Scotland 3 Ireland 73
As encores go, this was U2 and Elvis all rolled into one with a hint of Sinead O’Connor, too, as Ireland’s women blitzed Scotland at Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld to claim the Six Nations title less than 24 hours after their male counterparts did the same thing at Murrayfield.
But whereas two other teams were in the hunt on Saturday, yesterday afternoon was all about Ireland who reached their victory target of 27 points shortly before half-time and kept their foot flat on the accelerator, adding six tries in the second period to the five they racked up in the first.
The Triple Crown was also secured with a hat-trick of tries from flying winger Alison Miller and two from flanker Claire Molloy, while skipper Niamh Briggs defied a knee injury to celebrate her 50th cap in style.
The Munster full-back swapped passes with right wing Hannah Tyrrell to score the opening try after just four minutes, and she added eight successful kicks to bring her tally to 23 points.
“I’m absolutely thrilled and delighted!” she beamed after receiving the Six Nations trophy after an impromptu performance of ‘Riverdance’.
“What a fantastic day for us, and what a weekend for Irish rugby. It probably won’t sink in fully for a couple of weeks, but the whole squad has been amazing.
“We didn’t really think about the points difference because we knew we needed to make sure that we won the game. Even when we went 27 points up, we were very clinical and our target was to take it to another level.
“We need to look to keep developing all the time, but let’s enjoy tonight first. I needed treatment from the physio for my knee, but today was really important to us.
Leinster centre Jenny Murphy capped a barnstoming individual display with Ireland’s 11th and final try in stoppage time, and she smiled: “It was a nice way to end the championship. I did glance at the scoreboard a few times, but we always had faith in each other that we would do it. We hit our points target quite early, but we wanted to stay ruthless and keep going.
“We have to celebrate properly now. I’ve got Sevens training during the week for a tournament in Vancouver, but I’ll have some gin and one or two Guinnesses first!”
The skipper’s early try plus a simple penalty set an unchanged Ireland side on its way, although Scottish prop Lisa Robertson was managing to breach the gainline for the hosts and from one of her surges the visitors were penalised and wing Nuala Deans kicked the three points to ensure there would be no repeat of last year’s 59-0 Scottish defeat.
The home side then knocked-on the restart, allowing Ireland to set up a lineout and drive which pushed Molloy over for her first try.
Winger Aoife Doyle replaced the injured Tyrrell, and within minutes she was tackled in the Scotland 22 before Sophie Spence and Paula Fitzpatrick punched holes in the dark blue defensive wall, which finally cracked again when number eight Heather O’Brien scored from a scrum five.
Molloy’s second try was a virtual carbon copy of her first, and when Briggs converted that and then added a penalty, Ireland had the necessary 27-point margin with four minutes of the first half left to play.
There was still time for Miller to bag her first touchdown following a mazy run from halfway which tied hapless full-back Chloe Rollie in knots. Miller struck again with more searing pace early in the second half, and when Fitzpatrick blasted over from another forward drive, Ireland were in total control at 49-3.
To Scotland’s credit, they conceded only one more try in the next 26 minutes, and it was a pleasure to see Spence finally being rewarded for all her outstanding work. Time and again, the Leinster lock was used as a highly-effective battering ram to gain vital yards for the visitors, so there was no way she would be stopped in the 62nd minute.
With the game and the title already won, most teams might have savoured the occasion and shut up shop, but coach Tom Tierney’s side was still hungry for more and produced three further tries in the last five minutes through replacement Tania Rosser, Miller again and finally Murphy.
What a result for Tierney after succeeding Philip Doyle last December and, as captain Briggs said, what a weekend for Irish rugby
SCOTLAND: Rollie (Bain 71), Deans, Inglis, Smith (Maxwell 44), Sinclair, Martin, Law (Grieve 55); Robertson (Lockhart 50), Skeldon (Smith 55), Balmer, McCormack (Sim 66), Wassell, Cook (O’Donnell 40), Dunbar, Konkel.
IRELAND: Briggs, Tyrrell (Doyle 20), Murphy, Shiels (Rosser 56), Miller, Stapleton, Muldoon (Naoupu 56); O’Reilly (Hayes 52), Bourke (Mimhagh 75), Egan (F.O’Brien 75), Spence (Fitzsimons 66), Reilly, Fitzpatrick (Norris 72), Molloy, H.O’Brien.
Referee: Jess Beard (New Zealand).
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