Fitzpatrick bags brace to kick-start Briggs reign
Italy 5 Ireland 30: Women's Six Nations
A comfortable victory under the Friday night lights in Florence begins a new era for Irish women's rugby under recently appointed head coach Tom Tierney.
True to the Azzuri tradition Italy were a fiercely competitive and physical, but composure and tactical nous gave Ireland the upper hand that led to a comprehensive victory.
After a lively opening quarter and a period of persistent pressure from the Girls in Green, new captain Niamh Briggs opened the scoring, with a try coming off the back off the scrum. The full-back converted her own try.
The remainder of the half was played at a frantic pace as the Italians applied great pressure, with full-back Manuela Furlan creating half-chance with some rapier-like runs. However, the Irish showed their grit and determination to hold out.
Italy were repeatedly penalised for infringements around the ruck, but the stiff breeze prevented Briggs from adding to Ireland's lead before the break.
After the interval, the Italian resistance gave in after just four minutes as blindside flanker Paula Fitzpatrick powered over the line. Briggs failed to add the extras.
The captain soon atoned for this miss with a superb long-range penalty.
On 58 minutes the Italian defensive wilted as inside-centre Jenny Murphy scored from her own grubber-kick. Briggs' conversion drifted wide.
Despite her patchy place-kicking Briggs led by example and it looked as if she had scored a brace at 63 minutes, only for the try to be disallowed. However, two minutes later No 8 Heather O'Brien crossed the line. Briggs' conversion took the score to 25-0.
Fitzpatrick sealed a brace for herself with just five minutes left.
The final play of the match resulted in a consolation score from Azzurri replacement Maria Magatti.
Ireland march towards their first home fixture of their Six Nations campaign against the French in 'Fortress Ashbourne' next week.
Italy - M Furlan, M Veronese, S Stefan, M Cioffi, M Sillari, V Schiavon, S Barattin, E Cucchiella, L Cammarano, M Bettoni, F Severin, A Trevisan, I Arrighetti, E Giordano, S Gaudino (capt). Reps: V Ruzza for I Arrighetti (49), P Zangirolmami for M Cioffi, B Rigoni for M Veronese (both 53), M Magatti for S Stefan (68).
Ireland - N Briggs; H Tyrrell, J Murphy, J Shiels, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; R O'Reilly, G Bourke, A Egan; S Spence, ML Reilly; P Fitzpatrick, C Molloy, H O'Brien. Reps: F Hayes for R O'Reilly, K Fitzhenry for J Shiels, O Fitzsimons for ML Reilly (all 69) , S Naoupu for A Miller (7) , T Rosser for L Muldoon (78).
Ref - S Cox (England)