No drama this time as ruthless Irish maul Scots to reclaim title
Scotland 3 Ireland 73 (Women's Six Nations)
The men made supporters sweat until the bitter end but there was no such drama with the women yesterday as they clinically demolished Scotland at Broadwood Stadium near Glasgow to seal a second Six Nations title in three years.
This season had been billed as a 'transition' but if this tournament is anything to go by, women's rugby in Ireland is continuing on its astonishing upward curve.
France's 21-15 win over England on Saturday meant that Ireland's fate was put entirely in their own hands and needing a 27-point win, they had a massive 43 to spare by the full-time whistle, when they also got their hands on the Triple Crown.
"I'm absolutely delighted, for the girls," said coach Tom Tierney.
"They put in absolutely everything for the last three months. There was a lot of what ifs and what was going to happen after a lot of quality of players retired at the end of last season.
"We were going into the unknown a small bit but I take my hat off to them, they were superb - every single one of them. To win the Championship is just the icing on the cake.
On her 50th cap for her country, the emotion on Niamh Briggs' face during Ireland's Call spoke volumes for the level of commitment to the cause, but any nerves were quickly erased when Ireland opened up a 13-3 lead inside the opening 16 minutes.
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In truth, Scotland were absolutely no match for an Ireland side who dominated them from start to finish in every facet. Alison Miller thrived in the open space and helped herself to a brilliant hat-trick.
Led by the outstanding Paula Fitzpatrick and Sophie Spence's powerful ball-carrying, Ireland were 37-3 in front at half time.
In the build-up to the game, coach Tierney spoke of the dangers of chasing points before the game was won, but Ireland had no trouble in cutting the Scottish defence to ribbons.
"We knew exactly where we stood after the English and French game," Tierney said.
"We were 26 points behind so obviously looking at the matches yesterday in the men's - 61 points, 55 points, 40 points - it can be done."
"The key factor for us was if we kept the score against us down as much as we could, like Ireland did on Saturday, we were in with a very good chance of actually winning. We were very pleased we kept the Scots to just three points."
Fittingly it was Briggs who got the scoring underway when she linked brilliantly with Hannah Tyrrell to score in the corner after just four minutes.
Tyrrell was forced off with a shoulder injury shortly after and another one of the new brigade, Aoife Doyle, took her place and impressed.
Briggs atoned for the conversion miss with a well struck penalty and although Scotland responded through a Nuala Deans three-pointer, that was as good as it got for the hosts as Ireland began to find their feet and exploit gaping holes in the opposition defence.
Ireland used the maul to devastating effect all afternoon and Claire Molloy was the first to benefit when she was on the end of one to dot down.
Heather O'Brien showed great control at the base of another huge Irish scrum to score under the posts and Gillian Bourke added a fourth try five minutes before the break.
Briggs converted both and added a penalty and there was still time left in the half for Miller to score her first of three tries. Briggs again added the extras.
Scotland were out on their feet at this stage and despite the fact that Tierney's side had a cushion, there was no let-up in their intensity during the second half.
Miller picked up where she left off when she was put over after a perfectly weighted Molloy pass. Briggs who had picked up a leg injury in the first half continued through the pain barrier and converted.
Fitzpatrick capped a brilliant individual performance with another try from a rolling maul and Spence did the same after Ireland destroyed Scotland in a scrum.
Briggs again converted and added another 15 minutes later when replacement scrum-half Tania Rosser darted over.
Miller completed her hat-trick late on when her dancing feet left several defenders behind her. Centre Jenny Murphy, who was excellent throughout, got in on the act with a try in injury time to complete the rout.
The jubilant scenes at full-time mirrored those in Italy in 2013 when Ireland last won the title.
This time though, it was far less of a surprise.
"We can't say enough about how well the girls played in attack, it's hugely pleasing," Tierney concluded.
The margin of victory was the biggest in Irish women's international rugby history. Another remarkable achievement from a team who continue to defy the odds.
Scotland - C Rollie (C Bain 75); N Deans, G Inglis, H Smith, E Sinclair; L Martin (J Maxwell 44), S Law (M Grieve 56); L Robertson (H Lockhart 51), L Skeldon (L Smith 56), T Balmer (c); D McCormack, E Wassell; R Cook (L O'Donnell h/t), K Dunbar, J Kinkel.
Ireland - N Briggs; H Tyrrell (A Doyle 23), J Murphy, J Shiels (S Naoupu 57), A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon (T Rosser 57); R O'Reilly (F Hayes 53), G Bourke (S Mimnagh 79), A Egan (F O'Brien 79); S Spence (O Fitzsimons 67), ML Reilly, P Fitzpatrick (K Norris 76), C Molloy, H O'Brien.
ref - J Beard (New Zealand)