England Women battled to a 37 – 15 win against a determined Ireland on Saturday evening at Twickenham with the hosts outscoring their opponents seven tries to three.
The match was very much a development game for both sides, as England chose to develop some of their younger players. Ireland’s hand was more forced as Coach Adam Griggs starts to rebuild the team.
It was a game I watched, for large portions along side, the men’s game against the USA and both matches had a similar feel with the gutsy underdogs making a fist of it in the first half before the stronger team pulled away in the second half.
However, it was a much better performance from Ireland Women than their outing against an inexperienced USA last week. The players were more focused, the core skills were executed better and they certainly took their chances when they presented themselves.
The first 30 minutes though belonged to England and the hosts could have been 30 points up in that time if it hadn’t been for last second interventions from Sene Naoupu and Nicole Cronin. As it was England scored three tries with Heather Kerr, Kelly Smith and Vickii Cornbrough all crossing for unconverted tries to take a 15 – 0 lead.
Ireland had started to come into the game after England’s second score and as England relaxed after their third the visitors were well set to take advantage. A five minute burst before the break saw Eimear Considine cross, after a quick tap penalty by Cronin, and minutes later Lauren Delaney was sprinting clear after being sent on her way by Claire Molloy after a good carry by Nicola Fryday.
Neither score was converted so the teams turned round with England leading 15 – 10.
Ireland pushed hard on resumption but it was England that were first on the scoresheet when a series of penalties ended with young out half Zoe Harrison putting in a delightful grubber for Lydia Thompson to chase down and score her first try of the afternoon. Minutes later Thompson crossed again, this time outstripping the Ireland defence out wide to push the lead to 25 – 10.
However, Ireland were not finished and the magnificent Claire Molloy capitalised on some busting runs through the centre to pick her way through the retreating defence for Ireland’s third.
By this stage England had brought on their big guns in Rachel Burford and Katy Daley-Mclean. The latter made some clangers as she appeared to try to outdo the excellent kicking display of youngster Harrison, who she replaced, but she eventually settled to close out the game.
Thompson was the main beneficiary, going over for her hat-trick before Catherine O’Donnell crossed in the final play of the game, Daley-McClean landing the only conversion of the afternoon to give England a deserved if somewhat sugar coated 37 – 15 win.
England Women: Sarah McKenna, Lydia Thompson, Carys Williams, Tatyana Heard, Kelly Smith, Zoe Harrison, Leanne Riley, Vickii Cornborough, Heather Kerr, Hannah Botterman, Zoe Aldcroft, Abbie Scott, Poppy Cleall, Vicky Fleetwood, Sarah Hunter. Replacements: Lark Davies, Ellena Perry, Shaunagh Brown, Catherine O’Donnell, Marlie Packer, Claudia Macdonald, Katy Daley-McLean, Rachael Burford.
Ireland Women: Lauren Delany, Eimear Considine, Sene Naoupu, Michelle Claffey, Laura Sheehan, Nikki Caughey, Nicole Cronin, Lindsay Peat ,Emma Hooban, Leah Lyons, Aoife McDermott, Nichola Fryday, Jeamie Deacon, Claire Molloy, Juliet Short. Replacements: Sarah Mimnah, Laura Feely, Fiona Reidy, Claire McLaughlin, Edel McMahon, Ailsa Hughes, Ellen Murphy, Beibhinn Parsons.