It was the first outing by the 2013 Grand Slam winners at the national stadium, as five tries from Claire Molloy, Lynne Cantwell, Alison Miller, Heather O’Brien and Jenny Murphy helped their standing towards the top of the table ahead of their clash with France on Friday night.
Brian O’Driscoll’s final game could have been adistraction, but for full-back Niamh Briggs, who finished with 12 points, the big send-off couldn’t be heard deep within the dressing rooms prior to kick-off.
“The occasion didn’t really get to us and I think playing in Twickenham helped in that. Their back three were amazing but, defensively, we did well and our pack were excellent fronting up. I think two of our tries were pushover tries,” said Briggs.
Nora Stapleton and prop Gillian Bourke did brilliantly to set up winger Claire Molloy for the opening try. Alison Miller had been outstanding on the left wing during the opening period, posing a constant threat for the Italian defence and she got the try her performance deserved after 45 minutes following a great pass from Nora Stapleton. Ireland’s fourth try came on the 63rd minute, when Heather O’Brien drove over for her third of the championship, before sub Jenny Murphy added the fifth on the 78th minute, Stapleton adding the conversion with Briggs now on the bench.
“The crowd was absolutely fantastic. We were blown away by the support out there and running out on to the pitch, and the atmosphere, is something I’ll never forget. We knew it was going to be a special occasion for Brian, but we’d spoken about it and we knew we just had to focus on ourselves despite everything that was going on.”
Scorers for Ireland: Tries: Molloy (31), Cantwell (38), Miller (48), O’Brien (64), Murphy (78); Conversions: Briggs 3 (33, 39, 64), Stapleton (79); Penalties: Briggs 2 (4, 27).
IRELAND: N Briggs (Munster); A Baxter (Ulster), L Cantwell (Exile), G Davitt (Ulster), A Miller (Connacht); N Stapleton (Leinster), A Davis (Ulster); F Coghlan (Leinster) (C), SL Kennedy (Ulster), G Bourke (Munster); S Spence (Leinster), ML Reilly (Leinster); S Fleming (Munster), C Molloy (Connacht), H O’Brien (Munster).
Replacements: A Egan (Leinster) for Bourke (50), P Fitzpatrick (Leinster) for Fleming, L Muldoon (Exile) for Davis (both 60), J Murphy (Leinster) for Cantwell (63), H Casey (Exiles) for Miller, J Shiels (Exile) for Briggs (both 69), F Hayes (Munster) for Kennedy, KA Craddock (Exile) for Coghlan (both 76).
ITALY: M Furlan; M Diletta Veronese, M Sillari, B Rigoni, MG Cioffi; V Schiavon, S Barattin; M Ferrari, M Bettoni, A Coulibaly, C Molic, AT Este, I Arrighetti, S Gaudino (c).
Replacement: S Stefan for Veronese (61), L Cammarano for Ferrari (64), D Ballarini for Coulibaly, E Giordano for Arrighetti (both 69), M Magatti for Sillari (70), I Campanini for Bettoni, A Pantarotto for Trevisan, M Bruno for Rigoni (all 77).
Referee: Leah Berard (USA).