Florence’s Stadio Mario Lodigiani was not just the first stop for Ireland’s women in their Six Nations campaign but also the first step of their journey stewarded by recently appointed head coach Tom Tierney.
Despite full-back Briggs having problems off the kicking tee due to a stiff breeze in the second half, she led with great tactical nous.
After a lively opening quarter and a period of persistent pressure from Ireland, Briggs opened the scoring, with a try coming off the back off the scrum. She duly converted.
The rest of the first half was played at a frantic pace as the Italians applied great pressure with full-back Manuela Furlan creating chances with some rapier like runs. However, the Irish showed their grit and determination.
English referee Sarah Cox awarded a string of penalties to Ireland due to the persistent infringements around the ruck from Italy. The stiff breeze prevented Briggs from taking Ireland’s score to double digits before the close of the first half.
After the interval, the Italian resistance gave in after four minutes as blindside flanker Paula Fitzpatrick powered over the line. Briggs failed to add the extras.
The captain atoned for this miss then minutes later with a superb long-range penalty.
At 58 minutes the Italian defence wilted as inside centre Jenny Murphy scored from her own grubber kick. Briggs’ conversion drifted wide.
It looked as if Briggs had scored a brace at 63 minutes, only for the try to be disallowed. However, two minutes later No.8 Heather O’Brien crossed the line. Briggs’ conversion took the score to 25-0.
Fitzpatrick sealed her brace with five minutes to play. The final play of the match saw a consolation try from Azzuri back Maria Magatti but Ireland can look to a first home game against France in Ashbourne next week.
Scorers for Ireland: N Briggs try, 1 pen, 1 con; P Fitzpatrick 2 trys; J Murphy try, H O’Brien try
Scores for Italy: M Magatti try
IRELAND: N Briggs; H Tyrrell, J Murphy, J Shiels, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; R O’Reilly, G Bourke, A Egan; S Spence, ML Reilly; P Fitzpatrick, C Molloy, H O’Brien.
Replacements: F Hayes for R O’Reilly, K Fitzhenry for J Shiels, O Fitzsimons for ML Reilly (all 69 mins) , S Naoupu for A Miller (75 mins) , T Rosser for L Muldoon (78 mins) ITALY: M Furlan, M Veronese, S Stefan, M Cioffi, M Sillari, V Schiavon, S Barattin, E Cucchiella, L Cammarano, M Bettoni, F Severin, A Trevisan, I Arrighetti, E Giordano, S Gaudino (capt).
Replacements: V Ruzza for I Arrighetti (49 mins), P Zangirolmami for M Cioffi, B Rigoni for M Veronese (both 53 mins), M Magatti for S Stefan (68 mins)
Referee: Sarah Cox (RFU)