Rea shines on debut as Irish women pass Italian test
WOMEN'S SIX NATIONS
IRELAND'S women are up and running in the championship thanks to a strong second-half performance in Rovigo.
Ahead 8-5 at the break against a dogged Italian side, Philip Doyle's charges remained patient and eventually pulled clear in the fourth quarter.
Italy started the better team, defending in Irish faces and forcing the visitors into a succession of errors. They took full advantage, testing Ireland's resolve before lock Flavia Severin crashed over for the opening try.
Niamh Briggs pulled back a penalty, before Niamh Kavanagh made her debut one to remember; dashing 40 metres and beating several defenders to touch down.
That lifted Ireland and they came out with serious intent after the break in front of a crowd of 3,000. Player of the match Geraldine Rea put in an impressive display on her debut as her runs from midfield tested the Italian rearguard.
Hooker Gillian Bourke finally put some distance between the sides with a close-range score, before Claire Molloy and Mairead Kelly secured the win with further tries.
"Italy away from home was always going to be a tough game to open our year," Doyle said. "They delivered on the physicality we were expecting and I'm delighted to come away with a win.
"It was great to see Niamh and Ger do so well -- these are new players for us and they were outstanding."
ITALY -- M Furlan; D Veronese, MG Cioffi, P Zangirolami (capt), S Pizzati (M Tondinelli 64); V Sciavon, S Barattin; E Cucchiella, S Peron (S Zanon 54), L Gai (E Vaghi 54), F Severin (M Barbini 59), S Pettinelli; M Este (C Zublena 67), G Campanella (G Bado 67), S Gaudino.
IRELAND -- N Briggs; N Kavanagh (J Shields 68), L Cantwell, G Rea, M Kelly; N Stapleton, A Davis (L Muldoon68); F Coghlan (capt), G Bourke (S Kennedy 76), L Day (G Nolan 75), ML Reilly (D O'Brien 75), L Guest, C Staunton (H O'Brien 64), C Molloy, J Neville.