No luck for Women in dour day for Irish rugby

England Women 17 Ireland Women 10

No luck for Women in dour day for Irish rugby

England Women 17 Ireland Women 10

It was another performance full of courage and commitment, but the back-to-back Grand Slam dreams of the Ireland Women's team ultimately came to an end at Twickenham this evening.

Tries from Sarah Hunter, Kay Wilson and Marlie Packer helped perennial Six Nations champions England to a seven-point victory at the end of an enthralling encounter.

Larrisa Muldoon's 31st-minute try had helped Ireland take a 10-7 lead.

But Wilson's try at the end of the first half enabled England to rein in the challenge of Philip Doyle's side before Packer's second half contribution put the seal on a hard-fought triumph.

Last year's meeting in Ashbourne saw the girls in green announce their presence as a major nation in women's rugby, upsetting the odds as a hat-trick of tries by Alison Miller propelled to a first ever win over England (25-0).

That result, and the subsequent Grand Slam success, has helped to put women's rugby on the map in Ireland, and following recent wins over Scotland and Wales, Ireland were primed for another shot at the Triple Crown.

Motivation was always going to be a major factor for Gary Street's England charges though, and it came as little surprise when they broke the deadlock just seven minutes in.

Scrum half Natasha Hunt orchestrated an enterprising scrum in the Irish 22 and her Lichfield club-mate Hunter was on hand to touch down as they made it past the try-line.

The conversion was comfortable slotted by skipper Katy Mclean. However, despite coming off second best in terms of possession, Ireland managed to prevent quick-fire tries from the eight-time champions with some strong defence.

When returning Saracens flanker Maggie Alphonsi obstructed Irish scrum half Muldoon on 25 minutes, UL Bohemians star Niamh Briggs journeyed up from full-back to knock a 35-metre penalty between the posts.

This opening score was a morale-boosting effort for the Fiona Coghlan-captained team and as the first half wore on, they started to cause numerous problems for the English defensive line.

One promising passage eventually led to their only try of the game just past the half hour mark. An excellent maul - a consistent feature of Ireland's pack play - provided the platform for Muldoon to snipe off the back and dot down to the left of the posts.

Briggs make no mistake with the conversion and having the weathered the early storm, Ireland were suddenly 10-7 to the good with the interval approaching.

Crucially, England hit back with a try on the stroke of half-time. Wilson dived over out wide on the left following fine approach work by McLean, Rachel Burford and Emily Scarratt.

There was a question mark over Scarratt's final pass to Wilson, but referee Sherry Trumbull eventually awarded the try for a 12-10 scoreline.

Fired-up England continued to threaten on the resumption, although Ireland remained focused thanks to their relentless work-rate and tackling with Claire Molloy, Marie Louise Reilly and Heather O'Brien leading the way.

Mclean had an ideal opportunity to increase her side's lead ten minutes into the half, but she was well wide of the mark from a straightforward-looking penalty.

The injury-enforced loss of Briggs and influential centre Jenny Murphy shortly after this miss significantly dented Ireland's hopes.

And when replacement flanker Packer drove powerfully over the whitewash at the end of a lengthy maul on the hour mark, Ireland were really up against it.

The sin-binning of England's Joanne McGilchrist after 62 minutes, and yet another wayward Mclean penalty attempt, did give Ireland something of a lifeline.

Against that, Ireland's most-capped player, centre Lynne Cantwell, also received a yellow card eight minutes from the end and the pressure was lifted on England.

The girls in green, who fell foul of referee Sherry Trumbull's whistle at times, did their level best to try and salvage something from the game.

Some probing breaks by Nora Stapleton and Alison Miller tested the English defence, but the hosts were worthy winners on the night and Ireland's frustrating night ended with number 8 Heather O'Brien in the sin-bin.

Ireland's first Championship defeat since 2011 will come as a disappointment to Doyle and his squad, but with games against Italy and France still on the horizon, they are still well in contention to retain their Six Nations crown.


England: Tries: Sarah Hunter, Kay Wilson, Marlie Packer; Con: Katy Mclean

Ireland: Try: Larissa Muldoon; Con: Niamh Briggs; Pen: Niamh Briggs

ENGLAND WOMEN: Emily Scarratt (Lichfield); Katherine Merchant (Worcester), Amber Reed (Bristol), Rachel Burford (Thurrock), Kay Wilson (Bristol); Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) (capt), Natasha Hunt (Lichfield); Rochelle Clark (Worcester), Emma Croker (Richmond), Sophie Hemming (Bristol), Rebecca Essex (Richmond), Joanne McGilchrist (Wasps), Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), Maggie Alphonsi (Saracens), Sarah Hunter (Lichfield).

Replacements used: Marlie Packer (Wasps) for Gallagher (47 mins), Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield) for Croker, Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) for Essex (both 52), La Toya Mason (Wasps) for Hunt (57), Laura Keates (Worcester) for Hemming, Sasha Acheson (Bristol) for Clark, Lydia Thompson (Worcester) for Wilson (all 60), Ceri Large (Worcester) for Burford (73).

IRELAND WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster); Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exile), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/UCC/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Bristol/Exile); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Heather O'Brien (Highfield/Munster).

Replacements used: Jackie Shiels (Richmond/Exile) for Briggs (51 mins), Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster) for Murphy (52), Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster) for Spence (57), Hannah Casey (Saracens/Exile) for Baxter (59), Stacey-Lea Kennedy (Cooke/Ulster) for Bourke (60), Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Egan (74), Kerrie-Ann Craddock (Saracens/Exile) for Coghlan, Amy Davis (Blackrock/Ulster) for Muldoon (both 75).

Referee: Sherry Trumbull (Canada)

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