Women's 6 Nations: Ireland 15 France 10
On a day when International Women’s Day was celebrated across the globe, the Ireland women’s rugby edged closer towards immortality.
Tries in either half from Niamh Briggs and Ailis Egan maintained their 100% record in the 2013 RBS Women’s Six Nations in Ashbourne tonight.
It means that they are one game away from recording a historic Grand Slam success, having already secured a Triple Crown for the very first time.
With President Michael D Higgins and Sports Minister Leo Varadkar in attendance at the Co Meath Venue, the Irish fell behind to a sixth minute penalty from fly-half Sandrina Agricole, but superb combination play from the in-form Alison Miller, Lynne Cantwell and Joy Neville set up Briggs for a try in the right-corner.
This was exactly the tonic that the Irish needed at this point in the contest, but unfortunately Briggs was narrowly off target with her subsequent conversion attempt, and the hosts found themselves facing into a deficit once again five minutes later when hooker Gaëlle Mignot finished off a strong maul towards the opposition line.
The reliable Agricole was on hand to convert, which enabled the French to take a 10-5 cushion into the second period.
Ireland played with ferocious intensity upon the resumption, and deservedly crossed the whitewash for a second occasion just six minutes after the restart when Old Belvedere prop Egan drove over powerfully following strong work by the Irish scrum on the right flank.
With the partisan crowd very much behind them, there was a sense that Ireland might be able to push on for the victory they craved, and with Briggs finding the range with her second conversion effort, they once again found themselves securing a slender hold over their Gallic rivals.
In a frantic final quarter, Ireland had their opponents on the back foot, but replacement Jade Le Pesq was marginally wide of the mark with a 71st-minute drop-goal attempt for France.
The Irish faithful breathed a huge sigh of relief following this missed opportunity, but this proved to be France’s final chance of forcing the tie back into their direction, and although influential UL full-back Briggs hit the post in the opening minute of stoppage time, her successful 86th-minute place-kick ensured that Ireland emerged victorious.
Scorers for Ireland: N Briggs try, 1 con, pen; A Egan try.
Scorers for France: G Mignot try, S Agricole pen, con.
IRELAND: N Briggs; A Baxter, L Cantwell, J Murphy, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; F Coghlan (capt), G Bourke, A Egan; S Spence, M L Reilly; S Fleming, C Molloy, J Neville.
Replacements: N Kavanagh for Baxter (65), G Davitt for Murphy (75), L Guest for Fleming (82).
FRANCE: C Ladagnous; J Billes, M Mayans, L Godiveau, E Guiglion; S Agricole, M-A Yahé (capt); H Ezanno, G Mignot, E Portaries; S Rabier, M De Nadaï; D Cumba, L Grand, S N’Diaye.
Replacements: C Chobet for Portaries (h-t), L Salles for Mignot (59), M Andre for Grand (63), J Le Pesq for Ladagnous (67), J Tremoulliere for Billes (69).
Referee: N Inwood (New Zealand).
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