Despite suffering a heavy defeat to Six Nations holders England at Castle Park, Doncaster, captain Ciara Griffin insists the Ireland women’s team are closing the gap to the Red Roses.
When the two sides met in Donnybrook at the beginning of last year’s Championship, Adam Griggs’ Irish outfit succumbed to a 51-7 reversal. While understandably frustrated to once again come up short, the Kerry native is positive about the road that lies ahead.
“It was a tough shift. It wasn’t the result we want, but I must say it was a big jump from last year for us. We’re looking to build up on our processes and build up on our D (defence). A much better performance than last year for us,” Griffin remarked afterwards.
“We’ve two more games coming up and we’re going to be hungry. We’ve things to work on, things to fix, but a lot of positives to pull from it. Well done to England, they deserved their win today.”
England hit the ground running in front of a 5,000-strong crowd at the South Yorkshire venue. Veteran skipper Sarah Hunter touched down at the back of a third-minute rolling maul with Emily Scarratt on hand to supply the extras.
Despite this early blow, a determined Ireland went on to enjoy a sustained period of possession. Yet having held firm under pressure, England pounced for their second try on 14 minutes. Following an initial break from the increasingly-influential Scarratt, winger Abby Dow crossed over for an unconverted try.
While Ireland continued to threaten with ball in hand, they were lacking the clinical edge in attack that was serving their opponents so well. This was further exemplified just shy of the half-hour when Scarratt released Jess Breach for an excellent finish in the left corner.
This placed England within sight of a bonus point try and it duly arrived through flanker Vicky Fleetwood on the stroke of the break. To their credit, Ireland dug deep on the resumption with Ciara Cooney providing fresh impetus to the pack off the bench.
Yet England remained the dominant force in the game and increased the gap between the teams on the hour mark. Full-back Sarah McKenna applied the finishing touches off a quick line-out move for England’s fifth try of the proceedings.
There was a lengthy stoppage in the closing moments following an injury to Ireland’s Sene Naoupu. The dynamic outside centre left the field of play in a neck brace and head coach Griggs will be hoping she can make a full recovery in time for a home encounter against Italy on March 8.
Meanwhile, the Women’s Six Nations match between Italy and Scotland scheduled to be played today was postponed due to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.
Two people have died in the Veneto and Lombardy regions, with the match, along with three Serie A soccer games, called off as part of a number of measures to control the spread of the virus.
In a statement, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: “Minister (Vincenzo) Spadafora has already announced his determination to suspend all the sports activities planned in Veneto and Lombardy.”
A statement from Six Nations Rugby said they're "looking at options to reschedule this fixture at a later date".
Scorers for England: S Hunter, A Dow, J Breach, V Fleetwood, S McKenna try each, E Scarratt con.
ENGLAND: S McKenna; A Dow, E Scarratt, A Reed, J Breach; K Daly-McLean, L Riley; V Cornborough, L Davies, S Bern; P Cleall, Z Aldcroft; S Beckett, V Fleetwood, S Hunter.
Replacements: A Cokayne for Davies, S Brown for Bern, N Hunt for Riley (all 55), H Millar-Mills for Beckett (63), D Harper for Cornborough, A Harper for Fleetwood, Z Harrison for Daly-McLean, E Scott for McKenna (all 65).
IRELAND: E Considine; L Delany, S Naoupu, K Fitzhenry, A Doyle; C Keohane, K Dane; L Peat, C Moloney, L Djougang; A McDermott, J Bobbett; C Griffin, E McMahon, A Caplice.
Replacements: L Feely for Peat (12), C Cooney for McDermott (48), L Lyons for Djougang, L Muldoon for Keohane (both 61), N Cronin for Dane, H Tyrrell for Doyle (both 63), D Wall for Moloney (65), Doyle for Naoupu (75).
Referee: H Davidson (SRU).