We said this would be a tight one and so it proved as Ireland just about held on to record a 18 -14 win in a tense encounter at Energia Park, Donnybrook in the Womens Six Nations.
Ireland have teenager Beibhinn Parsons to thank after her second half intercept try proved to be the difference between the two sites as Scotland wrestled back control following an opening onslaught from Ireland.
Ireland started the game in sparkling form with Cliodhna Moloney to the fore. The abrasive hooker winning a turnover penalty, converted by Ellen Murphy, before crashing over out wide to give Ireland an 8 – 0 lead after 10 minutes.
Ireland continued to dominate the contact area and their wealth of possession saw Sene Naoupu cross out wide five minutes later for an unconverted try, pushing Ireland’s lead to 13 – 0.
Ireland lost Maloney shortly after, to a head injury, and Scotland began to get a grip on the game. They took a lot of confidence from destroying the Ireland scrum and, by keeping the ball to their forwards, they began to get well on top as the referee started to penalise Ireland’s casual approach to offside.
Fortunately for Ireland, Scotland were woefully wasteful in the red zone losing two attacking line outs, to Ciara Griffin and Aoife McDermott, and there was some poor handling as chances went begging when it seemed easier to score.
However, Scotland always had their scrum to fall back on and the final set piece of the half led to centre Lisa Thompson bursting through the Ireland defence to score under the crossbar. Helen Nelson added the extras to take the score to 13 – 7 at half time.
Ireland enjoyed a brief flurry at the start of the second half, but it was only until the Scottish pack got their hands on the ball. From then on it was almost total Scottish domination with Ireland playing the rest of the half on the back foot.
Fortunately for Ireland the Scots continued to be wasteful in the red zone and, of course, the Ireland players gave their all in defence.
With such a spirited defence, the home side were somewhat fortunate to remain at full strength, as penalty after penalty racked up, but when Parsons latched onto another careless pass from the Scots, and raced the length of the pitch to score, on the 66th minute, you could tell that it was likely to be the decisive moment of the game.
As far as possession and territory were concerned, the try was a blip in Scotland’s efforts and the game picked up where it left of with Scotland back on attack. The referee’s bonhommie eventually ran out and Leah Lyons was carded for team infringements. Scotland took advantage of the extra player and Emma Wassell found the line with minutes to go. Lana Skeldon added the extras to make it a four point game to give the visitors a glimmer of a chance.
To the delight of the crowd Ireland were able to hold on for the closing minutes to record a much needed win.
IRELAND WOMEN: Lauren Delany,Aoife Doyle, Sene Naoupu, Michelle Claffey, Beibhinn Parsons, Ellen Murphy, Kathryn Dane, Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Linda Djougang, Aoife McDermott, Nichola Fryday, Ciara Griffin (C), Edel McMahon, Anna Caplice. Replacements used: Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony, Dorothy Wall, Leah Lyons, Nicole Cronin, Laura Feely, Ciara Cooney, Claire Keohane.
SCOTLAND WOMEN: Chloe Rollie, Rhona Lloyd, Hannah Smith, Lisa Thomson, Megan Gaffney, Helen Nelson, Mairi McDonald, Leah Bartlett, Lana Skeldon, Mairi Forsyth, Emma Wassell, Sarah Bonar, Rachel Malcolm (C), Rachel McLachlan, Jade Konkel. Replacements used: Sarah Law, Siobhan Cattigan, Lisa Cockburn, Louise McMillan, Evie Tonkin, Molly Wright.
HUGE GALLERY BELOW