IRELAND WOMEN 8 NEW ZEALAND WOMEN 38, UCD Bowl
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Niamh Kavanagh; Pen: Nora Stapleton
New Zealand: Tries: Selica Winiata 2, Portia Woodman 3, Kelly Brazier; Cons: Kendra Cocksedge 3, Hazel Tubic
HT: Ireland Women 3 New Zealand Women 5
The New Zealand Women put on a second half scoring blitz as hosts Ireland ended their first ever November Series without a win at the UCD Bowl.
Jet-heeled duo Selica Winiata (2) and Portia Woodman (3) starred as the Black Ferns went up through the gears during the closing 40 minutes, after Ireland were just 5-3 behind at the break.
A crowd of 1,810 watched Ireland face New Zealand for the first time since their 2014 World Cup victory in Marcoussis, and a Nora Stapleton penalty came in response to Winiata’s opening try, six minutes in.
However, full-back Winiata completed her brace before Ireland hooker Cliodhna Moloney’s return from the sin-bin and New Zealand never looked back, Sevens star Woodman showing serious power and pace to score after 53, 60 and 71 minutes.
The centre’s whirlwind hat-trick, combined with a sixth and final effort from out-half Kelly Brazier, made for a flattering final scoreline, and Ireland deservedly broke through for a late consolation score from replacement winger Niamh Kavanagh.
Playing the three leading Women’s teams in the world - England, Canada and New Zealand - over successive weeks has shown the ground Tom Tierney’s side must make up ahead of next year’s World Cup. While the results were disappointing, there were definite positives in Ireland’s performances, not least adding more depth to the squad with five new caps.
The Black Ferns hit the front early on in Belfield, pressing from a penalty that could easily have gone Ireland’s way. The resulting move from a lineout broke down, but Charmaine McMenamin made a bust on the right and passed for the speedy Winiata to finish near the corner.
A powerful break by Paula Fitzpatrick ignited the Irish attack, Ciara Griffin running a great support line and Winiata was forced to concede a lineout. Marie Louise Reilly lost set piece ball but Mairead Coyne’s strong kick chase up the left eventually led to a left-sided penalty which out-half Stapleton sent wide.
A questionable offside call by referee Sara Cox denied Moloney a try, Coyne helping to release the hooker after fit-again captain Niamh Briggs had lobbed a pinpoint kick forward, while the terrier-like Claire Molloy - Ireland’s best player on the day - forced a ruck penalty to break up some New Zealand momentum.
The visitors competed well on Ireland’s leaky lineout, leading to a couple of turnovers, and into the second quarter, both sides’ progress was hampered by handling errors, the hosts winning a penalty after Winiata had threatened from a Cocksedge kick through.
Shortly afterwards, Molloy’s pace when chasing down a kick forced Winiata to miss touch, Coyne launching a back-line move that led to New Zealand captain Fiao'o Faamausili infringing at the breakdown and Stapleton mopped up with the three points.
Ireland were unable to profit from another thunderous run from deep by number 8 Stapleton, Woodman getting over a ruck ball to win a penalty on halfway.
Pressure from the New Zealand pack, with their powerful maul gobbling up yards, led to Moloney seeing yellow for a ruck offence amid a desperate defensive stand from Ireland in the 35th minute. As the lineout issues persisted with Fitzpatrick stepping in at hooker, the Black Ferns should have scored before the interval.
Woodman and Renee Wickliffe were both put into space, however back rowers Fitzpatrick and Molloy came to Ireland’s rescue by winning key possession at ruck time, with the tough-tackling Sene Naoupu covering a huge amount of ground in defence and Ailis Egan also producing some big hits.
There was nothing the Irish defence could do on the resumption, though, as New Zealand stretched them twice out wide, creating a couple of mismatches, and then a looping pass, which did appear to go forward, put Winiata over for her second unconverted effort.
Briggs increased her influence, sparking one of Ireland’s best moves of the game with a surge down the right and a lovely offload for Nicole Fowley to crash up into the visitors’ 22. Off scrum ball, Claire McLaughlin and Molloy punched holes too, finding space around the fringes but Ireland’s ruck ball was frustratingly slowed up and the Black Ferns won a relieving penalty.
Naoupu had to make a try-saving tackle on Winiata who hoovered up the ground after a loose kick from Larissa Muldoon, the New Zealand full-back whizzing through in stunning fashion before a forward pass halted the attack just in front of the posts.
The big defensive workload eventually caught up with Ireland nearing the hour mark, New Zealand number 8 Angie Sisifa broke from a maul, threw a dummy and then linked with Woodman to send the centre sprinting in behind the posts with Cocksedge converting.
Ireland fell 24-3 behind when the Black Ferns launched a brilliant counter from their own half, Woodman showing her finishing skills from the Sevens game with an incisive 60-metre run all the way to the line.
The girls in green were far from finished, their determination epitomised by the midfield tackling of Naoupu and Stapleton, and openside Molloy continued to excel at ruck time, latching onto the ball to win two penalties in quick succession.
Ireland were a little naive in their play at times, however, and they were badly caught out by New Zealand countered at a ruck, winning possession back to give Woodman a simple run-in on the right for try number five.
Number 10 Brazier completed the visitors’ try haul six minutes from the end, showing great feet to step inside a couple of defenders and touch down by the posts for replacement Hazel Tubic to convert.
The 35-point deficit was not a true reflection of the contest as whole and after the Irish forwards attacked from a couple of late mauls, and New Zealand lost replacement lock Jackie Fereti to the bin, the back-line set up Kavanagh to finish strongly in the right corner, rewarding some fine interplay between McLaughlin and the tireless Naoupu.
TIME LINE: 6 minutes - New Zealand try: Selica Winiata - 0-5; conversion: missed by Kendra Cocksedge - 0-5; 16 mins - Ireland penalty: missed by Nora Stapleton - 0-5; 31 mins - Ireland penalty: Nora Stapleton - 3-5; 35 mins - Ireland yellow card: Cliodhna Moloney; Half-time - Ireland 3 New Zealand 5; 42 mins - New Zealand try: Selica Winiata - 3-10; conversion: missed by Kendra Cocksedge - 3-10; 53 mins - New Zealand try: Portia Woodman - 3-15; conversion: Kendra Cocksedge - 3-17; 60 mins - New Zealand try: Portia Woodman - 3-22; conversion: Kendra Cocksedge - 3-24; 71 mins - New Zealand try: Portia Woodman - 3-29; conversion: Kendra Cocksedge - 3-31; 74 mins - New Zealand try: Kelly Brazier - 3-36; conversion: Hazel Tubic – 3-38; 80 mins – New Zealand yellow card: Jackie Fereti; 80+2 mins - Ireland try: Niamh Kavanagh – 8-38; conversion: missed by Niamh Briggs – 8-38; Full-time – Ireland 8 New Zealand 38
IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt); Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht), Nicole Fowley (Galwegians/Connacht), Sene Naoupu (Aylesford Bulls), Claire McLaughlin (Cooke/Ulster); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union); Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary's/Leinster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary's/Leinster).
Replacements used: Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster) for Griffin (37-45 mins, temp sub), Mary Healy (Galwegians/Connacht) for Muldoon (52), Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster) for Griffin, Nichola Fryday (Tullamore/Connacht) for Fitzsimons (both 57), Lyons for Moloney, Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster) for (both 63), Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Fowley (66), Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Egan, Jackie Shiels (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Stapleton (both 72).
NEW ZEALAND WOMEN: Selica Winiata (Manawatu); Honey Hireme (Waikato), Portia Woodman (Counties Manukau), Chelsea Alley (North Harbour), Renee Wickliffe (Counties Manukau); Kelly Brazier (Otago), Kendra Cocksedge (Canterbury); Toka Natua (Waikato), Fiao'o Faamausili (Auckland) (capt), Aleisha Nelson (Auckland), Eloise Blackwell (Auckland), Charlene Gubb (Auckland), Charmaine Smith (North Harbour), Charmaine McMenamin (Auckland), Angie Sisifa (Otago).
Replacements used: Aotearoa Mata’u (Counties Manukau) for Nelson, Hazel Tubic (Counties Manukau) for Alley (both 52 mins), Jackie Fereti (Wellington) for Gubb, Aldora Itunu (Auckland) for Natua (59), Kiritapu Demant (Auckland) for Wickliffe (66), Kristina Sue (Manawatu) for Cocksedge (71), Sosoli Talawadua (Waikato) for Faamausili (73). Not used: Janna Vaughan (Manawatu).
Referee: Sara Cox (England)