Converted try at the end denies Ireland victory in tight test clash
A converted 74th-minute Izzy Noel-Smith try was the difference at the UCD Bowl yesterday, when Ireland Women suffered a narrow defeat to England in their opening November Series International.
Ireland 10 England 12
In front of a packed crowd for the first of three tests at the Belfield venue, Ireland coach Tom Tierney handed a debut to Nicole Fowley at outside centre.
However, it was England who made the breakthrough in the 34th-minute, as Rocky Clarke secured an unconverted try from an incisive maul.
It was a milestone game for 35-year-old Clark who became England's most-capped rugby player in winning her 115th cap to overtake Jason Leonard. She also equalled Scotland's Donna Kennedy as the most capped player in the women's game.
However, a routine Stapleton penalty subsequently reduced Ireland's deficit to two points (5-3) in time for the break, and with Leah Lyons and Chloe Pearse making their international bows from the replacements bench, the home team moved into the ascendancy on 51 minutes.
Stapleton drove over the line after discovering a gap, and the Donegal native added the bonuses to her own score to help Ireland establish a five-point cushion.
Yet, England's experience shone through and they eventually claimed their second try through Noel-Smith, and with the experienced Katy Mclean finding her range from a touchline conversion, the visitors held out for a hard-earned triumph.
IRELAND WOMEN - M Coyne; N Kavanagh, N Fowley, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon (M Healy 53); L Peat (F Hayes 64), C Moloney (L Lyons 35), A Egan; ML Reilly, O Fitzsimons (K Norris 75); C Griffin, C Molloy (C Pearse 45), P Fitzpatrick.
ENGLAND WOMEN - D Waterman; K Wilson, C Allan (K Mclean 53), R Burford (C Large 70), F Pocock; E Scott, LT Mason (M Hunt 53); R Clarke (V Cornborough 57), V Fleetwood, L Keates (J Lucas 57); T Taylor, H Millar-Mills (P Cleall 70); I Noel-Smith, M Packer (A Cokayne 44), S Hunter.
REF - A Perrett (Australia).