Though the hosts were without Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller, and Hannah Tyrell who were called into the World Sevens series squad, they still had far too much guile for France, with Sophie Spence leading the powerful Irish pack to victory.
“We’re a women’s programme,” insisted coach Tom Tierney when quizzed on the forced omissions. “This win was absolutely outstanding. It’s about winning matches and driving the women’s programme forward. The win just proved with an extended squad everyone is up to speed.”
Ireland started with purpose and aggression in difficult conditions with the hosts using the wind, particularly down their right wing, to great effect. Nora Stapleton — taking over kicking duties form the injured Niamh Briggs — was unable to convert her first penalty attempt, striking the near post in the ninth minute but three minutes later she landed the opening score following a French infringement. Ireland were excellent in the opening 25 minutes, Spence, Stapleton and Leah Lyons imposing themselves as France struggled.
France’s decision to trade three kickable penalties for scrums said more about the conditions as the strong wind and heavy rain made placekicking a lottery. Ireland remained solid defensively and led 3-0 at the break.
The advantage didn’t last long after the restart. Two minutes in, Caroline Ladagnous found space on the left wing and touched down for a try, which Jessy Tremouliere converted.
Tierney’s side didn’t buckle and hit back within three minutes with a Leah Lyons try from a well-rehearsed Ireland move off a lineout.
Stapleton added her second score of the game with the conversion before landing a 63rd-minute penalty to extend Ireland’s lead to six points, (13-7).
Back came France with Tremouliere converting a penalty to make it a three-point game, three minutes later.
As the weather improved in Dublin, so too did the Irish performance, containing France in their own 22 with Spence leading the way.
Next up is a trip to Cardiff to face Wales in a fortnight and Tierney hopes, another step closer to a Grand Slam.
Try: L Lyons; Con: N Stapleton; Pens: N Stapleton 2
Try: C Ladagnous; Con: J Tremouliere; Pen: J Tremouliere.
Coyne (Connacht), Flood (Leinster), Murphy (Leinster), McLaughlin (Ulster), Considine (Munster), Stapleton (Leinster), Healy (Connacht (Muldoon (Railway Union) 52)), Peat (Leinster), Lyons (Munster), Egan (Leinster), Spence (Leinster), Reilly (Leinster), Griffin (Leinster) (Cooney (Leinster) 68)), Molloy (Connacht), Fitzpatrick (Leinster) Replacements Not Used: O’Connor (Connacht), Van Staden (Ulster), O’Reilly (Connacht), Fryday (Connacht), Caughey (Ulster), Galvin (Munster)
Tremouliere, Grassineau, Ladagnous, Poublan, Izar, Cabalou (M.Menager 52), Le Pesq, Arricastre (Deshaye 68), Mignot (Thomas 72), Duval (Carricaburu 68), Corson, Forlani (Ferer 68), Mayans, R.Menager (Grand 72), N’Diaye
Sara Cox (England).