Two tries in the opening three minutes set the scene for a torrid afternoon for the Irish Womens side who ended up being beaten 79-0 by their English counterparts in Worcester last Sunday.
Two tries in the opening three minutes set the scene for a torrid afternoon for the Irish Womens side who ended up being beaten 79-0 by their English counterparts in Worcester last Sunday. Ireland’s women dug incredibly deep to ultimately keep England to less than a point a minute after staring into the abyss when trailing 50-0 at the interval of Sunday’s Women’s Six Nations match.
Captain Suzanne Fleming admitted afterwards that the Irish, who were hit with two tries in the opening three minutes, had initially been
“shell-shocked” by the sheer pace of the game, yet this was an afternoon when not one of the 22 visiting players could be faulted for their commitment. But, just like Mick Galwey’s men in Twickenham, Fleming’s side paid a high price for letting arguably the best team in the world build up frightening
momentum in a traumatic first half.
A shambolic lineout undermined Ireland badly in this one as well, though
the effect of that here was even more marked given the ability of England’s women to hurt the visitors out wide early and often. The differences were that this Irish team was expected to lose by at least 50 points and, unlike Eddie O’Sullivan’s side, they suffered drastic early damage on the scoreboard as England raced into a 17-0 lead by the ninth
But, just like at Twickenham, Ireland came into the game much more in the second half, in this case remarkably holding a rampant England scoreless for 25 minutes following the interval.
England skipper Paula George finally broke through with a quarter of an hour remaining, sparking a scoring spree of four tries in eight minutes, but Ireland had secured the respect of the substantial four-figure crowd.
As against Wales a fortnight earlier, the Irish pack were heroic, with the back row of Ulster captain Rachel Reid, the vastly experienced Fiona Steed and debutant Eryka Wessell, the Canadian-born Richmond No 8 getting through a mountain of work. The lineout was a total disaster area, with England repeatedly pilfering Elaine Collins’ throws or at least spoiling Irish possession, but the visiting scrum held up encouragingly well and some of the rucking was highly impressive.
It wasn’t much fun being an Ireland back on an afternoon when England were extremely adept at creating space and exploiting it with speed of thought and deed in perfect conditions for running rugby. Although the girls in green unflinchingly laid their bodies on the line, the tries still flowed, with England crossing 13 times in total. No 8 Claire Frost, who kicked seven conversions, took her team to a neat 50
points at the break by embellishing Chris Diver’s hat-trick try in first half stoppage time. Diver, women’s rugby’s answer to Jonah Lomu, powered home on five occasions herself and created two others, one of them for fullback George, who bagged a brace as did right wing Nicky Crawford, but never went through the diminutive Fleming.
An injury in the warm-up, which left Rachel Boyd struggling and forced her
off at half-time, compounded Ireland’s woes, but her centre partner Patrique Kelly again impressed, while young fullback Sarahjane Belton was rock solid under the high ball and, in difficult circumstances, underlined her credentials as a top quality international player.
ENGLAND: P George (Wasps, capt); N Crawford (Worcester), S Day (Wasps), A
De Biase (Saracens), C Diver (Richmond); S Appleby (Clifton), J Yapp (Worcester); S Whitehead (Richmond), A Garnett, M Edwards (both Saracens), J Sutton (Richmond), K Henderson (Clifton), J Phillips, C Frost, H Clayton (all Saracens). Replacements: A O’Flynn (Waterloo) for Garnet (31 mins); V
Huxford (Wasps) for Whitehead (46); S Rudge (Clifton) for De Biase (50); G Burns (Waterloo) for Sutton (60); E Feltham (Richmond) for George (66); G Stevens for Clayton (66); S Rae (Wasps) for Yapp (68).
IRELAND: SJ Belton (UL Bohs); S Fleming (Cooke, capt), P Kelly (UL Bohs), R Boyd (Cooke), F Neary (Waterloo); N Milne (Worcester), K Eagleson (Cooke);
M Coulter (Blackrock), E Collins (UL Bohs), E Coen (Highfield), M Quirke (UL Bohs), A-M McAllister (Blackrock), R Reid (Cooke), E Wessell (Richmond), F Steed (Shannon). Replacements: R Tucker (Shannon) for Kelly (temp, 16-20), for Boyd (40); L Cantwell (UL Bohs) for Neary (40); G
McAllister (Cooke) for Coen (48), R Foley (Shannon) for Quirke (57), B Montgomery (Ripon) for Reid (57), R Howell (UL Bohs) for Eagleson (64), J Lonergan (Shannon) for Collins (64).
Referee: Sabin Cortabarria (Spain).