Ireland Women 36 Wales Women 0, Ashbourne RFC
The Ireland Women tore Wales apart with a stylish six-try blitz at Ashbourne RFC this afternoon, comfortably making it back-to-back wins in the Women’s RBS 6 Nations.
Tries from Joy Neville, Sophie Spence, Niamh Kavanagh, Alison Miller, Gillian Bourke and Ashleigh Baxter did the damage for the girls in green, who are now two points behind leaders England with two rounds remaining.
The third-placed Irish host Scotland in Ashbourne next Friday before making the trip to London for a St Patrick’s Day finale against the English.
This was a hugely encouraging performance from Philip Doyle’s side, with the defence watertight and their impressive finishing skills on full show again - they have scored 12 tries in their last two outings.
Wales had to make do without their captain Rachel Taylor who failed to have a citing charge overturned from last weekend’s defeat to England.
Lisa Newton took over from her in the visitors’ back row, while a late injury for Paula Fitzpatrick saw Ulster’s Stacey-Lea Kennedy added to the Irish bench.
In sunny but cold conditions, Ireland got off to a promising start with talented number 8 Neville touching down in the ninth minute on the end of a terrific maul.
Niamh Briggs failed to convert and in a lively start, Wales’ Laura Prosser also slid a penalty attempt wide of the target.
Playing with the wind, the Welsh enjoyed a period of dominance around the midpoint of the half and a yellow card for centre Grace Davitt left Ireland shorthanded.
It took a series of strong tackles for Ireland to keep their try-line intact, but their quality in attack soon shone through as Spence and the elusive Kavanagh helped themselves to tries.
Second row Spence, in only her third appearance at this level, caught the Welsh defence off guard to run in a rousing try which Briggs converted from in front of the posts.
Even better followed for the enthusiastic home crowd as flanker Claire Molloy made a superb break to tee up Kavanagh’s third try in two games.
The UL Bohemians clubwoman looks to be in the form of her life at the moment and although Briggs’ conversion attempt fell short, Ireland’s tails were most definitely up at 17-0.
Into the second half, the now wind-backed Irish made further inroads. A loose pass spoilt a Welsh attack and the razor sharp Miller gobbled up the ball to dart over for Ireland’s fourth try of the afternoon.
It was a deserved score for the Laois flyer, who has been a constant threat in this year’s Championship with ball in hand. She also dotted down in the abandoned game against Wales last month.
With 55 minutes on the clock, hooker Bourke crashed over with Wales unable to halt another well-orchestrated Irish maul. Briggs’ conversion attempt came back off the woodwork.
Larissa Muldoon and Jennifer Murphy enjoyed run-outs as replacements with the hosts maintaining their firm grasp on proceedings.
The Welsh simply had no answers to Ireland’s strength and speed in possession. Full-back Baxter, who had a try ruled out against Italy, got over for a well-merited score in the corner with Briggs adding the extras from out wide.
Replacement Heather O’Brien received a yellow card shortly after her introduction, but there was no consolation score for the well-beaten Welsh.
Ireland were left to celebrate their biggest ever victory over Wales at this level, eclipsing the previous record which had stood since March 1996 (22-6).
Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster); Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster), Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster), Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Highfield/Connacht); Lynne Cantwell (Exile), Amy Davis (Blackrock/Leinster); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Exile), Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Joy Neville (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Replacements: Stacey-Lea Kennedy (City of Derry/Ulster), Ruth O'Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee/Munster), Heather O'Brien (Highfield/Munster), Larissa Muldoon (Exile/UWIC/Ulster), Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Jennifer Murphy (Exile).
Rosie Fletcher; Charlie Murray, Adi Taviner, Rebecca De Filippo, Phillipa Tuttiett; Naomi Thomas, Laura Prosser; Caryl Thomas, Rhian Bowden (capt), Jenny Davies, Vicky Owens, Shona Powell-Hughes, Sioned Harries, Lisa Newton, Jamie Kift.
Replacements: Lowri Harries, Megan York, Clare Flowers, Nia Davies, Amy Day, Mared Evans, Caryl James.
Referee: Kevin White (Scotland)