The women’s side came into the game as Six Nations and Triple Crown champions but needed every ounce of the experience gained along the way to overcome Italy.
Ireland first played an international game in 1993 and it hasn’t been an easy road to this title. But with the return of manager Philip Doyle for his second term in charge, the side has been making vast improvements.
Since the women’s Six Nations competition began in 2002, Ireland’s best finish had been third, in Doyle’s first season back as manager in 2010. And he paid tribute to what this Irish team has achieved in terms of women’s rugby in Ireland.
“It’s a fantastic day for women’s rugby in Ireland. These girls had to dig to the deepest ever and it just goes to show the character these girls have. ”.
Having gone behind to an early penalty, Niamh Briggs soon brought Ireland back on level terms with a fine kick into a strong breeze. Ireland controlled the first-half but were unable to make their dominance count as the sides went into the break 3-3.
Italy came out a much stronger force in the second half but Ireland were more than capable of handling everything the Italians threw at them. Briggs added her second penalty shortly after Italy’s Lucia Gai was sent to the sin bin and it proved to be the game’s winning score. However Ireland needed a disciplined defensive display throughout the latter stages.
Captain Fiona Coughlan believed courage under pressure was a sign of how mentally strong her side were to overcome a physically tough Italian side.
“It’s unbelievable, the effort put in out there today. It wasn’t pretty but we stuck at what we are about and chased the conditions which were horrific. It’s absolutely brilliant. Amazing.”
Joy Neville acknowledged the support the Irish team got. “I can’t express enough our thanks to everyone at home, to everyone who sent good wishes and those who come to support us here today. It’s just amazing”
IRELAND: N Briggs; N Kavanagh, L Cantwell, G Davitt, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; F Coghlan (capt), G Bourke (Day 66), A Egan (Kennedy 66); S Spence, ML Reilly; S Fleming (Guest 58), C Molloy, J Neville.
ITALY: M Furlan; M Diletta Veronese, M Sillari, P Zangirolami, M Grazia Cioffi; V Schiavon, S Barattin; M Ferrari, M Bettoni (Zanon 68), L Gai; C Molic, A Trevisan (Zublena 67); M Este (Arrighetti 67), S Gaudino (capt), F Severin.
Referee: C Daniels (England).