Ireland 50 Scotland 0
Three tries from the excellent Sophie Spence were the highlight in Ashbourne last night, as Ireland got the defence of their RBS Women’s Six Nations title off to a perfect start with a stunning 59-point victory against an overwhelmed Scottish outfit.
In their first piece of competitive action since their gutsy 6-3 triumph over Italy last March (which helped seal their ground-breaking Grand Slam success), Philip Doyle’s outfit started with ferocious intent, and after a lengthy spell of pressure inside the Scotland ‘22’, it was no surprise to see them breaking the deadlock with little over three minutes gone in the contest.
Old Belvedere lock Spence touched down in the left-corner on this occasion, and just six minutes later, left-wing Alison Miller joined her on the scoresheet when a fine lay-off by centre Lynne Cantwell created space for the Portlaoise star to cross over towards the right-hand side.
Having missed her earlier bonus kick, out-half Nora Stapleton was on target with the conversion that followed this score, and a rampant Ireland continued to exploit frailties in the Scottish defence with a third try from No 8 Heather O’Brien after 20 minutes.
The impressive Highfield performer drove over powerfully for this score, but Miller’s second five-pointer of the game three minutes later was undoubtedly the stand-out moment of the evening. She initially gathered possession on the half-way line, before racing through unopposed on the left flank.
Scotland (who suffered a 30-3 reversal to the Green Army last year) simply couldn’t cope with the relentless intensity of the hosts, and their line was subsequently breached for a sixth time 30 minutes in, when Cantwell broke through the defensive cover to dot over to the left of the posts.
Spence’s second try of the game six minutes before the interval ensured that Ireland brought an insurmountable 32-0 cushion into the second period, and the dynamic second-row completed her hat-trick when she crossed the whitewash in the opening moments after the restart.
Leinster’s Jenny Murphy had taken over kicking duties from Stapleton by this point, and although she missed her first effort, Ireland remained unaffected, as prop Ailish Egan found a way through 12 minutes into the half to increase her side’s advantage to an astonishing 42 points.
Her front-row partner Stacey Lee-Kennedy (the sole Ulster player in the starting line-up) also got in on the scoring act towards the end of the third-quarter, which was converted in emphatic style from the right-hand touchline by Murphy.
To their credit, Scotland did battle admirably as they attempted to secure some form of consolation inside the final quarter, but the determined Green Army registered their 10th try on 64 minutes thanks to a second from Cantwell, and with flanker Claire Molloy also grounding in stoppage time, Ireland brought the curtain down on a most memorable outing.
Scorers for Ireland: S Spence 3 tries, A Miller, L Cantwell 2 tries, H O’Brien, A Egan, S-Lea Kennedy, C Molloy try each, N Stapleton, J Murphy con each.
IRELAND: J Shiels; H Casey, L Cantwell, J Murphy, A Miller; N Stapleton, A Davis; F Coghlan, S-Lea Kennedy, A Egan; S Spence, M-Louise Reilly; S Fleming, C Molloy, H O’Brien.
Replacements: F Hayes for Egan (52), G Bourke for Kennedy, P Fitzpatrick for Fleming (both 59), L Muldoon for Davis (62), N Briggs for Shiels (64), G Davitt for Murphy, K-Ann Craddock for Coghlan (both 65).
SCOTLAND: S Johnston; K Green, A Sergeant, G Inglis, M Gaffney; L Martin, S Law; T Balmer, S Quick, L Smith; J Konkel, D McCormack; T Forsberg, R Slaven, L Wheeler.
Replacements: H Lockhart for Smith, N McLeod for Quick, L Dalgleish for Law (all half-time), L Steven for Green (48), T Griffiths for Green (48), E Wassel for Konkel (53), T Griffiths for Martin (62), L Robertson for Balmer (64), A Stodter for Slaven (66).
Referee: C Hodnett (England).
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