Tries from Lindsay Peat and Paula Fitzpatrick in either half saw Ireland home in a 14 -3 victory, the Irish though started very slowly, barely edging out of their half in the first 20 minutes.
“I don’t think we got out of our 22 in the first 15 minutes or so,” admitted coach Tom Tierney. ”Keeping it to 3-0 was very important, we knew it would be a hard opening from the Italians.”
Elaine Anthony produced a debut tackle within three minutes of the kick-off to deny Elisa Pillotti fromthree metres out while the returning Alison Miller stopped a certain try on 10 minutes, tackling Maria Magatti.
Italy took the lead on 13 minutes with a penalty, having hammered the Irish line. Ireland were penalised for not releasing having struggled to clear their 10 metres line. Ireland started to settle after 20 minutes, everything clicking together on the half hour, Ciara Cooney’s blockdown of Beatrice Rigoni clearance inside Italy’s 10 metre line leading to the opening try.
Cooney was held up five metres short of the line, Ireland recycling well to Alison Miller who sent Sene Naoupu free. However, Naoupu was stopped in her tracks by Furlan’s tackle. Prop Lindsay Peat collected the loose ball and wiggled her way over.
Captain Briggs added the conversion, leaving Ireland to lead by four points at half time 7-3.
Ireland started the second half strongly, Briggs unlucky with a knock on having seemed to intercept a pass on half way with open field ahead.
Coach Tierney started to empty the bench on the hour mark, both Sophie Spence and captain Briggs withdrawn. The replacements strung together Ireland’s best move of the half.
Replacements Paula Fitzpatrick and Nora Stapleton combined with Naoupu who made it over the line, but didn’t ground the ball. Ireland restarted from the touchline and touched down via Paula Fitzpatrick.
Nora Stapleton added the conversion to make it 14-3 in what proved to be the final score of the game. Ireland looked for a third try in the final moments, Larissa Muldoon’s quick tap and go penalty didn’t catch out the Italians who held on in front of the posts.
Ireland were deserved winners after the slow start, the important challenge of debutant Elaine Anthony telling in the opening minutes of the game.
“It just goes to show how pumped we were” admitted Anthony. “Italy played a brilliant game, we knew they would come at us in the first half” explained Anthony.
“In saying that my first game in the Six Nations and I’m just crazy to have played, I just really enjoyed it.”
Flood (Leinster), Burke (Munster), Briggs (Munster), Naoupu (Connacht), Miller (Connacht), Caughey (Ulster), Healy (Connacht), Peat (Leinster), Moloney (Leinster), Egan (Leinster), Anthony (Munster), Reilly (Leinster), Cooney (Leinster), Griffin (Munster), Spence (Leinster)
Muldoon (Skewen) for Caughey (50); Stapleton (Leinster) for Healy (50); O’Reilly (Connacht) for Peat 55, Fitzpatrick (Toulouse) Spence (60); McLaughlin (Ulster) for Briggs (60); Grattage (Munster) for Moloney (66).
Reidy (Munster) for Miller (68)
Furlan, Magatti, Grazia Cioffi, Sillari, Stefan, Rigoni, Barattin, Cucchiella, Cammarano, Bettoni Pillotti, Trevisan, Este, Locatelli, Giordano
Gali for Bettoni 34, Ruzza for Pillotti 63, Arrighetti for Este 68, Zangirolami for Grazia Cioffi 68, Giacomoli for Cucchiella 74 Nicoletti for Giacomoli 80
Bettoni for Cammarano 67
A Perrett (Australia)