Irish denied a draw by late try
England 8 Ireland 3
Ireland's women fell to an away defeat to England after conceding a late try in their historic first autumn international match.
A score with five minutes remaining from England substitute Izzy Noel-Smith proved decisive, after a penalty from Waterford woman Niamh Briggs almost sealed a deserved draw for Ireland.
An inability to take advantage of a second-half yellow card for England hooker Emma Croker proved decisive, as Ireland could not convert pressure and territory into points.
Ireland had named six uncapped players in their starting XV, including centre Aine Donnelly, front-row Cliodhna Moloney and second-rows Elaine Anthony and Ciara Cooney.
The debutants also included wingers Mairead Coyne and Jeamie Deacon, who has been in Irish hockey development squads, though the conditions dictated that neither saw much of the ball.
Extensive rain before and during the match meant handling errors were common in a first-half where both sides struggled to find any significant passing rhythm or control.
Ireland fell behind in the 12th minute to a penalty from England centre Lauren Catell, although it could have been worse as a chip from fly-half Emily Scott on the penalty advantage almost fell for Sarah McKenna to score.
Just before half-time Ireland fly-half Sene Naoupu, wife of Connacht forward George, side-stepped past two defenders just inside her own territory to start a promising attack, a sign of what was to come.
Ireland significantly improved after half-time, with new second-row pairing Anthony and Cooney combining just two minutes in to win a penalty that Briggs put just wide.
Ireland controlled the game from there on but only got themselves on to the scoreboard inside the last 10 minutes.
An Irish line-out midway into English territory saw Paula Fitzpatrick tackled while being lifted, leading to full-back Briggs atoning for her earlier miss with a superb long-range penalty from the left.
However, England responded with a good set-piece rolling maul that eventually resulted in Noel-Smith scoring from the back of it.
Scorers - England: I Noel-Smith try; L Catell pen) Ireland: N Briggs pen).
England: S McKenna; L Catell ,K Mason, C Large, C Clapp (R Laybourn 77); E Scott, LT Mason; R Clarke (V Cornborough 60), E Croker, J Lucas (H Kerr 79); T Taylor, A Scott; H Gallagher (I Noel-Smith 60), M Packer (H Millar-Mills 77), S Hunter (capt).
Ireland: N Briggs (capt); J Deacon, A Donnelly (N Stapleton 56), J Shiels, M Coyne; S Naoupu, L Muldoon (M Healy 56); R O'Reilly (F Reidy 61) C Moloney, A Egan; E Anthony (L Peat 64), C Cooney; S Spence, P Fitzpatrick, H O'Brien.
Sunday Indo Sport