Ireland Women defeat England at Ashbourne
Ireland Women 11-8 England Women
Ireland Women claimed only their second ever victory over England in a tight Six Nations clash at Ashbourne RFC.
Captain Niamh Briggs’ last-gasp penalty was the match-winning score, completing a fine comeback for Tom Tierney’s side from an 8-3 half-time deficit.
Katy Mclean and Briggs traded penalties before England number 8 Harriet Millar-Mills touched down. Irish scrum half Larissa Muldoon sniped over to reply in the 50th minute and the hosts won out thanks to Briggs’ reliable right boot.
Having spent much of the opening half against France on the back foot, Ireland were the more offensive outfit during the early exchanges of tonight’s round 3 tie.
Thanks to the industrious play of Jenny Murphy, Nora Stapleton and Muldoon, the girls in green were threatening to break the deadlock.
England defended smartly and were well organised, bouncing back to take the lead as out-half and captain Mclean, who had missed her first place-kick of the night, punished Briggs for a high tackle on Alex Matthews.
Mclean sent a long range penalty wide of the posts and with very little to choose between the teams, it was obvious that every scoring chance would have to be taken.
Briggs responded for Ireland in the 25th minute, splitting the posts confidently as he side began to build momentum again.
Right winger Alison Miller, the hat-trick heroine of the famous 2013 win over the English, surged towards the right corner as half-time approached, only for England to regain possession when the ball was recycled.
Moments later, it was England’s turn to up the ante.
Abigail Brown and Mclean were both brought down just shy of the Irish whitewash in the final seconds of the half.
Showing their World Cup-winning pedigree, England pressed from the resulting five-metre scrum and Millar-Mills duly made it over the line for the opening try.
Mclean missed the conversion and Ireland, now with the breeze behind them, resumedin good fettle, the ever-impressive Miller and Briggs almost finding a way through on either wing.
Powerful work by her pack had Muldoon in the right place at the right time as she took a quick tap and got past full-back Lauren Cattell to touch down.
Briggs missed the tricky conversion and moving into the final half hour, the gameremained delicately poised. England enjoyed some decent possession during the final quarter, but they were given precious little space by the watertight Irish defence.
Ireland experienced the same difficulties when they ventured into English territory, but their relentless pressure forced a penalty from replacement Hannah Field in front of her posts and Briggs, shaking off cramp, slotted the kick to send the Ashbourne faithful into raptures.
IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt); Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/Leinster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Skewen); Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Gillian Bourke (Olympico de Pozuelo), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster).
Replacements used: Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster) for O’Reilly (48 mins), Tania Rosser (Blackrock/Leinster) for Muldoon (71), Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Egan (80+5).
ENGLAND WOMEN: Lauren Cattell (Saracens); Ruth Laybourn (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Abigail Brown (Bristol), Ceri Large (Worcester), Sydney Gregson (Bristol); Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) (capt), Bianca Blackburn (Worcester); Rochelle Clark (Worcester), Victoria Fleetwood (Saracens), Laura Keates (Worcester), Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Alexandra Matthews (Richmond), Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), Harriet Millar-Mills (Waterloo).
Replacements used: Amber Reed (Bristol) for Laybourn (76 mins), Hannah Field (Richmond) for Cattell (79), Fiona Davidson (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) for Blackburn (79), Megan Goddard (Worcester) for Gregson (80+5).
Referee: Leah Berard (USA)