Ladies giving a lead

Ireland 30 Scotland 3

Fitting really because never has an Irish women’s side claimed a Triple Crown.

It’s 20 years since the first Irish women’s team opened their history books with a 10-0 defeat to the Scots on Valentine’s Day in Edinburgh. Back then they were buying their own jerseys, paying their own fares and sleeping on floors during World Cups.

But the arrival of Philip Doyle in 2003, at a time when the ladies hadn’t scored a try in two and a half years, has seen them grow in stature. Now, not only are they queens of the ‘home nations’ but they have also secured a berth in the 2014 World Cup as well. And as in the case of every tale of heroines rising from the depths of despair, they have found a star in Alison Miller who mined her rich seam of scoring form to help create history with two more tries.

Afterwards there was unconfined joy mixed with disbelief. After such a long journey they finally had some silverware and for centre Jennifer Murphy it was a feat still being processed.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet that we’ve made history and at the moment I’m just delighted and we’re pretty happy with winning. It hasn’t really sunk in just what we’ve done. It might hit us later on but it’s a very nice feeling,” said the thrilled Kilcullen woman.

But then that’s normal given what her team just went through. They started the season with one goal — qualifying for the World Cup — but are ending it with a new one as the allure of an unprecedented Grand Slam becomes a reality. However, Murphy and the rest of the record-breaking side will push that prospect to the back of their minds as they begin their preparations for the visit of the French to Ashbourne on March 8.

“Qualification for the World Cup was our main goal at the start of the tournament and to achieve that with just three games played is fantastic and it’s onwards from here,” she said.

“It’s just a one game thing and we focus on each team as they come. Hopefully it will come our way but that’s worked well for us so far so we’re going to continue to approach the rest of the competition that way.”

After the euphoria of that stunning defeat of England a fortnight ago, the Irish team were prepared for a battle against the Scots having received a morale boosting visit by men’s coach Declan Kidney to their hotel the night before the game.

It was far from plain sailing though. Scotland’s Lisa Ritchie opened the scoring with a penalty. Full back Niamh Briggs responded with a penalty of her own and then the dazzling Miller crossed for her first try on 27 minutes.

The Scots threatened to breach the Irish line as the half drew to a close but resilient defending kept the home team at bay and ensured Ireland went into the break with a five-point lead.

Murphy acknowledged the team was not at its best in the first half but there was no panic at half time and they believed they had the tactics ands kills to overcome the Scots.

“We made some errors and we were punished for them. We came in after the first half and knew what we had to do after the break so we just went out and did it,” she said.

“It was a pretty solid performance so we are happy enough with how we did. We knew going into the game what we wanted to do and we stuck with how we wanted to play, occasionally things didn’t go our way and Scotland were very tough and determined but we were resilient and kept chipping away, stuck to our game plan and it worked.”

The match was still in the balance early in the second half as Scotland kept up the pressure but when their out half Tanya Griffith was sin-binned for deliberately knocking on, Ireland sensed victory.

Briggs was the catalyst and her penalty ignited the scoring fire before Miller added her second try, and fifth in two matches, after a stunning run from the wonderful Briggs who added the conversion.

Flanker Siobhan Fleming’s try ended the Scots resistance and Briggs put the game beyond all doubt with the fourth try.

Scorers for Ireland: N Briggs (1 try, 2 pens, 2 cons) A Miller (2 tries) S Fleming (1 try).

Scorers for Scotland: L Ritchie (1 pen).

IRELAND: N Briggs, A Baxter, L Cantwell, J Murphy, A Miller, N Stapleton, L Muldoon; F Coghlan (c), G Bourke, A Egan, S Spence, ML Reilly, S Fleming, C Molloy, J Neville.

Replacements: A Davis for Baxter; N Kavanagh for Muldoon; L Day for Egan; F Hayes for Coghlan; L Dargan for Spence.

SCOTLAND: S Johnston, A Sergeant, S Dixon, L Ritchie, M Gaffney, T Griffith, L Dalgliesh; H Lockhart, S Quick, T Balmer, L Wheeler, B Parker, J Konkel, T Forsberg, S Brown (c).

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