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Griggs' squad find groove in Wales victory

Ireland 31 Wales 12

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Ireland’s Anna Caplice attempts to get away from the tackle of her Welsh opponent Alisha Butchers. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland’s Anna Caplice attempts to get away from the tackle of her Welsh opponent Alisha Butchers. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland’s Anna Caplice attempts to get away from the tackle of her Welsh opponent Alisha Butchers. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

This was more like what coach Adam Griggs had in mind as Ireland produced the best performance of his tenure for this Women's Six Nations tie at blustery Energia Park yesterday.

"We asked for more focus in staying on task. I certainly think we did that for longer periods," said Griggs, after Ireland's second victory left them on a total of nine points.

"You can just see the potential in the girls. They have a really good understanding of how we want to play now. The trick is to keep that up when teams start to force pressure on us."

The scrum, an obvious weakness against Scotland, steamed through Wales in what was a real fillip given how the visitors controlled the ball in the opening exchanges.

It was also encouraging to see Linda Djougang and Edel McMahon rip through in the tight to compromise Wales' go-forward.

However, all of this was carried out against Welsh monopoly of the ball, Ireland's pre-planned move to disengage from a five-metre lineout allowing them a get-out-of-jail-free card.

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Eimear Considine of Ireland takes on the Wales defence. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Eimear Considine of Ireland takes on the Wales defence. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland were hanging on, Eimear Considine doing just enough to thwart Jasmine Joyce as Welsh out-half Robyn Wilkins used the unorthodox overhead pass to good effect.

The home side could not go on like that, taking a buffeting from big runners like captain Siwan Lillicrap.

Ireland were struggling for rhythm and possession until a moment of brilliance from Beibhinn Parson changed the complexion of all that had gone before. Then, out of nothing, Ireland struck from Considine's kick from defence which the wind swept infield.

Aoife McDermott and Ciara Grifin swallowed up Joyce and the pressure caused a loose kick from Welsh scrum-half Keira Bevan which Beibhinn Parson picked up on the bounce, promptly beat three defenders for a remarkable try in the 18th minute.

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Lindsay Peat of Ireland is tackled by Bethan Lewis of Wales. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Lindsay Peat of Ireland is tackled by Bethan Lewis of Wales. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"Beibhinn really got us going. She has been phenomenal for us," said Griggs. "We needed that to give us a kick and it certainly did just that."

The team difference came in Ireland's superior handling, limiting the mistakes, Sene Naoupu's half-break was all hooker Cliodhna Moloney needed to come onto the ball at pace and, one fend later, she was over for Keohane to convert for 12-0 in the 28th minute.

Relieving

A relieving kick from scrum-half Kathryn Dane was improved by Parsons' hammer blow on Joyce for an Irish scrum close to halfway.

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Aoife McDermott of Ireland is tackled by Manon Johnes, left, and Siwan Lillicrap of Wales. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Aoife McDermott of Ireland is tackled by Manon Johnes, left, and Siwan Lillicrap of Wales. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

It was accurate passing on the short side that enabled Lauren Delany to come off her right foot and accelerate away from the cover for a third touchdown on 34 minutes.

On review, Welsh prop Gwenllian Pyrs was binned for a high hit on captain Griffin in the build-up giving Ireland every reason to chase the bonus point before the break.

Instead, Wales held the ball, hunting a way back in, and they benefited from Bevan's quick tap for full-back Lauren Smyth to steal over on the left for 17-5 right on half-time.

Ireland got straight down to work, mixing their game superbly, for Djougang to power home for the bonus-point try, Keohane converting in the 43rd minute.

There was food for thought when Bevan hit Lillicrap with a flat pass for Wales' second almost straight away, Wilkins adding the conversion for 24-12 in the 48th minute.

Suddenly, the wind picked up appreciably and the rain slammed down sideways. It turned the contest into a lottery, although Ireland controlled the ball well into the teeth of the conditions.

"When that wind and rain came, I actually thought we managed the game really well. It was probably the best I've seen us adapt to the conditions.

"The way we tightened up and were still able to get go-forward was really impressive," said Griggs

Wales were still in the game at this point. It looked an important intervention when hooker Moloney forced a penalty on the floor.

The impressive Dorothy Wall went close from long distance, at least allowing Ireland to play in the right part of the field.

They did even better when forcing a penalty try from a front-foot scrum as the final whistle blew.

Ireland - E Considine (A Doyle 64); L Delany, S Naoupu, M Claffey, B Parsons; C Keohane (L Muldoon 69), K Dane (N Cronin 66); L Peat (L Feely 70, AM O'Hora 79), C Moloney, L Djougang, A McDermott (C Cooney 57), J Bobbett, C Griffin (capt, D Wall 61), E McMahon, A Caplice.

Wales - L Smyth; J Joyce (P Randall 66), H Jones, K Lake, L Neumann; R Wilkins, K Bevan (F Lewis 73); G Pyrs (C Hope 73), K Jones (M Kelly 76), C Hale (R Lewis 76), N John (B Lewis ht), G Crabb, A Butchers (G Evans 66), M Johnes (A Callender 59), S Lillicrap (capt, C Hope 35, temp).

Ref - A Barrett-Theron (South Africa).

Irish Independent