Ireland came out on top in the 2021 Women’s Six Nations 3rd Place Playoff at Donnybrook on Saturday morning recording a 25 – 5 win against Italy.
The match had been switched from Parma to Dublin midweek, due to covid restrictions, but it appeared that Italy were still at home, the visitors producing a very subdued performance compared to their previous outings. Perhaps they were keeping their powder dry ahead of an expected meeting with Ireland in the Rugby Europe World Cup Qualifiers later in the summer?
Ireland were scrappy enough themselves but individual efforts were enough to send Dorothy Wall, Amee Leigh Murphy Crowe and Cliodhna Moloney over to take control of the game before a late reply from Italy’s Melissa Bettoni.
Ireland (8) 25
TRY: Dorothy Wall, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (2), Cliodhna Moloney
CON: Stacey Flood
PEN: Stacey Flood
Italy (0) 5
TRY: Melissa Bettoni
I’d been expecting a lot more from this match, in fact, given their previous form in this competition, I’d been expecting Italy to win. They failed to show up and the early kick off, empty stadium, sunny weather, familiar referee and chatty assistant referee gave it all the feel of a training run.
Neither side hit their stride in an error ridden game but a few individual performances were enough to see Ireland through. Certainly Railway Union’s Stacey Flood looked to make the most of her start and she set up the opening score, with a quick tap and go, sending Wall over out wide on the 8th minute.
Italy seemed content to do their own thing, which was to work the ball through the hands from anywhere on the pitch but, despite Ireland’s Sene Naoupu being yellow carded for a fairly brutal tackle, they weren’t able to string enough together to exploit any space and Ireland extended their lead to 8 points on the 28th minute with Flood adding a penalty.
The half petered out with Ireland defending a 8 – 0 lead and as the teams changed ends I hoped for something more in the second half in what was supposed to be a showcase day for the women’s game.
There was a marginal improvement when the teams returned. An Irish line out move sent Murphy Crowe through a static Italian defence for their second try and with Flood adding the extras Ireland extended their lead to 15 – 0 on the 43 minute.
Minutes later, quick thinking from Moloney caught the Italian defence on the back foot, as she powered over from a quick tap and go, and at 20 – 0 after 51 minutes the game looked over.
Italy finally started playing in the final quarter and, after incessant pressure in the Ireland 22, they finally worked a try for prop Bettoni who crossed after a series of pick and drives to take the score to 20 – 5.
While Italy enjoyed the better of the closing stages it was Ireland who had the final say, a dropped pass from Italy’s final play was shovelled wide by Naoupu to bounce into the hands of Murphy Crowe for the 7s player to stroll home for the final score of the game.
IRELAND: Eimear Considine, Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Eve Higgins, Sene Naoupu, Beibhinn Parsons, Stacey Flood, Kathryn Dane, Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Linda Djougang, Aoife McDermott, Nichola Fryday, Dorothy Wall, Brittany Hogan, Ciara Griffin (C). Replacements: Neve Jones, Laura Feely, Leah Lyons, Grace Moore, Hannah O’Connor, Emily Lane, Hannah Tyrrell, Enya Breen.
ITALY: Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi, Manuela Furlan, Michela Sillari, Beatrice Rigoni, Maria Magatti, Veronica Madia, Sara Barattin, Erika Skofka, Melissa Bettoni, Lucia Gai, Valeria Fedrighi, Giordana Duca, Ilaria Arrighetti, Francesca Sgorbini, Elisa Giordano. Replacements: Lucia Cammarano, Gaia Maris, Michela Merlo, Sara Tounesi, Isabella Locatelli, Beatrice Veronese, Sofia Stefan, Aura Muzzo.
Other than the third place finish for Ireland it’s hard to take too many positives from such a poor game. Stacey Flood did look to mix it up a bit and showed some intent but with 78 passing/handling errors and 28 penalties conceded between the two teams it was a hard watch.
Picture credit Bob Given Photography