Ireland have finished third in the FIRA-AER Women’s European Championship in Amsterdam after they beating France on try count after the sides drew 22-22 in an exciting 3rd-4th place play-off.
2007/08 FIRA-AER WOMEN’S EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP: 3RD-4TH PLACE PLAY-OFF: Saturday, May 24
IRELAND 22 FRANCE 22, Amsterdam (Ireland won on try count – 4-3)
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Lynne Cantwell, Niamh Briggs, Helen Brosnan, Jeannette Feighery; Con: Grace Davitt
France: Tries: Celine Allainmat, Melaine Gauffinet 2; Cons: Estelle Sartini, Aurelie Bailon; Pen: Estelle Sartini
While Ireland will be disappointed to have let a 17-8 half-time lead slip, their four tries to France’s three means that they have secured their highest ever finish in this competition and have come agonisingly close to beating the French over 80 minutes for the first time.
Ireland got off to a blistering start when they raced into a 7-0 lead after Lynne Cantwell scythed through the middle to touch down after just six minutes and Grace Davitt converted.
Cantwell’s storming start paved the way for a superb 80-minute performance from the UL Bohemians back, who was a constant threat at centre throughout the game.
Ireland had also started strongly up front with back rowers Orla Brennan and Joy Neville heavily involved in some fine continuity play.
France hit back quickly with a try of their own when Celine Allainmat brought her team back into it with an unconverted try.
Ireland continued to impress with their off-loading game and they pushed ahead again when full-back Niamh Briggs won a chase through to crash over after Ireland’s backs had shone with some superb handling.
Veteran French out-half Estelle Sartini knocked over a penalty to reduce the deficit to 12-8 but Ireland had the last say of the half when winger Helen Brosnan, making her first start in the green jersey, punished a French mistake close to the line to score her first try for her country.
Ireland started the second half still in good form with Cantwell again impressing with a surging run through the middle to make good ground for her side. France recovered though and their class and ability was evident as they clawed their way back into the game.
Sartini found her side some good possession using her expert boot and then lock Melanie Gauffinet barged over after a driving surge from her pack.
Ireland wing Jeannette Feighery then highlighted her own attacking prowess. She made a superb run out wide to out fox the French defence and score and push her team’s lead out to 22-15.
It looked as if Ireland would secure their first ever win over France but in the 80th-minute the French pack forced their way over the line for a try which was converted to ensure the sides finished level.
Ireland finish third in the competition however because they outscored France by four tries to three.
Captain Fiona Coghlan said afterwards: ‘We were disappointed to draw the game and not win it but finishing third is a big achievement for us and this competition has allowed us to blood a lot of players which will stand to us in the years ahead.”
Flanker Carol Staunton, who won her first Ireland cap in the game, added: “It was a great game for me to play in my first Irish game and I’ve learned a lot from the experience. France are a tough team and they really came back at us in the second half.
“I’ll take so much from this competition and being part of this squad has definitely made me a more mature player.”
IRELAND WOMEN’S TEAM & REPLACEMENTS (v France):
Niamh Briggs (Clonmel); Jeannette Feighery (UL Bohemians), Lynne Cantwell (UL Bohemians), Grace Davitt (Boyne), Helen Brosnan (Highfield); Jo O’Sullivan (Richmond), Louise Beamish (UL Bohemians); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians) (capt), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians), Emer McManamly (Blackrock), Kate O’Loughlin (Clonmel), Orla Brennan (Blackrock), Louise Austin (Blackrock), Carol Staunton (St. Mary’s), Joy Neville (UL Bohemians).
Replacements used: Shannon Houston (Blackrock) for Davitt (36 mins), Jess Limbert (Cooke) for McManamly, Sinead Ryan (Blackrock) for Staunton (both 40), Geri Healy (Blackrock) for Austin (55), Tania Rosser (Blackrock) for Beamish (63), Caroline Mahon (UL Bohemians) for O’Loughlin (73), Marie Barrett (Highfield) for Bourke (76).