Ireland’s Women’s side rounded off the Six Nations championship with a 17-12 defeat of Italy in Rome on Saturday, securing back-to-back victories in the tournament for the first time.
WOMEN’S SIX NATIONS: Saturday, March 17
ITALY 12 IRELAND 17, Stadio Tre Fontane, Rome
Scorers: Italy: Pens: Veronica Schiavon 4
Ireland: Tries: Jo O’Sullivan, Jeannette Feighery, Mairead Kelly; Con: O’Sullivan
The win, coupled with Scotland’s 18-10 loss to France on Sunday, saw Ireland secure a highly credible fourth place finish in the 2007 Six Nations tournament.
The Irish finished sixth in 2004 and fifth in both 2005 and 2006, so this year has been one to remember for coach John O’Sullivan, manager Mark Andrews and the players.
Following up on their first ever championship success against Scotland last week, the Irish had too much attacking nous for their hosts in Rome with out-half Jo O’Sullivan and wingers Jeannette Feighery and Mairead Kelly sharing out the tries.
After some great lineout work, O’Sullivan barged over in the 20th-minute to set up a 7-6 half-time lead for O’Sullivan’s side.
Italian out-half Veronica Schiavon booted two penalties in each half to keep the hosts in the game, and the Irish had to survive having flanker Sinead Ryan sin-binned late in the opening half.
They did just that and motored ahead when Feighery crossed for her second try in as many games, five minutes into the second period.
Italy had their full-back Michela Tondinelli yellow carded, while the visitors had their number 8 Orla Brennan binned for not rolling away.
But the clinching try came for Ireland on 64 minutes when replacement Kelly, who was up in support of captain Sarahjane Belton, scooted in to the left of the posts.
ITALY WOMEN: Michela Tondinelli (Benetton Treviso); Sara Trilli (ASR Monza), Silvia Pizzati (Mira Riviera del Brenta), Paola Zangirolami (Mira Riviera del Brenta) (capt), Sara Barattin (Benetton Treviso); Veronica Schiavon (Mira Riviera del Brenta), Valentina Schiavon (Mira Riviera del Brenta); Elisa Cucchiella (Utensildodi Le Lupe Piacenza), Nadia Brannon (OA Saints), Maria Cristina Sanfilippo (GS Grazia Deledda), Flavia Severin (Benetton Treviso), Daniela Gini (Futura Park Rugby Roma), Gimena Panichelli (Vegetal Progress Biella Rugby), Giovanna Bado (Benetton Treviso), Silvia Gaudino (ASR Monza).
Replacements used: Elisa Facchini (Benetton Treviso) for Trilli, Veronica Ceradini (Mira Riviera del Brenta) for Sanfilippo, Paola Agostinelli (Benetton Treviso) for Gini (all 64 mins), Celeste Cristofanello (Vegetal Progress Biella Rugby) for Panichelli (76). Not used: Sara Zanon (Benetton Treviso), Sara Pettinelli (Futura Park Rugby Roma), Sara Sala (Vegetal Progress Biella Rugby).
IRELAND WOMEN: Sarahjane Belton (UL Bohemians) (capt); Jeannette Feighery (UL Bohemians), Lynne Cantwell (Richmond), Shannon Houston (Blackrock), Grace Davitt (Blackrock); Jo O’Sullivan (Richmond), Louise Beamish (UL Bohemians); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians), Jess Limbert (Cooke), Marie Barrett (Highfield), Caroline Mahon (UL Bohemians), Germaine Healy (Rathdrum), Eimear O’Sullivan (Clonakilty), Sinead Ryan (Navan), Orla Brennan (Blackrock).
Replacements used: Yvonne Nolan (Blackrock) for Limbert (half-time), Laura Guest (Clonakilty) for Barrett (45 mins), Mairead Kelly (UL Bohemians) for Davitt (50). Not used: Debbie Clarke (Blackrock), Rachel Boyd (Cooke), Nicole Fitzgerald (UL Bohemians), Amanda Greensmith (Shannon).
IrishRugby.ie player of the match: Orla Brennan (Ireland)
Referee: Christine Bigaran (France)