Fresh from scoring a hat-trick of tries in Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations title-clinching win for the Ireland Women against Scotland, winger Alison Miller is enjoying her latest Championship success with the girls in green.
Alison Miller has a real eye for the try-line and continues to score some vital tries for Ireland, including that memorable effort against New Zealand at last year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup. During the 2013 Grand Slam campaign, she notched a famous hat-trick in Ireland’s first ever win over England and also popped up with a crucial last-ditch tackle in the final victory away to Italy.
Roll on two years and the Laois native’s late try capped off a fine 20-0 result away to Wales last week, while she was at her strong-running best when crossing the whitewash three times against Scotland. She felt there was a real need to add to the Grand Slam success and keep the momentum going.
“We won the Grand Slam in 2013 and you don’t know if it is going to come again. You have to back it up, that it’s not just a flash in the pan. You are always thinking, maybe it’s a one-off,” admitted Miller, a UCC PE student and Sky Sports ‘Living For Sport’ athlete mentor.
“So, to win it again is brilliant, especially for a lot of girls who won it this time around who weren’t in that (Grand Slam) squad. It’s fantastic for those new girls. Obviously the returning girls, like Jackie Shiels and Tania Rosser, have won something now too. It’s fantastic.”
Following defending champions France’s 21-16 defeat of England on Saturday night, Ireland knew they would need to overcome bottom side Scotland by a 27-point margin to win the title. Such was the clinical nature and professionalism of Ireland’s display in Cumbernauld, they were 37-3 clear by half-time.
Miller said the girls could not afford to take their foot off the gas in the second half, explaining: “You are never really certain because you are always thinking worse case scenarios, what if, what if. We were quite relentless and ruthless about our performance and kept going until the final whistle blew.
“It probably was with 10 minutes to go that we actually fully relaxed and they (Scotland) couldn’t come back in that time to take away the points difference.”
The result against the Scots completed a terrific run of Triple Crown victories for Ireland – England (11-8), Wales (20-0) and Scotland (73-3) – as they bounced back in impressive fashion from their disappointing 10-5 home defeat by the French.
That setback in round 2 could have derailed Ireland’s Championship bid, but Tom Tierney’s side regrouped and noticeably improved with each passing week under the new management team.
“After the French game we were obviously very disappointed. We left it behind us. We had the chance to draw if not win the game (with an overlap) in the last minute and didn’t take it. We were hugely disappointed, hugely drained from the game,” admitted the left winger.
“Once we came back into camp, then we realised that was over, nothing you can do about it, just move on. We focused on the England game and did really well to win that game in Ashbourne.
“We just moved on from that (French) game. There was nothing you could do about it, there was no point. Obviously you look at the analysis of the game and work on it but as opposed to thinking too much on it. There was not much you could do. It was great to get that win against England and after that happening, we started to realise anything could happen.”
Miller, who now has 28 international caps to her name, did not want the game against Scotland to end on Sunday. The free-flowing attacking of the Irish team was breathtaking to watch at times and showed exactly what they could do with ball in hand.
Hoping this latest Championship triumph can bring Irish Women’s rugby to an even higher level, she added: “People probably thought we were going to struggle this year. We had key retirements and really influential, critical players that left and all our management was a completely new set-up.
“No one really knew what to expect. It had all been done in a certain way for a long time (under previous head coach Philip Doyle). But people come in and have a different approach, so it worked out really well.
“After 2013, there was a huge growth in Women’s rugby here. Clubs started to merge in areas. My club in Portlaoise, there are so many underage girls playing from Under-8s to Under-18s now. This will push it on even further. Teams were establishing themselves, now they might actually keep growing and it might become a bit more competitive. It’s great for Women’s sport as well.”