Ireland’s Triple Crown hopes dashed by impressive Scotland
After 12 consecutive wins over Scots, the victorious run came to an end in Donnybrook
Ireland 12 Scotland 15
Ireland suffered a surprise defeat against Scotland in the Women’s Six Nations Championship at Donnybrook on Sunday, bringing their Triple Crown hopes for 2018 to an end.
With 12 consecutive triumphs over the Scots – dating back to 2007 – Ireland were hot favourites to continue their winning run under interim head coach Adam Griggs. Yet, with Jade Konkel delivering an outstanding display from the back-row, the visitors held out for a three-point success.
Scotland controlled possession for much of the opening quarter and broke the deadlock just under seven minutes into the action.
When Ireland were caught offside in their own 22, inside centre Helen Nelson made no mistake with a routine penalty. This lifted the spirits of a Scottish side that were searching for their opening win in this year’s Championship.
A series of handling errors ensured that Ireland struggled to build the kind of momentum that helped them to comfortably defeat Wales two weeks earlier.
Katie Fitzhenry’s deliberate knock-on presented Nelson with an ideal opportunity to double Scotland’s lead on 22 minutes. Her right-footed effort was wide of the mark on this occasion, much to the relief of the partisan home crowd.
As the half drew to a close, Ireland finally developed a sustained spell of attacking pressure. The ball was moved effectively into the wide channels, but with the try-line in sight, outhalf Niamh Briggs was dispossessed by the retreating opposition defence.
As a result, Scotland entered the interval with a three-point lead – which was increased within minutes of the restart. Following an intricate move on the left-flank, Nelson held off challenges from Lindsay Peat and Megan Williams to touch down in the corner.
The concession of this five-pointer sparked Ireland into life and they eventually opened their account after nine minutes of the second period.
Skipper Ciara Griffin looked set to break over from a lineout maul on the left-hand side, only to be held up by the resolute Scottish pack. However, following excellent work from the resulting five-metre scrum, a penalty try (and an automatic conversion) reduced Ireland’s deficit to the bare minimum of one point.
But disaster struck just past the hour mark when Scotland overcame the absence of the sin-binned Megan Kennedy to cross the Irish whitewash for a second time.
Griffin’s attempted pass to Sene Naoupu off a Scottish set-piece was intercepted by full-back Chloe Rollie – who sprinted the length of the field to register a score that was supplemented by a Lana Sheldon conversion.
It was looking extremely ominous for Ireland at this point, but they kept themselves in the reckoning with a powerful Paula Fitzpatrick finish 11 minutes from the end. Though a bonus strike by Kim Flood was off-target, the final outcome remained in the balance.
Ireland couldn’t produce a game-changing third try in the closing stages, however, and will now need to dust themselves down for a final round meeting with England at the Ricoh Arena on Friday.
Scorers – Ireland: Penalty try and con, P Fitzpatrick try. Scotland: H Nelson try, pen, C Rollie try, L Skeldon con.
IRELAND: K Flood; M Williams, K Fitzhenry, S Naoupu, H Tyrrell; N Briggs, A Hughes; L Peat, C Moloney, L Lyons, A McDermott, O Fitzsimons, C Griffin, C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick.
Replacements: A Baxter for Fitzsimmons (45 mins), L Galvin for Williams (61 mins), F Reidy for Lyons (63 mins), N Cronin for Hughes (66 mins), M Claffey for Briggs (68 mins), L Feely for Peat (74 mins).
SCOTLAND: C Rollie; L Musgrove, L Thomson, H Nelson, H Smith; L Martin, S Law; S McMillan, L Skeldon, M Kennedy, E Wassell, D McCormack, S Bonar, R Malcolm, J Konkel.
Replacements: L McMillan for Bonar, J Maxwell for Law (both h-t), L Smith for McMillan 53 mins), J Rettie for Kennedy (68 mins), L Harris for Nelson (70 mins), S Cattigan for Malcolm (74 mins).
Referee: I Tempest (England).