaving the teams to turn round at 3 – 3.
It was a determined looking Ireland that took the pitch at the start of the second half and after a period of Irish domination up front the Italians struggled to cope and one of their players was binned. The forwards worked a crucial penalty moments later and Briggs slotted it over on the 50 minute mark to give Ireland a crucial 3 – 6 lead.
Italy refused to give up and came close with a penalty of their own and as the match approached it’s final quarter it was the home side that were on the attack.
It was a tense and nervous final ten minutes as Italy piled on the pressure but the Irish defence held firm to close out the game. Cue the celebrations for the travelling support.
Ireland Women: Niamh Briggs, Niamh Kavanagh, Lynne Cantwell, Grace Davitt, Alison Miller, Nora Stapleton, Larissa Muldoon, Fiona Coghlan, Gillian Bourke, Ailis Egan, Sophie Spence, Marie Louise Reilly, Siobhan Fleming, Claire Molloy, Joy Neville. Replacements: Stacey-Lea Kennedy, Fiona Hayes, Lauren Day, Heather O’Brien, Laura Guest, Amy Davis, Shannon Huston, Ashleigh Baxter.
A fantastic and thoroughly deserved series of results for the girls who have worked so hard with so little recognition over the years. Mention must also be made of Head Coach Philip Doyle, Forwards Coach Peter Bracken, Backs Coach Greg McWilliams and special mention to Strength and Conditioning Coach Ross Callaghan. Only 25 girls were used in this series, remarkable testament to their conditioning.