Wednesday 24 January 2018

Hat-trick heroine Miller turns focus to Rio push

Ireland 45-12 Scotland

Niamh Briggs shows her determination as she tries to escape the clutches of Scotland's Lisa Martin Photo: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Niamh Briggs shows her determination as she tries to escape the clutches of Scotland's Lisa Martin Photo: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Niamh Briggs holds off Scotland's Rhona Lloyd to score Ireland's sixth try of the match Photo: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Sene Naoupu runs at Scotland's Sarah Law Photo: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

At times it was like watching a training session, although that may be doing a disservice to the intensity of an Irish session, but the reality was, the level of opposition that Scotland provided was worryingly below international standard across any sport.

In last year's meeting Ireland put 73 points on the hapless Scots and although they didn't hit the same heights in Donnybrook yesterday, they ruthlessly exposed them once again.

Scotland came into the game without a win and it wasn't difficult to see why as Tom Tierney's side ran riot in an eight-try stroll in the park.

In truth, Ireland could have had much more than the eight had they not taken their foot off the pedal in the second half but a hat-trick from returning winger Alison Miller as well as a brace from captain Niamh Briggs sealed a third-place finish.

Crucial

Miller missed the earlier games in the campaign due to her Sevens commitments and while her attention will now switch back to the other code, she remains just as crucial to the 15s side.

Yesterday's hat-trick was the third of the Portlaoise flyer's career - the first came against England in 2013, and she also ran in three tries against Scotland last year.

"Hat-tricks are born out of the work that the forwards and the other girls do. You just have to be in the right place at the right time," a modest Miller said afterwards.

Ireland's final chance of securing Olympic qualification will come at June's repechage in Dublin and Miller insists that despite poor results at recent tournaments, the dream is still very much alive.

"Like 15s, there's a lot of new faces, a lot of talent, a lot of youth there. The last few tournaments didn't go our way and we didn't play to our potential but the exciting thing is that the team can only get better," she said.

"Maybe people won't expect much from us now and that might work to our advantage. We're capable of so much and we know that as squad. The dream is still alive. We're still working hard and we think we can do it."

Miller got the scoring underway after just four minutes when she darted in off her wing to collect Nora Stapleton's clever reverse pass. Briggs converted before Liz Burke scored her first international try.

Ciara Griffin finished off another free-flowing Irish move while Briggs added a penalty as well as a try in a rampant 10-minute spell.

Jenny Maxwell scored a try out of nothing and Lana Skeldon's conversion left Scotland trailing 25-7 in front at the break.

The second half was barely a minute old before Miller grabbed her second try and Briggs did the same shortly after. Scotland's cause wasn't helped by the sin-binning of Tracy Balmer on the hour mark, and Ireland didn't need a second invitation to punish them further.

Miller sealed her hat-trick after the Irish backline again carved open their opponents. Sophie Spence came off the bench to get in on the scoring act and while Scotland did have the final say with a try through Rhona Lloyd, it didn't mask their shortcomings.

Ireland won't play again until their first ever Autumn series, when New Zealand, Canada and England will all come to Dublin.

While they may not have defended their Six Nations title, there were enough positives to take from a campaign that was always being looked at as something of an experiment.

Ireland Women - N Briggs (capt); L Burke, C McLaughlin, S Naoupu, A Miller (A Donnelly 67); N Stapleton (K Flood 60), L Muldoon (M Healy 47); R O'Reilly (F Hayes 67), Z Grattage (C Moloney 47), A Egan (F Reidy 67); E Anthony (O Fitzsimons 60), C Cooney; C Griffin, C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick (S Spence 54).

Scotland Women - C Rollie (E Sinclair 60); M Gaffney (L Harris 63), L Thompson, L Martin, R Lloyd; S Law (H Nelson h/t), J Maxwell; H Lockhart (T Balmer h/t), L Skeldon (S Quick 74), L Smith; E Wassell (F Sim 74), D McCormack (L Robertson 64); J Forsyth (A Stodter 74), K Dunbar, J Konkel.

Ref - S Turnbull (CAN)

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