Ireland stun England with late penalty in Women’s Six Nations
• Niamh Briggs makes it two defeats from three for England
Niamh Briggs’ late penalty saw England succumb to a second defeat in three games
, leaving the world champions with very little chance of adding a Six Nations crown to that global title.
The big news emanating from the England camp this week was the decision to appoint the women’s sevens coach, Simon Middleton, as the permanent replacement for the World Cup-winning coach Gary Street. Middleton won’t assume his new role until the conclusion of the Sevens World Series in May, however, and as a result, the interim appointment Nicky Ponsford was in charge for the third consecutive game.
The England fly-half Katy Mclean was off-target with her first kick at the posts, but when the Ireland captain, Briggs, was penalised for a high-tackle on Alexandra Matthews from the subsequent attack, Mclean made no mistake.
The hosts eventually opened their account on 25 minutes through the boot of the reliable Briggs, and threatened to build momentum as the half wore on. Now that they had been made aware of Ireland’s attacking potential, England increased the tempo of their play as the interval beckoned. Bristol’s Abigail Brown and McLean were both halted just shy of the Irish line in stoppage time, but from the resulting five-metre scrum, the No8 Harriet Millar-Mills crossed for the game’s opening try. Mclean couldn’t add the conversion, and 8-3 looked to be a precarious half-time lead from England’s viewpoint.
Within 10 minutes of the restart, their defensive resistance was eventually broken. The impressive Alison Miller – who registered a hat-trick against England at the same venue two years ago – almost found a way through on the left, and when the play was switched towards the opposite flank, the scrum-half Larissa Muldoon went over to level the score at 8-8.
Briggs missed the conversion but while England did enjoy a dominant period ofpossession during the final quarter, they received precious little leeway from a watertight Irish defence. Ireland had the upper hand and their relentless pressure ultimately led to Briggs’ decisive injury-time penalty which settled the game.
Ireland Briggs (capt); Tyrrell, Murphy, Fitzhenry, Miller; Stapleton, Muldoon (Rosser, 71); O’Reilly (Hayes, 48), Bourke, Egan (O’Brien 85); Spence, Reilly; Fitzpatrick, Molloy, O’Brien.
Try Muldoon Pens Briggs 2
England Cattell (Field, 79); Laybourn (Reed, 76), Brown, Large, Gregson (Goddard 85); Mclean, Blackburn (Davidson 79); Clark, Fleetwood, Keates; Taylor (capt), Scott; Matthews, Gallagher, Millar-Mills.
Try Millar-Mills Pen Mclean
Referee L Berard (US)