Ireland beaten at Twickenham but spirited display is a cause for optimism
England 37 Ireland 15
Ireland women were denied a first win over England in six attempts as tries from Eimear Considine, Lauren Delany and Claire Molloy were not enough at Twickenham.
There were impressive debuts from Juliet Short and Ellen Murphy, but the injury ravaged Ireland ended their November internationals with a second loss in a week.
An 18-minute hat-trick in the second-half from Lydia Thompson wrapped up the win for England, but after a shocking start meant they trailed 15-0 after 31 minutes, a young Ireland side will be happy with their spirited display.
Defeat to USA last weekend was a setback for Adam Griggs’s team as they faced England in Twickenham for the first time since 2016, but the power of the home side was evident from the start.
After four minutes it seemed as if England were on their way to the game’s first try, but a couple of mauls were stalled, before hooker Heather Kerr finally dived over on the back of their third driving maul for a 5-0 lead.
A late hit on Sene Naoupu earned Ireland a penalty that briefly eased the pressure, but when Abbie Scott forced the turnover England were on the front foot again. The Ireland defence looked to be in control, but a dropped pass created the fracture which Tatyana Heard took advantage of and she sent Kelly Smith over in the corner.
Throughout this game England’s defensive linespeed was a highlight, but when it was coupled with some massive hits it showed the physical difference between the teams. Once such tackle came from Poppy Cleall on Nikki Caughey resulted in the Ireland out-half limping off after just 18 minutes.
An arm injury then robbed Ireland of hooker Emma Hooban six minutes later, and after some continued England pressure that saw Thompson and Hannah Botterman tries ruled out by the TMO, their third finally arrived when Vickii Cornborough scored off another maul.
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After being totally dominated for most of the first half Ireland somehow only trailed by five points at the interval. A quick-tap penalty from Nicole Cronin kept the pace to Ireland’s attack, but Considine’s finish on the left was incredible as she stretch to touchdown while on her back.
But the score of the half arrived with the clock in the red. Molloy was a pest at the breakdown throughout as usual, but her play-making skills sent Delany free down the right, and after a dummy she finished brilliantly to leave it 15-10 at the break.
Ireland lost replacement hooker Sarah Mimnagh to injury just before the break which resulted in Leah Lyons moving to the middle of the front row – Lyons even picked out Laura Sheehan with a crossfield kick at one stage – but just before the hour-mark Thompson claimed England’s fourth try.
Thompson showed searing pace to score her second try in the 60th minute, but following a Lyons quick penalty Molloy crept over for a fine Irish try, although Thompson’s third and Cath O’Donnell’s score at the death sealed the win.
SCORERS – England: H Kerr, K Smith, H Botterman, L Thompson 3, C O’Donnell tries; K Daley-Mclean con. Ireland: E Considine, L Delany, C Molloy tries.
England: S McKenna; L Thompson, C Williams, T Heard (R Burford 57), K Smith; Z Harrison (K Daley-Mclean 57), L Riley (C Macdonald 74); V Cornborough (E Perry 70), H Kerr (L Davies 57), H Botterman (S Brown 62); Z Aldcroft (C O’Donnell 62), A Scott; P Cleall (M Packer h-t), V Fleetwood, S Hunter (c).
Ireland: L Delany; E Considine, S Naoupu (capt), M Claffey, L Sheehan (B Parsons 70); N Caughey (E Murphy 18), N Cronin (A Hughes 62); L Peat (L Feely 65), E Hooban (S Mimnagh 24) (F Reidy h-t), L Lyons; A McDermott, N Fryday (E McMahon 57); J Deacon (C McLaughlin 52 HIA), C Molloy, J Short.
Referee: A Barrett-Theron (South Africa).