RUGBY: Women’s Six Nations: Ireland 0 England 31: DESPITE THEIR best efforts, the Irish women could not prevent a magnificent England from completing the Grand Slam in this encounter played before an enthusiastic crowd at Ashbourne RFC last night.
This England team has garnered a reputation for coming out of the blocks at break-neck pace, and unrelenting pressure from the pack eventually broke down a game Irish defence with outhalf and captain Katy McLean getting in for a try after seven minutes.
The Irish defence, led by impressive UL Bohemian fullback Niamh Briggs, did their utmost to hold off further scores from the visitors, but number eight Sarah Hunter got over for the second try on 21 minutes, which was converted by McLean.
Ireland responded well and went close to scoring on a couple of occasions, but a miscued Briggs penalty was the closest they got to opening their account. They trailed 12-0 at the break.
This left Ireland with a mountain to climb in the second period, and they really needed to get an early score to remain in contention.
Unfortunately, the opposite was the case, as pressure from the English produced tries from props Rochelle Clark and Sophie Hemming in the 54th and 58th minutes respectively.
This put the game firmly out of Ireland’s reach, though they did continue to battle right until the very final moments, when powerhouse flanker Margaret Alphonsi got through for a fifth try to complete a fine night’s work for the rampant visitors.
IRELAND : N Briggs; N Kavanagh, L Cantwell, G Rea, M Kelly; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; F Coghlan, G Bourke, A Egan; H O’Brien, ML Reilly; L Guest, C Molloy, J Neville. Replacements: L Day for Egan (40 mins), J Shiels for Rea (60 mins), C Staunton for Guest, S Kennedy for Bourke, A Davis for Muldoon, G Nolan for Kelly (all 73 mins), D O’Brien for H O’Brien (75 mins).
ENGLAND : E Scarratt; K Merchant, R Burford, K Oliver, F Matthews; K McLean, L Toya Mason; R Clark, E Croker, S Hemming; R Essex, J McGilchrist; H Fisher, M Alphonsi, S Hunter. Replacements: R Burnfield for McGilchrist (h-t), C Spencer for Hunter (45 mins), A Garnett for Croker, C Purdy for Clark, D Waterman for Burford (all 55 mins), G Roberts for Merchant (61 mins), G Rozario for Mason (68 mins).
Referee : S Corrigan (Aus).