Ireland Women’s head coach Tom Tierney ran the rule over some new players and combinations during today’s uncapped Six Nations warm-up game against Wales at Donnybrook.
WOMEN’S SIX NATIONS WARM-UP MATCH: Sunday, January 22
IRELAND WOMEN 14 WALES WOMEN 22, Donnybrook
Scorers: Ireland Women: Tries: Nora Stapleton, Claire Molloy; Cons: Nora Stapleton 2
Wales Women: Shona Powell-Hughes, Adi Taviner, Sionad Harries; Cons: Elinor Snowsil 2; Pen: Elinor Snowsil
HT: Ireland Women 14 Wales Women 12
A strong second half performance saw Wales win the training match by eight points, with the hit-out serving as ideal preparation for Ireland ahead of their Championship opener against Scotland at Broadwood Stadium on Friday week.
Wales, who had the benefit of a recent win over Spain, had also won last year’s corresponding warm-up encounter with Ireland before the girls in green won last February’s Six Nations clash 21-3 at Donnybrook.
There were a total of seven uncapped players in Ireland’s matchday squad today, with Railway Union scrum half Ailsa Hughes and UL Bohemians winger Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird both starting.
There was still a great deal of experience within the Irish set-up, however, and Connacht full-back Mairead Coyne was almost put through by centre Claire McLaughlin from the opening attack.
Wales managed to squeeze out the Ulster star on this occasion, but 11 minutes in, Ireland managed to break the deadlock. A superb break from flanker Claire Molloy moved the hosts into the Welsh 22, Coyne was stopped short of the line and then play was transferred back into a central position from where Nora Stapleton crossed in confident fashion. The out-half converted for a 7-0 lead.
To their credit, Wales showed a strong attacking intent of their own and only for a knock-on by winger Adi Taviner, they may well have crossed the whitewash in the 19th-minute.
The Welsh side did have a series of lineouts at the start of the second quarter, but having held firm, Ireland subsequently doubled their lead. Molloy was making a massive impact on the play, and from her third lung-bursting run of the half, the talented Galway woman raced through for an outstanding converted score.
The early signs were encouraging from an Irish perspective, but as the first half developed, Wales forced their way back into scoring range. They created a powerful maul just beyond the half hour mark, and back rower Shona Powell-Hughes was in the right place to dot down over the line.
A successful conversion followed from Elinor Snowsil, and Ireland suffered another setback, six minutes before half-time, with a sin-binning for Munster’s Elaine Anthony. In her absence, Taviner dived over from a Snowsil offload, but because of the latter’s wayward conversion, Ireland still led 14-12 at the turnaround.
Ireland had lost Molloy to an ankle injury but with a number of changes made during the break (including a long-awaited return to 15s international rugby for Jenny Murphy), there was a relatively fresh look to the home side when play resumed.
Wales, on the other hand, were keeping their alterations to a minimum, and they were on top of possession for much of the third quarter. The hosts remained tight and compact in defence, but following strong work by an impressive Welsh pack on 58 minutes, Sionad Harries (one of five Scarlets players in the Welsh starting line-up) grounded the ball beyond the Irish try-line.
Another two-point salvo by Newport Gwent Dragons kicker Snowsil ensured that the visitors were five points to the good. Like Ireland, Wales utilised their reserve options as the second half wore on, and with just 13 minutes remaining, only a knock forward prevented replacement Jodie Evans from scoring a try.
This was something of a let-off for Ireland, but when their Welsh were awarded a close range penalty in the 74th-minute, the reliable Snowsil made no mistake from the kicking tee to clinching a 22-14 comeback victory for her side.
IRELAND WOMEN: Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht); Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (UL Bohemians/Munster), Claire McLaughlin (Cooke/Ulster), Sene Naoupu (Aylesford Bulls), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union/Leinster); Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Nichola Fryday (Tullamore/Connacht), Elaine Anthony (Highfield/Munster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s/Leinster).
Replacements used: Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Nic a Bháird (36 mins), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Molloy (39), Mary Healy (Galwegians/Connacht) for Hughes, Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for McLaughlin, Ilse van Staden (Cooke/Ulster) for Peat, Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster) for Lyons (all half-time), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Anthony (44), Jemma Jackson (Cooke/Ulster) for Stapleton (61), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht) for Egan, Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster) for Fitzpatrick (both 63), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s/Leinster) for Fryday (65), Laura Feely (Galwegians/Connacht) for van Staden, Jennie Finlay (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Moloney (both 79).
WALES WOMEN: Dyddgu Hywel (Scarlets); Charlie Murray (Newport Gwent Dragons), Gemma Rowland (Newport Gwent Dragons), Rebecca de Filippo (Newport Gwent Dragons), Adi Taviner (Ospreys); Elinor Snowsill (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sian Moore (Newport Gwent Dragons); Caryl Thomas (Scarlets), Carys Phillips (Scarlets) (capt), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys), Mel Clay (Ospreys), Shona Powell-Hughes (Ospreys), Rachel Taylor (Scarlets), Sionad Harries (Scarlets).
Replacements used: Robyn Wilkins (Ospreys) for de Filippo (40 mins), Rhiannon Parker (Cardiff Blues) for Moore, Jessica Kavanagh-Williams (Scarlets) for Murray, Kerin Lake (Ospreys) for Taviner (all 50), Rebecca Rowe (Newport Gwent Dragons) for Lillicrap (57), Cerys Hale (Newport Gwent Dragons) for Phillips, Lowri Harries (Scarlets) for Evans, Jodie Evans (Scarlets) for Hywel (all 59), Nia Elen Davies (Scarlets) for Powell-Hughes (68).