Adam Griggs and Ciara Griffin, the new Ireland Women’s head coach and captain, enjoyed a winning start to their tenures with a 27-19 victory over Wales in this afternoon’s Six Nations warm-up fixture. Emily Gill reports from Caerphilly.
WOMEN’S SIX NATIONS WARM-UP MATCH: Sunday, January 21
WALES WOMEN 19 IRELAND WOMEN 27, CCB Centre for Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach
Scorers: Wales: Carys Phillips, Jess Kavanagh-Williams 2; Cons: Robyn Wilkins 2
Ireland: Tries: Megan Williams, Claire McLaughlin, Alison Miller, Leah Lyons, Sene Naoupu; Con: Niamh Briggs
HT: Wales 19 Ireland 17
Uncapped winger Megan Williams, who has been a regular on the Sevens World Series circuit, Claire McLaughlin, Alison Miller, Leah Lyons and Sene Naoupu were the try scorers as the girls in green deservedly came out on top. A Jess Kavanagh-Williams brace had Wales 19-17 in front at half-time, but Ireland held them scoreless for the remainder.
Former skipper Niamh Briggs made a welcome return in green, following a long spell out with injury, and it was her defence-splitting break in the fourth minute which paved the way for the opening try. There were numbers on the right and Williams provided a poacher’s finish in the right corner to get Ireland off the mark after just five minutes.
The wet weather made it difficult for Briggs who was unable to convert from the right touchline. The Waterford woman moved from full-back to out-half, replacing the retired Nora Stapleton in the play-making role.
Just five minutes later, wonderful link-up play on the left between winger Miller, who made the initial break, scrum half Ailsa Hughes and full-back Kim Flood paved the way for Ulster centre McLaughlin to put more points on the board for Ireland. Briggs converted this time from in front of the posts and Ireland led 12-0.
Wales, who had struggled up to this point, scored from their first attack of the half with a tap and go from captain Carys Phillips. Robyn Wilkins was unable to convert. Looking for a quick response, the visitors passed well and played with pace, and neat interplay between Hughes and flanker Anna Caplice almost saw them create another try.
Shortly afterwards, Briggs produced a wonderful cross-field kick for Miller to finish smartly for Ireland’s third try of the half. The extras again went wide. However, the heavy rain became more of an issue and Wales edged ahead before the interval, their excellent winger Kavanagh-Williams breaking loose twice to touch down with Wilkins landing both conversions.
It took twenty minutes for the second half to get going. Both sides tightened up in defence and there was concern as Ireland number 8 and skipper Ciara Griffin went down for the second time holding her shoulder but she was able to continue and finish out the game.
Miller produced a lovely run down the flank and was almost free from the covering Welsh shirts, but the red defence managed to get back. Adam Griggs’ charges finally got the try they had been looking for as a team effort helped replacement hooker Lyons get the ball over the line following a huge power surge from a close-in lineout.
Just a few minutes before the final whistle, Ireland, who are away to France in their Championship opener, sealed the result as Naoupu, who had impressed after moving from centre to out-half for the second period, dived over from close range following Nicole Cronin’s quick tap. Lyons hit the post with the conversion.
WALES WOMEN: Lisa Neumann; Hannah Bluck, Kerin Lake, Rebecca de Filippo, Jess Kavanagh-Williams; Robyn Wilkins, Jade Knight; Caryl Thomas, Carys Phillips (capt), Amy Evans, Natalia John, Mel Clay, Alisha Butchers, Bethan Lewis, Siwan Lillicrap.
Replacements used: Kelsey Jones for Butchers (half-time), Lleucu George for Wilkins, Gwenllian Pyrs for Thomas, Cerys Hale for Evans (all 60 mins), Angharad de Smet for Bluck, Jodie Evans for Kavanagh-Williams, Katie Jenkins for Lewis (all 66), Amu Thomas for John (68), Ffion Lewis for Knight, Awen Prysor for Phillips (both 71), India Berbillion for de Filippo (75).
IRELAND WOMEN: Kim Flood (Railway Union/Leinster); Megan Williams (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Claire McLaughlin (Cooke/Ulster), Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht); Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union/Leinster); Laura Feely (Galwegians/Connacht), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians/Munster), Elaine Anthony (Highfield/Munster), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemians/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt).
Replacements used: Michelle Claffey (Blackrock/Leinster) for Briggs, Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Hughes, Nichola Fryday (Tullamore/Connacht) for Anthony (all half-time), Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster) for Moloney, Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht) for Reidy, Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/Leinster) for Fitzsimons (all 50 mins), Ilse van Staden (Cooke/Ulster) for Feely, Edel McMahon (Galwegians/Connacht) for Griffin, Annette Tomas (Abbey Ladies/IQ Rugby) for Miller, Susan Vaughan (Railway Union/Leinster) for Flood (all 65).