/ Six Nations 2016

Ireland women open Six Nations defence with victory

Updated: Saturday, 06 Feb 2016 18:17 | Comments

Ireland Women won by 18 points
Ireland Women won by 18 points

Ireland Women 21-3 Wales Women

The Ireland Women launched their RBS 6 Nations title defence with an ultimately comfortable 21-3 victory over Wales at Donnybrook.

Two second-quarter tries - Sene Naoupu from her own searing break and Sophie Spence via a close-in rumble - had Tom Tierney's side leading 15-3 at half-time.

A brace of penalties from captain Niamh Briggs widened the margin in wet conditions, but poor execution robbed Ireland of further tries ahead of next week's crucial trip to France.

Tierney had ten championship newcomers on board, including debutants Elise O'Byrne White, Zoe Grattage and Ciara Griffin, and they all acquitted themselves well against a determined Welsh outfit.

The visitors, who beat Ireland 15-3 in a recent warm-up fixture, controlled the early possession and territory and deservedly took a fourth-minute lead through the boot of out-half Robyn Wilkins.

From the restart, Paula Fitzpatrick foraged at a ruck to win a penalty which Briggs fired over from the 22-metre line.

Wales leaked successive penalties for not rolling away as Ireland pressed for a try towards the end of the first quarter, with loosehead prop Megan York sent to the sin-bin.

However, a combination of loose lineout throwing from hooker Grattage in the testing wind and resolute Welsh defending - captain Rachel Taylor and Shona Powell-Hughes stood out in that regard - foiled Ireland five metres out.

Wales survived without York, bringing lively Irish number 10 Nikki Caughey down short of the posts and then winning a scrum against the head to lift the siege.

But a moment of magic from Naoupu, who benefited from a block by Aine Donnelly, saw the nippy centre tear straight through the Welsh midfield from outside the 22 to score to the right of the posts.

Briggs curled over the conversion and a Ruth Reilly ruck poach and scrum penalty kept Ireland pressing in and around the Welsh 22, approaching the half hour mark.

With the classy Claire Molloy growing in influence up front, a lovely move out to the left wing saw Briggs burst through a gap and combine with Mairead Coyne.

Naoupu was up in support and a final surge from Spence saw her crash over in the corner. Briggs' conversion attempt came back off the right-hand post.

The Waterford woman opened the second half's scoring, clipping over a 44th-minute penalty, and although she knocked on from the restart, a Welsh handling error blew a try-scoring opportunity for them.

Briggs was fortunate to avoid the sin-bin for pulling back Wilkins after she blocked the Ireland skipper's kick, but the experienced back row unit again provided go-forward ball for the title holders as the rain came down.

Another period of dominant play from the Irish forwards should have yielded a try, but replacement hooker Cliodhna Moloney and Spence were both stopped short of the line and the greasy ball proved problematic as the Welsh defence held firm.

New cap Ciara Griffin made an immediate impact with a ruck steal, while Briggs' 64th-minute penalty, following an earlier miss, ensured that Ireland kept the scoreboard ticking over.

Second row Ciara Cooney was another player to show well off the bench, particularly in contact and at the breakdown, while a misfired pass spoiled a threatening run from Jackie Shiels.

Tierney and his coaches will have been frustrated with the team's poor execution in attacking situations late on, as two mauls were stopped short and Mary Healy was subsequently turned over in contact. A solid start, but plenty to do ahead of next Saturday night's crunch clash with the French in Perpignan.

IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt); Elise O'Byrne White (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Aine Donnelly (Cill Dara/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Galwegians/Connacht), Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht); Nikki Caughey (Railway Union/Ulster), Larissa Muldoon (Skewen); Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Zoe Grattage (Tralee/Munster), Ruth O'Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (Toulouse), Claire Molloy (Bristol), Heather O'Brien (Toulouse).

Replacements used: Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Caughney (39-40 mins, blood sub), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster) for Grattage (50), Stapleton for Caughey, Ciara Griffin (Tralee/Munster) for O'Brien (both 58), Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Egan (58-61, blood sub), Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster) for Reilly, Jackie Shiels (Richmond) for Donnelly (both 66), Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster) for O'Reilly (70), Mary Healy (Galwegians/Connacht) for Muldoon (74), Reidy for Egan (77).

WALES WOMEN: Adi Taviner (Skewen/Ospreys); Elen Evans (Caernarfon/Scarlets), Kerin Lake (Skewen/Ospreys), Hannah Jones (Penybanc/Scarlets), Bethan Dainton (Bristol/Dragons); Robyn Wilkins (Llandaff North/Ospreys), Keira Bevan (Skewen/Ospreys); Megan York (Ynysddu/Dragons), Carys Phillips (Skewen/Ospreys), Amy Evans (Skewen/Ospreys), Rebecca Rowe (Richmond/Dragons), Sioned Harries (Whitland/Scarlets), Rachel Taylor (Caernarfon/Dragons) (capt), Sian Williams (Worcester/Dragons), Shona Powell-Hughes (Skewen/Ospreys).

Replacements used: Catrin Edwards (Llandaff North/Scarlets) for E Evans (20-29 mins, temp sub), Gemma Rowland (Wasps/Dragons) for Lake (32), Alisha Butchers (Penybanc/Scarlets) for Powell-Hughes (44), Elinor Snowsill (Bristol/Dragons) for H Jones (51), Siwan Lillicrap (Skewen/Ospreys) for Rowe (54), C Edwards for A Evans (58), Dyddgu Hywel (Pontyclun/Scarlets) for Dainton (66), Amy Price (Skewen/Ospreys) for Phillips, Cerys Hale (Pontyclun/Dragons) for York (both 73).

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