Tuesday 24 April 2018

Briggs 'enjoys' big Ireland win

Ireland 35 Wales 12

Sene Naoupu breaks the tackle from Wales’ Rhiannon Parker as she runs in to score Ireland’s third try at Donnybrook. Photo: Sportsfile
Sene Naoupu breaks the tackle from Wales’ Rhiannon Parker as she runs in to score Ireland’s third try at Donnybrook. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It's been a while since this Ireland team enjoyed such a memorable afternoon, but yesterday's hugely impressive drubbing of Wales offered hope that they are moving in the right direction again.

The sizeable Donnybrook crowd, which encouragingly was again mostly made up of young supporters, were treated to a cracking contest in which Ireland cut loose and showcased a cutting edge that hasn't been seen in quite some time.

Sene Naoupu of Ireland is congratulated by team mates after scoring her side's third try. Photo: Sportsfile
Sene Naoupu of Ireland is congratulated by team mates after scoring her side's third try. Photo: Sportsfile

Adam Griggs wants his team to express themselves, it's in his Kiwi nature, and while they did so, perhaps the most pleasing aspect was the fact that the foundations for the victory were laid by a combination of younger players and those who have been around the block.

Claire Molloy was outstanding again as she helped herself to two tries, and a second consecutive player of the match reward.

The full-time doctor, who is based in Wales, will have enjoyed yesterday, which, like Niamh Briggs, also marked her 60th cap for her country.

Sene Naoupu was back to her best and she also crossed the whitewash in a second-half that saw Ireland show great nerve when down to 14.

Ciara Griffin of Ireland is tackled by Rhiannon Parker of Wales. Photo: Sportsfile
Ciara Griffin of Ireland is tackled by Rhiannon Parker of Wales. Photo: Sportsfile

By her own lofty standards Briggs had a poor day against Italy last time out, but she bounced back well to pull the strings from out-half.

It's been a long and arduous road for Briggs to battle back from two career-threatening injuries, yet after a year on the sidelines the Waterford native is back where she wants to be.

Briggs' relentless pursuit of success has gotten her back to the top level and nothing summed up her commitment more than the fact that, as she stopped for a chat after the game, she offered a handshake with a broken finger that was facing the wrong way.

The offer to go get it checked out by the medics was quickly rebuffed and the emotion with which she speaks tells you everything you need to know about how good it feels to be back in a green jersey.

"Sixty caps, I didn't think it was going to happen," the 33-year old admitted.

"The last year has been really tough. I've come back with a different mindset to enjoy it. A performance like Italy would have put me to bed for a week, whereas I'm finding it much easier to delete it and move on.

"I'm really keen to cherish every second I get in this jersey. It's not that I didn't appreciate it before, but I think I was so hell bent on intensely trying to be perfect.

"It made me realise very quickly that there is no such thing as a perfect player or a perfect game. While you keep striving for it, I think it's important that you enjoy it.

"Am I where I want to be, physically and mentally? Probably not, no.

"A (torn) hamstring off the bone and a torn Achilles, they were two serious injuries. Did I contemplate it (retirement) after the World Cup? Absolutely. But there is a stubbornness in me.

"I am grateful for what I achieved before my injuries. I would have been happy enough to walk away in the sense that I wouldn't owe anything else."

By half-time Ireland were 14-0 in front thanks to tries from the powerful Leah Lyons and Molloy - both of which Briggs converted.

The hosts fell asleep after the restart and Wales capitalised when Amy Evans and Sioned Harries crossed and Elinor Snowsill added a conversion.

Emphatically

It went from bad to worse for Ireland when Lindsay Peat was shown a yellow card for a high tackle, but Ireland responded emphatically with a superb Naoupu try, again converted by Briggs.

The try of the game arrived courtesy of a brilliant strike play that saw Hannah Tyrrell dot down and this time Kim Flood added the extras with seven minutes left.

That sealed the bonus point and the cherry on top arrived late on when Molloy showed great footwork and pace to score in the corner.

Flood's conversion sealed the resounding victory as Ireland racked up their second win on the bounce.

Ireland women - K Flood; M Williams, K Fitzhenry, S Naoupu, C McLaughlin (H Tyrrell 60); N Briggs (M Claffey 70), A Hughes (N Cronin 66); L Peat (F Reidy 76), C O'Connor (C Moloney 50), L Lyons (L Feely 76); O Fitzsimons (L Feely 56-58) (E McMahon 66), A McDermott; C Griffin (capt), C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick.

Wales women - L Neumann; H Bluck (R Wilkins 73), K Lake, R De Flippo (H Jones 43), J Kavanagh-Williams; E Snowsill, R Parker (J Knight, 60); C Thomas (G Pyrs 79), C Phillips (capt) (K Jones 79), A Evans T Davies 79); S Lillicrap (N John, 62), M Clay; A Butchers, B Lewis (N E Davies 70), S Harries.

REF - S Cox (RFU)

Irish Independent

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