Unforgettable weekend for Irish rugby
By Daire Walsh
IT was a truly unforgettable weekend for Irish rugby in Scotland, as Joe Schmidt and Tom Tierney guided their respective sides to RBS Six Nations glory in memorable fashion. After Saturday’s events – when Ireland narrowly held on to the men’s championship crown on score difference – the women’s side were aiming to emulate their male counterparts by securing their own piece of silverware.
They needed a 27 point victory over the Scots in Broadwood Stadium, and also knew that a win of any kind would guarantee them a second-ever Triple Crown. Their 59-0 success against the same opponents in Ashbourne last year meant that this was a manageable task, and thanks to opening period tries from captain Niamh Briggs, Claire Molloy, Heather O’Brien, Gillian Bourke and Alison Miller, they were 34 points to the good (37-3) during the break.
Further five-pointers by the outstanding Miller, Paula Fitzpatrick and Sophie Spence meant that Ireland’s mission was going to be accomplished with a massive degree of comfort, and after Miller completed her hat-trick, Tania Rosser and Kilcullen’s Jenny Murphy recorded Ireland’s 10th and 11th tries to complete an extraordinary performance. This was the second Six Nations title in three years for the Irish women, and it arrived less than 24 hours on from the men’s back-to-back Six Nations triumph at Murrayfield. Following Wales’ comprehensive win against Italy in Saturday’s opening game, Ireland knew that they needed a significant margin of victory in Edinburgh.
Two tries from man of the match Sean O’Brien helped Ireland to finish with a 40-10 buffer, and leap-frog Warren Gatland’s Wales. However, in a scenario that was echoed in the women’s competition on Sunday, England knew that a win by 27 points or more would see them reclaiming the Six Nations Championship.
To their credit, Stuart Lancaster’s side were agonisingly close to pulling off a seemingly improbable feat, but their 55-35 victory in an extraordinary contest with France ultimately wasn’t enough to deny Ireland their first back-to-back Championship since 1949.
On a day of breathtaking rugby, it is difficult to pin-point one moment as being crucial to the destination of the Six Nations, but the try-saving tackle by Naas’ Jamie Heaslip on Stuart Hogg will certainly live long in the memory.
There was some disappointment for Ireland in the past few days, though, when the Ireland U20s suffered their third straight defeat at the hands of Scotland on Friday (17-10). This was a frustrating end to a campaign that promised so much, but it may well prove to be an invaluable experience for Kildare stars Joey Carberry, Jeremy Loughman and Billy Dardis.
Dardis’ brother Sam featured at full-back for Terenure College in the Leinster Schools’ Junior Cup Final on Sunday, but although his side were on their way to victory late on, Joey Caputo’s penalty sealed a dramatic triumph for Blackrock College. There was better luck for Sean Kilgallen in the RDS on St Patrick’s Day, however, as he was in the Cistercian College Roscrea squad that claimed the Leinster Schools’ Senior Cup for the very first time.