Ireland (0) 7
TRY: Nikki Caughey. CON: Nikki Caughey.
Canada (24) 48
TRY: DaLeaka Menin, Julianne Zussman (2), Karen Paquin, Emily Belchos, Laura Russell, Magali Harvey. CON: Andrea Burk (5). PEN: Andrea Burk
Canada ran in seven tries against an experimental Ireland on Saturday afternoon at the UCD Bowl, the home side’s only reply a try and conversion form Ulster’s Nikki Caughey.
It was always going to be a big ask for Tom Tierney’s inexperienced team, I’d stated in my preview that anything better than a ten point loss would be a good result for the Irish, but the complete domination by the Number Three Side in the World will be a worry for Tierney and his charges.
Canada enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges, their first scrum being particularly destructive, and by the seventh minute they were 0 – 7 up thanks to a try from prop DaLeaka Menin, converted by Andrea Burk, after a period of sustained pressure in the Ireland 22.
The match went through a scrappy period after the score with both teams showing poor ball retention. Ireland perhaps enjoyed the best of this period, with captain Paula Fitzpatrick and centre Sene Naoupu to the fore, but poor core skills in scrummaging, lineouts, passing and tackling made it difficult for either side to build any sustained pressure.
Pleasingly Naoupu was much more direct this game, compared to the match against England, making several breaks through the middle of the park, but poor care of the ball at contact gave easy outs for the Canadians as did a few over ambitious kicks to touch from Caughey and a couple of sloppy line outs.
The visitors began to get their act together at the start of the second quarter and another dominant scrum gave the exceptional Andrea Burk a shot at goal which she duly converted on the 25th minute to give the Canadians a 0 – 10 lead.
Minutes later Julianne Zussman and Elissa Alarie combined well for Zussman to score under the posts, Burk converting, and, as the clock ticked down to half time, a turnover in the Irish 22 saw the impressive Karen Paquin touching down for another converted try which took the score at the break to Ireland 0 Canada 24.
Ireland made six changes in the interval which saw the front row swapped out, Larissa Muldoon on for Mary Healy at scrum half, Claire McLaughlin on for Nicole Fowley in the centre and Elaine Anthony on for Katie Norris in second row and the changes had an immediate impact with Ireland gaining territory and possession deep in the Canadian half. Their first period of sustained pressure led to a well taken try by Caughey, who converted her own score, giving them a glimmer of a chance with the score reading 7- 24.
Unfortunately, the score seemed to be enough for the home side who became decidedly disorganised and the superior fitness and core skills of the visitors started to take it’s toll, the remainder of the game being decidedly one sided.
Emily Belchos scored an unconverted try seven minutes later and, with Lindsay Peat yellow carded shortly after, the Canadians cut loose with Laura Russell and Magali Harvey both crossing for converted tries before Peat returned.
Zussman completed the rout with her second try on the 78th minute, Burk missing the conversion to save Ireland the embarrassment of conceding fifty points; the game ending with the score at Ireland 7 Canada 48.
Ireland Women: Mairead Coyne, Niamh Kavanagh, Nicole Fowley, Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller, Nikki Caughey, Mary Healy, Fiona Hayes, Zoe Grattage, Fiona Reidy, Katie Norris, Nichola Fryday, Ciara Cooney, Anna Caplice, Paula Fitzpatrick. Replacements: Leah Lyons Lindsay Peat, Ailis Egan, Elaine Anthony, Chloe Pearse, Larissa Muldoon, Jackie Shiels, Claire McLaughlin.
A harsh lesson for some of Ireland’s “bubbling unders” but there is really not a lot to fix in the next nine months. Fitness, particularly of the forwards, is an obvious improvement as is execution under pressure of the core skills of passing, tackling and ball retention. A comparatively small investment of time and money in the Women’s game by the IRFU and the Provinces could easily address these issues.