Despite a slow start Ireland managed to see off the challenge of Italy in Round 4 of the Women’s Six Nations at Energia Park, Donnybrook, winning 21-7.
On Saturday evening the Irish women resumed their Six Nations campaign eight months after their last fixture against an impressive English side who ultimately ended their grand slam hopes. Ireland were hoping to bounce back with a win, attempting to maintain their winning record at home after wins’ against Scotland and Wales early on in the competition.
The away team started on the front-foot, asking early questions of the Irish defence. Italian backrow Giada Franco asserted her presence around the park making big carries throughout the game.
In the 8th minute the Italians threatened the Irish try line. Out-half Veronica Madia kicked the ball cross-field, the kick coming off an Irish hand before it found right wing Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi who was tacked six metres short of the line. the Italian’s continued to apply pressure, keeping the ball tight for a few phases, but they were met with good tackling led by Lindsay Peat, Ciara Cooney and Dorothy Wall.
Eventually, the ball was swung wide by the attacking team and the opening try looked imminent as Minuzzi bore down on the try-line, however the cover defence from Laura Sheehan and Kathryn Dane pulled off a great try-saving tackle.
Italy continued to hammer the Irish defence and on the 15th minute the team in blue’s dominance was finally rewarded after out-half Hannah Tyrrell’s poorly executed exit kick went out on the full, giving her opponents an attacking line-out on the 22.
From the line-out, the ball found its way to open-side flanker Franco who continued to break tackles, gaining plenty of ground. The ball was spun out-wide before centre Michela Sillari wriggled free, to offload to her hooker, Melissa Bettoni, for the first try of the evening. The conversion was put over to give Italy a 0 -7 lead
The away side dominated possession for large parts of the opening half hour, however the girls in green started to get a foot-hold in the game which allowed scrum half Dane to control the tempo to good effect.
Ireland won a penalty, after a good carry from Wall, and from the resultant line-out they manged to set a maul edging towards the try-line to draw in the defence. The ball was moved to centre Sene Naoupu who took it on before finding Peat who crashed over for Ireland’s first try. The conversion from Tyrrell was good taking the score to 7 all.
The momentum had swung in Ireland’s favour and they produced the best move of the game for their next score. A flowing attack, with nearly every player on the team touching the ball, saw Wall, Peat and Tyrrell all make significant ground. It was a well-worked period of possession and it finished with Peat releasing the ball to Claire Molloy who scrambled over for the score. Tyrrell’s conversion was good giving Ireland a 14 – 7 lead at the break.
The second half wasn’t the most exciting watch as the error count continued to rise. However, Molloy continued to lead the way as she racked up carries and tackles while making a nuisance of herself at the breakdown. Béibhinn Parsons also looked dangerous anytime she got the ball.
Ireland’s scrum and lineout had been disaster areas for most of the game but the scrum looked to improve as Brittany Hogan, Neve Jones and Leah Lyons came on. A poor defensive clearance from Italy left Ireland with an attacking 5m scrum and a big shove saw captain Ciara Griffin drive over. Griffin’s effort was disallowed due to blocking by Dane but the referee awarded a penalty try as the scrum collapsed before Dane’s offence.
The match finished 21 – 7, Ireland hitting their stated target of three home wins.
Ireland: Lauren Delany, Laura Sheehan Enya Breen, Sene Naoupu, Béibhinn Parsons; Hannah Tyrrell, Kathryn Dane; Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Linda Djougang, Nichola Fryday, Ciara Cooney, Dorothy Wall, Claire Molloy, Ciara Griffin (C). Replacements: Neve Jones, Katie O’Dwyer, Leah Lyons, Brittany Hogan, Hannah O’Connor, Alisa Hughes, Larissa Muldoon, Katie Fitzhenry
Italy: Manuela Furlan (captain), Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi, Michela Sillari, Beatrice Rigoni, Aura Muzzo, Veronica Madia, Sofia Stefan; Silvia Turani, Melissa Bettoni, Lucia Gai, Sara Tounesi, Giordana Duca, Francesca Sgorbini, Giada Franco, Elisa Giordano. Replacements: Giulia Cerato, Erika Skofca, Michela Merlo, Valeria Fedrighi, Francesca Sberna, Sara Barattin, Beatrice Capomaggi, Benedetta Mancini
In the weekend’s other match Scotland recorded an unlikely draw at home to France leaving the table as follows.
Unfortunately, there is not as much jeopardy in the women’s competition as their is in the men’s with England already champions and Italy and Scotland playing their RD2 fixture in December. However, Ireland have a bonus chance to go into the World Cup qualifiers with an unlikely 2nd place finish in the Six Nations should France be as disjointed as they were against Scotland.
Les Bleus may now be rueing their earlier agreement to switch next week’s fixture to Donnybrook.
|Sun 1st Nov||RD5**||Ireland||France||13:30|
|Sun 1st Nov||RD5||Wales||Scotland||16:15|
|Sun 1st Nov||RD5||Italy||England||17:00|
|Sun 6th Dec||RD2*||Italy||Scotland||17:20|