Ireland's search for its first win in the Women's Six Nations Championship continues, after a close 13-9 loss to the Welsh at Thomond Park, (Saturday, Feb 2nd). Although Ireland dominated throughout the entertaining match, they could not break the well-organised Welsh defence.Ireland created more scoring chances during the match and on four occasions got to within a metre of the Welsh line. However, each time they were repelled when scores were within reach.
The Irish started strongly from the opening kick off, keeping Wales deep inside their own half. This pressure paid off when Wales were penalised for hands in the ruck. Rachel Reid opened the scoring for Ireland by kicking the penalty from 30 metres in the 7th minute.
Wales re-grouped quickly and secured possession from the re-start. A couple of phases later Ireland were penalised for not staying on their feet, and from 35m, out-half Awen Thomas got the Welsh back on level terms.
Ireland again dominated for the next 10 minutes, and got their first try scoring opportunity from a strong driving maul set up from a lineout 10m from the Welsh line. The scarlet defence held firm when Ireland got to within one metre of the line.
Then came the turning point of the match.After Wales had relieved the pressure, play moved to the Welsh 40m line when Ireland lost possession in a tackle. The Welsh broke the Irish defensive line on the right flank, exploiting a 4 on 2 overlap. Outside centre Louise Rickard committed the last Irish defender, found winger Claire Flowers unmarked, and she ran in a try under the posts from 35m out. Thomas added the conversion to take the Welsh out to a 10-3 lead with 24 minutes played.
Ireland piled on the pressure for the rest of the half, with inside centre Rachel Boyd, out-half Nicky Milne, and Number 8 Mary O'Loughlin all getting to within a metre of the Welsh try line. Ireland didn't come away empty handed however, as Reid slotted another penalty on the 35-minute mark from 15m after the Welsh backs were caught offside to leave the half time score 10-6 in favour of Wales.
Within minutes of the restart, Wales effectively sealed their win. Ireland secured the ball close to their 22, and fullback Sarah Jane Belton put in a releving clearance. She chased the kick, pressuring her Welsh opposite number, Naomi Thomas, but arrived fractionally late as Thomas got a counter kick in. A hash penalty was awarded as Thomas' kick went into touch on the full and Belton's contact had no impact on the play. Awen Thomas coolly slotted the penalty from 30m out and 15m in from touch, to take Wales out to a 13-6 lead.
Typical of the Irish performance on the night, the women in green refused to lie down, and marched straight back down deep into the Welsh half. After terrific Irish continuity play, the Welsh backs were again caught off side, directly in front of the posts, 20 metres out. Reid's 48th minute effort left her side trailing by just four points.
Both teams desperately looked for scoring opportunities for the rest of the match, but excellent defence kept play locked between the opposing 22m lines. Irish coach Donal O'Leary and his Welsh counterpart John Williams made tactical substitutions to try and make the vital breakthrough, but it was the Welsh who clung on for a narrow victory.
Ireland.SJ. Belton, S. Fleming (Capt.), P. Kelly, R. Boyd, F. Neary, N. Milne, K. Eagleson, M. Coulter, E. Collins, E. Coen, M. Quirke, AM. McAllister, R. Reid, F. Steed, M. O'Loughlin.
Wales. N. Thomas, S. Jones, L. Rickard, M. Berry (Capt.), C. Flowers, A. Thomas, R. Owens, D. Mason, J. Kift, K. Leneghan, S. Grainger, L. Burgess, K. Wilson, P. Minto, A. Dent.Replacements: J. Morgan (60 mins for Wilson), C. Edwards, A. Broadstock, C. Donovan, R. Wilmott, K. Maze, K. Jenkins (69 mins for Owens).
Referee. Chuck Muir (Scotland).