Ireland 11England 8
NIAMH BRIGGS’ LATE penalty proved to be the difference between the sides at Ashbourne RFC on Friday evening, as Ireland got their RBS Women’s Six Nations campaign back on track with their second-ever competitive victory against England.
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Ireland had made an encouraging opening to the action, but out-half Katy McLean was presented with an ideal opportunity to open the scoring for the visitors from an 11th minute penalty.
The Darlington star was off-target from her first kick at the posts, but after Irish skipper Briggs was deemed to have performed a high-tackle on Alexandra Matthews from the subsequent attack, she made no mistake from close-range.
McLean was also wide of the mark with an audacious strike from long-distance, and when Briggs stepped up to the kicking tee on 25 minutes, she confidently restored parity to the tie.
However, in a game where every score was going to be vital, English number 8 Harriet Millar-Mills crossed over for an unconverted try in stoppage-time to offer the world champions an 8-3 interval advantage.
Considering how well the team has performed in adversity in recent seasons, this certainly wasn’t an insurmountable deficit for Ireland to deal with. Indeed, after establishing a foothold in the opposition ‘22’ upon the resumption, they eventually broke the stern English resistance 50 minutes in.
The ever-impressive Miller and Briggs almost found a way through on either flank, and courtesy of powerful work by the pack, scrum-half Larissa Muldoon applied the finishing touches to a lengthy move on the right-hand side.
Briggs was unsuccessful from a tricky two-point attempt, though, and moving into the final half-hour, the tie remained delicately poised.
With so much at stake, the fact that try-scoring opportunities were at a premium came as little surprise.
England did enjoy a dominant period of possession during the final-quarter, but they received precious little leeway from a watertight Irish defence.
Ireland experienced the same difficulties when they ventured into enemy territory, but their relented pressure ultimately led to Briggs’ decisive injury-time three-pointer.
IRELAND: Niamh Briggs; Hannah Tyrrell, Jenny Murphy, Katie Fitzhenry, Alison Miller; Nora Stapleton, Larissa Muldoon (Tania Rosser, 71); Ruth O’Reilly (Fiona Hayes, 48), Gillian Bourke, Ailis Egan (Fiona O’Brien, 85); Sophie Spence, Marie Louise Reilly; Paula Fitzpatrick, Claire Molloy, Heather O’Brien.
ENGLAND: Lauren Cattell (Hannah Field, 79); Ruth Laybourn (Amber Reed, 76), Abigail Brown, Ceri Large, Sydney Gregson (Megan Goddard, 85); Katy McLean, Bianca Blackburn (Fiona Davidson, 79); Rochelle Clark, Victoria Fleetwood, Laura Keates; Tamara Taylor, Abbie Scott; Alexandra Matthews, Hannah Gallagher, Harriet Millar-Mills.
Referee: Leah Berard (USA).
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