Heartbreak as eager Ireland falter late on

A converted 74th-minute Izzy Noel-Smith proved the crucial score as world champions England snatched victory from their Irish hosts in this entertaining November Series International at UCD Bowl yesterday.

Ten points from Nora Stapleton had Ireland in the driving seat but all that good work was undone when Katy Mclean slotted the extras after Noel-Smith’s impressive finish.

Irish out-half Stapleton expressed disappointment at the result but insisted the side had learned valuable lessons in defeat.

“To let them in there [for the late try] when we had so much dominance, it’s hugely frustrating. But we are happy with our performance.

"We’ll take an awful lot from it. We learned a few lessons about some of our decision making and stuff like that. But we are happy with our performance. It’s against the world champions, but we are just really annoyed that we didn’t come away with the win.”

In front of a packed crowd for the first of three tests at the Belfield venue, Ireland enjoyed a bright start - with Stapleton kicking effectively in the absence of skipper Niamh Briggs.

The Irish had their illustrious visitors on the backfoot for long spells but slowly but surely England began to gain an attacking foothold. Ireland breathed a sigh of relief when a touchdown by flanker Marlie Packer was ruled out for a forward pass from Rachel Burford, but an incisive maul was finished by prop Rocky Clarke in the 34th-minute.

However, a Stapleton penalty at the end of the half, left Ireland just two points adrift (5-3) at the interval.

Boosted by this late three-pointer, Ireland proceeded to turn the game on its head upon the restart. After twice opting for a scrum instead of a kick at the posts, the home team were ultimately rewarded on 51 minutes - when Stapleton drove over the whitewash after discovering a gap from five metres out.

Her successful bonus kick helped Ireland to establish a five-point cushion, but England eventually claimed their second try through Noel-Smith from another impressive attacking maul. Experienced replacement Mclean superbly found her range from a tricky touchline conversion attempt, and although Ireland pressed for a winning score, the visitors held out.

Scorers for Ireland:

N Stapleton try, pen, con.

Scorers for England:

R Clarke try, I Noel-Smith try each, K Mclean con.

IRELAND:

M Coyne; N Kavanagh, N Fowley, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; L Peat, C Moloney, A Egan; ML Reilly, O Fitzsimons; C Griffin, C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick.

Replacements:

L Lyons for Moloney (35), C Pearse for Molloy (45), M Healy for Muldoon (53), F Hayes for Peat (64), K Norris for Fitzsimons (75).

ENGLAND:

D Waterman; K Wilson, C Allan, R Burford, F Pocock; E Scott, LT Mason; R Clarke, V Fleetwood, L Keates; T Taylor, H Miller-Mills; I Noel-Smith, M Packer, S Hunter.

Replacements:

A Cokayne for Packer (44), K Mclean for Allan, M Hunt for Mason (both 53), V Cornborough for Clarke, J Lucas for Keates (both 57), C Large for Burford, P Cleall for Miller-Mills (both 70).

Referee:

A Perrett (Australia).


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