Ireland’s Women’s team were made to pay for a poor first half performance as Wales, inspired by out-half Naomi Thomas, swept to a 10-5 victory in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff on Saturday.
WOMEN’S SIX NATIONS: Saturday, February 3
WALES 10 IRELAND 5, Taffs Well RFC, Cardiff
Scorers: Wales: Try: Naomi Thomas; Con: Thomas; Pen: Thomas
Ireland: Try: Grace Davitt
Cobh man John O’Sullivan’s first game in charge of Ireland ended in defeat at Taffs Well RFC, despite the hosts having Louise Rickard sent off late in the second half.
The left winger earned her second yellow card, having only just come back from the sin-bin, for slowing up ruck ball.
Eighth-place finishers at last year’s World Cup, Ireland had their defence badly exposed in the seventh-minute when Thomas, linking with centre Clare Flowers, sped through a gap for a try.
Clifton star Thomas added the extras and a penalty to leave the visitors trailing by 10-0 at the break.
The Welsh, who failed to qualify for the World Cup, fully deserved their advantage having continued the good form that saw them beat Italy (30-7) and Holland (24-0) in November.
In the words of their manager Mark Andrews, the Irish put in “a far better performance” in the second half, and ten minutes from time, Blackrock and Leinster’s Grace Davitt, playing on the left flank, dotted down after a flowing backline move.
Next Saturday sees the Irish in action on home soil – St. Mary’s College RFC in Dublin (kick-off 2.30pm), to be precise – as they face the might of France, a team that beat them 43-0 at the World Cup in September.
Meanwhile, in the weekend’s other games, England began their Six Nations title defence with a thumping 60-0 victory over Scotland at St. Albanians RFC. Saracens full-back Charlotte Barras scored a hat-trick of tries. Italy and France clash on Sunday in Biella.
Wales Women: Elen Evans (Dolgellau); Rhian Williams (Wasps), Rachel Poolman (UWIC), Clare Flowers (Clifton), Louise Rickard (Saracens); Naomi Thomas (Clifton), Mellissa Berry (Worcester) (capt); Louise Horgan (Saracens), Rhian Bowden (UWIC), Jenny Davies (Waterloo), Liza Burgess (Clifton), Claire Donovan (Saracens), Catrina Nicholas (Cardiff Quins), Jamie Kift (Clifton), Kylie Wilson (Clifton).
Replacements used: Amy Broadstock (Llandaff North) for Davies (32 mins), Stacey Saunders (Tylorstown) for Burgess (49), Davies for Horgan (65). Not used: Hannah Roberts (UWIC), Nicola Evans (Wasps), Gemma Hallett (Pontyclun), Becky Davies (Cardiff Quins), Hayley Baxter (Cardiff Quins).
Ireland Women: Sarahjane Belton (UL Bohemians) (capt); Jeannette Feighery (UL Bohemians), Lynne Cantwell (Richmond), Shannon Houston (Blackrock), Grave Davitt (Blackrock); Joanne O’Sullivan (Richmond), Tania Rosser (Blackrock); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians), Jess Limbert (Cooke), Marie Barrett (Highfield), Caroline Mahon (UL Bohemians), Germaine Healy (Rathdrum), Eimear O’Sullivan (Clonakilty), Rachel Boyd (Cooke), Orla Brennan (Blackrock).
Replacements used: Mairead Kelly (UL Bohemians) for Feighery (half-time), Laura Guest (Clonakilty) for Barrett, Sinead Ryan (Navan) for Boyd (both 70). Not used: Yvonne Nolan (Blackrock), Debbie Clarke (Blackrock), Louise Beamish (UL Bohemians), Amanda Greensmith (Shannon).
Referee: Greg Garner (England)