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Ireland U-18 Women Pipped By Wales In Six-Try Shootout

Ireland U-18 Women Pipped By Wales In Six-Try Shootout

Ballina winger Emily Foley runs in her opening try for Ireland against Wales in their final game of the Under-18 Women's Six Nations Festival ©Miles Myerscough-Harris/Expired Film Club

A last-gasp 19-17 defeat to Wales failed to take the shine off what has been a brilliant development block for this talented Ireland Under-18 Women’s squad (supported by PwC).


Saturday, April 15 –

IRELAND UNDER-18s 17 WALES UNDER-18s 19, Wellington College
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Emily Foley 2, Lyndsey Clarke; Con: Abby Healy
Wales: Tries: Abi Meyrick, Alaw Pyrs 2; Cons: Carys Hughes 2
HT: Ireland 12 Wales 0

Match Photo Gallery: Ireland Under-18s 17 Wales Under-18s 19

In only Ireland’s second ever full international at this level, they were on course for victory when Ballina winger Emily Foley skilfully claimed two tries – the first of them from an Abby Healy cross-field kick – for a 12-0 half-time lead.

Head coach Larissa Muldoon and forwards coach Neill Alcorn would have asked for more of the same from the girls in green at that stage, but Wales were just as eager to end the U-18 Women’s Six Nations Festival on a high.

Abi Meyrick’s maul try got the Welsh off the mark, and despite replacement Lyndsey Clarke speeding over for Ireland’s third try, they were in for a frustrating finish in the Berkshire sunshine.

Welsh replacement Alaw Pyrs powered over from two tapped penalties, her second try followed by Carys Hughes’ decisive conversion with the final kick of a topsy-turvy game.

An early forwards drive, coupled with strong carries from Kelly Burke and Alma Obehi Atagamen, saw Ireland set out their stall, albeit that hooker Burke’s second lineout throw went off target.

A knock-on halted a promising attack that included a barnstorming burst from Ennis prop Grainne Burke, but it was the Irish back-line that made the breakthrough for the opening try after 11-and-a-half minutes.

Emma Brogan cut past halfway superbly well when running back a Welsh kick, before Foley expertly collected Healy’s clever kick on the bounce and evaded two tackles to score on the left.

Out-half Healy increased her influence with a textbook conversion, and after Robyn O’Connor had covered a Welsh kick through, props Burke and Lily Morris showed their ability again to make metres at close quarters.

With 20 minutes on the clock, a loose Welsh kick allowed loosehead Burke to surge up towards the opposition 22. O’Connor used Healy’s pass to beat a defender and her intelligent offload sent Foley over in the corner despite the cover defence.

Orla Wafer’s thumping tackle on Molly-Mae Powell typified the intensity that Ireland were bringing, Kelly Burke also weighing in with a turnover penalty, and some well-organised Irish defence kept Wales out before the interval.

Wicklow starlet Healy also impressed with her kicking to touch, but turning around with a dozen-point deficit to overcome, it was Wales who seized the initiative on the restart.

A well-executed lineout maul saw hooker Meyrick pull back five points, with her grounding spotted by referee Melissa Wright under a pile of bodies. Wales subsequently kept the pressure on the Irish defence.

The fleet-footed O’Connor and captain Saskia Wycherley, who led well throughout alongside fellow lock Alma Obehi Atagamen, stood up to the task with some key defensive plays.

Nonetheless, when Muldoon’s charges, who lost Healy to injury, got back on the front foot past the 50-minute mark, Wales were able to spoil a lineout opportunity.

Although replacement Hannah Clarke’s well-weighted kick forced a five-metre scrum for Ireland, the Welsh side were now winning the breakdown battle amid some scrappy phases.

The injury-enforced departure of hooker Burke saw the versatile Beth Buttimer move to the front row, before Hannah Lane’s quick burst out wide brought Wales back deep into Irish territory.

When Morris was penalised for hands in the ruck, the red shirts reacted the quickest and Niamh Padmore set up fellow replacement Pyrs to crash in under the posts. Hughes’ conversion tied things up at 12-all with eight minutes remaining.

Back came Ireland, Lucia Linn spotting space on the right and her kick found Lyndsey Clarke who, from 30 metres out, cut inside Nia Fajeyisan and outside full-back Rhiannon Griffin for an excellently-taken try.

Unfortunately Hannah Clarke’s conversion bounced back off the far left hand post, leaving the gap open for Wales to stun Ireland right at the death. A series of penalties put them within striking distance and Pyrs proved unstoppable.


Day 1 (Friday, April 7 at Wellington College) –

England 10 Wales 0
Scotland 0 England 21
Wales 17 Scotland 7
France 24 Ireland 15
Italy 0 France 55
Ireland 10 Italy 0

Day 2 (Tuesday, April 11 at Wellington College) –

Scotland 5 Ireland 31
Ireland 5 England 14
France 46 Scotland 0
England 15 Italy 7
Wales 0 France 7
Italy 7 Wales 0

Day 3 (Saturday, April 15 at Wellington College) –

Italy 19 Scotland 15
Ireland 17 Wales 19
England 10 France 57

IRELAND U-18 WOMEN: Robyn O’Connor (Wexford Wanderers RFC/Leinster); Emma Brogan (Navan RFC/Leinster), Molly Boote (Connemara RFC/Connacht), Lucia Linn (Loughborough University/IQ Rugby/Munster), Emily Foley (Ballina RFC/Connacht); Abby Healy (Wicklow RFC/Leinster), Grainne Moran (Ballina RFC/Connacht); Grainne Burke (Ennis RFC/Munster), Kelly Burke (Mullingar RFC/Leinster), Lily Morris (Killarney RFC/Munster), Alma Obehi Atagamen (Balbriggan RFC/Leinster), Sarah McCormick (Ballina RFC/Connacht), Orla Wafer (Enniscorthy RFC/Leinster), Saskia Wycherley (Bantry Bay RFC/Munster) (capt), Beth Buttimer (Fethard RFC/Munster).

Replacements: Ellen O’Toole (Westport RFC/Connacht), Poppy Garvey (Sligo RFC/Connacht), Ruby Starrett (Larne RFC/Ulster), Ailish Quinn (Ballina RFC/Connacht), Niamh Murphy (Cill Dara RFC/Leinster), Lyndsey Clarke (Ennis RFC/Munster), Katie Corrigan (Tullow RFC/Leinster), May Goulding (Hartpury College/IQ Rugby), Hannah Clarke (Oughterard/Tuam RFC/Connacht).

WALES U-18 WOMEN: Rhiannon Griffin (Ysgol Y Strade/Scarlets); Hannah Lane (Sale Sharks/Rygbi Gogledd Cymru), Bronwen Griffin (Ysgol Y Strade/Scarlets), Nia Fajeyisan (Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr/Cardiff Rugby), Molly-Mae Powell (Nelson Belles/Dragons RFC); Rachel Thomas-Evans (Cardiff Quins RFC/Cardiff Rugby), Katie Bevans (Jesters/Dragons RFC); Chloe Thomas Bradley (Coleg Gwent Crosskeys/Dragons RFC), Abi Meyrick (Coleg Gwent Crosskeys/Dragons RFC), Elan Jones (Ceirw Nant/Rygbi Gogledd Cymru), Erin Jones (Ceirw Nant/Rygbi Gogledd Cymru), Robyn Davies (West Swansea Hawkes/Ospreys), Maisie Davies (Burry Port/Scarlets), Catrin Stewart (Môn Stars Llangefni/Rygbi Gogledd Cymru), Gwennan Hopkins (Hartpury College/Cardiff Rugby) (capt).

Replacements: Molly Wakely (Coleg Gwent Crosskeys/Dragons RFC), Niamh Padmore (Cardiff & Vale College/Cardiff Rugby), Cadi-Lois Davies (Lampeter Ladies/Scarlets), Milly Summer (Llandovery College/Scarlets), Alaw Pyrs (Hartpury College/Rygbi Gogledd Cymru), Katie Sims (Cardiff & Vale College/Cardiff Rugby), Poppy Ellis (Chester/Rygbi Gogledd Cymru), Sian Jones (Sale Sharks/Rygbi Gogledd Cymru), Kelsie Webster (Hartpury College/Rygbi Gogledd Cymru), Carys Hughes (Hartpury College/Scarlets), Madison Isgrove (Cardiff Quins RFC/Cardiff Rugby), Carys Whitfield (Sale Sharks/Rygbi Gogledd Cymru).

Referee: Melissa Wright (England)