Monday 11 December 2017

Confident Irish get title defence off to winning start

Ireland 21 Wales 3

Ireland's Elise O'Byrne White is tackled by Robyn Wilkins and Elinor Snowsil of Wales. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Ireland's Elise O'Byrne White is tackled by Robyn Wilkins and Elinor Snowsil of Wales. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile
Sene Naoupu lines out in the centre for Ireland against England Picture credit: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile Newsdesk Newsdesk

First-half tries from Sene Naoupu and Sophie Spence set the foundations at Donnybrook yesterday afternoon, as Ireland kick-started the defence of their RBS Women's Six Nations crown with an accomplished triumph over Wales.

The visitors broke the deadlock courtesy of a close-range penalty from out-half Robyn Wilkins on four minutes, but Ireland quickly restored parity with a similar effort by captain Niamh Briggs just three minutes later.

This was a major confidence boost for the hosts and for the remainder of the first-quarter, they established a firm foothold in the Welsh '22'. Despite losing prop Megan York to the sin-bin, the away side initially held firm under severe pressure, but following a memorable run through the heart of the Welsh rearguard, impressive centre Naoupu secured Ireland's opening try on 24 minutes.

Full-back Briggs was on hand to convert the score in clinical fashion and after a powerful drive on the left-wing produced a 35th-minute five-pointer for lock Spence, Ireland brought a 15-3 cushion into the interval.

Ireland extended their lead four minutes after the restart with another successful place-kick by the dependable Briggs, but the home faithful breathed a huge sigh of relief when replacement Welsh winger Gemma Rowland knocked on with the Irish line in her sights.

Following this let-off, Ireland increased the tempo of their play and Briggs was presented with another chance from the kicking tee 57 minutes into the action.

The Waterford native was denied by the woodwork for a second time, but she eventually increased Ireland's advantage seven minutes later.

With several players introduced from the replacements bench, Ireland were able to close out the game and they can now look forward to an away clash with France next Saturday.

Scorers - Ireland: S Naoupu, S Spence try each, N Briggs 3 pens, con. Wales: R Wilkins pen.

Ireland: N Briggs; E O'Byrne White, A Donnelly, S Naoupu, M Coyne; N Caughey, L Muldoon; A Egan, Z Grattage, R O'Reilly; S Spence, ML Reilly; P Fitzpatrick, C Molloy, H O'Brien. Reps: N Stapleton for Caughey (40-40+2), C Moloney for Grattage (47), N Stapleton for Caughey, C Griffin for O'Brien (both 58), F Reidy for Egan (58-61), C Griffin for Reilly, J Shiels for Donnelly (both 65), L Peat for O'Reilly (70), M Healy for Muldoon (74), Reidy for Egan (76).

Wales: A Taviner; B Dainton, K Lake, H Jones, E Evans; R Wilkins, K Bevan; M York, C Phillips, A Evans; R Rowe, S Harries; R Taylor, S Williams, S Powell-Hughes. Reps: C Edwards for Dainton (19-28), G Rowland for Lake (34), A Butchers for Powell-Hughes (44), E Snowsill for Jones (52), S Lillicrap for Rowe (56), Edwards for A Evans (58), D Hywel for Dainton (65), A Price for Phillips, C Hale for York (both 73).

Referee: L Berard (USA).

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