independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Ireland women secure historic Grand Slam title

Niamh Kavanagh, Ireland, is tackled by Michela Este, left, and Veronica Schiavon, Italy.
Niamh Kavanagh, Ireland, is tackled by Michela Este, left, and Veronica Schiavon, Italy.

Ireland have won their first ever women's Grand Slam title with a bruising 6-3 victory over Italy at the Venegoni Stadium in Milan.

Ireland began their campaign with the modest aim of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup but instead beat all before them for an historic Six Nations title.

There were joyous scenes after the game and a huge sense of relief after Ireland withstood a huge Italian onslaught in the second half.

Penalties from Niamh Briggs in either half were enough to secure victory for Ireland allowing Fiona Coughlan lifted the Six Nations trophy aloft.

Italy got off the better start Veronica Schiavon kicked them in front when Ireland were penalised for not rolling away.

Niamh Briggs equalised with a penalty of her own from out on the left as both sides struggled to deal with the conditions.

Italy then took a stranglehold and  Maria Diletta Veronese burst through the Irish defence and only a last-ditch tackle from Alison Miller stopped her from crossing the whitewash.

Ireland then squandered a try opportunity of their own as Niamh Kavanagh's kick through was hounded down by Briggs put she couldn't place the ball down with her despairing dive and the chance was gone.

Briggs had a chance to put Ireland in front at the break but her effort went agonisingly wide.

Ireland began the second half well and when Italy collapsed an attacking Irish maul Niamh Briggs was given the chance to boot Ireland ahead and she duly delivered.

The last 20 minutes were gruelling in the deteriorating conditions as Italy controlled possession and territory.

Schiavon saw a penalty, that would have levelled matters, drop under the crossbar and Ireland were able to clear.

The Italians piled on the pressure late on and went through phase after phase in the Irish 22' but Phillip Doyle's side showed huge character and tenacity to hold on for a famous win.

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