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Determined Final Display From Ireland Women

Determined Final Display From Ireland Women

The England Women’s team won the Six Nations Championship for a sixth successive year, capturing a Grand Slam in the process, as Ireland fell to a five-try defeat at Ashbourne RFC.

After inflicting a 89-0 defeat on Scotland last weekend, England came to the Meath venue looking to finish off an unbeaten campaign.

Ireland have consistently tested the English side in recent years and Katy McLean and the visiting team readily recognised beforehand that this will would be their 'most physical' match of the Championship.

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The hosts showed great spirit and commitment to their game-plan and were well in touch at half-time, trailing 12-0.

But the second half saw England run in three more tries to end Ireland's brave bid and seal their fifth Grand Slam in six seasons.

Niamh Briggs, Niamh Kavanagh and Joy Neville stood out for the home side, who played well as a unit and will continue to learn from playing top class opponents like England.

In front of an enthusiastic and vocal crowd, England set up camp in the Irish half in the opening quarter. Ireland's defence held strong for the most part, but skipper McLean and Sarah Hunter picked off tries.

McLean broke a tackle and raced over from ten metres out in the seventh minute, following some powerful surges from her pack.

With England dominating possession and territory, Hunter had a pushover effort in the 21st minute, with McLean adding the extras to the number 8's score.

Ireland pushed hard for the next 10 minutes and gained some good territory, moving to within 10 metres of the English whitewash. Nora Stapleton and Briggs combined well before scrum half Larissa Muldoon was swiftly taken down after the offload.

Philip Doyle's charges kept pressing for an opening despite losing Neville to the sin-bin. A missed Briggs penalty kick in the 32nd minute was the closest they came to a score, leaving 12 points between the sides at the break.

The defending champions dominated possession in the opening stages of the second half, eager to make further inroads and test the Irish defence.

Ireland withstood some strong early pressure from England, until prop Rochelle Clark picked and snuck through for England's third try in the 54th minute.

McLean landed the resulting conversion, before tighthead Sophie Hemming, a club-mate of Ireland's Gillian Bourke at Bristol, took a pass from replacement Danielle Waterman to nab the fourth try and ensure a 24-0 lead with 22 minutes remaining.

England continued to cause the Irish defence some problems in the closing stages, and although the girls in green kept their shape and put in tackle after tackle, flanker Maggie Alphonsi added some gloss to the scoreline with a try in injury-time.

It was an impressive display from Gary Street's England side who completed the Grand Slam having conceded just eight points over their five games.

There was still plenty for the Ireland Women to be pleased with over the campaign, with a number of new players like Geraldine Rea, Niamh Kavanagh, Stacey Kennedy, Deirdre O'Brien and Heather O'Brien making the step up to international level. 

The girls in green finished third overall in the Six Nations, a position they also held in 2009 and 2010, and there are solid foundations to build on for next year.

Referee: Sarah Corrigan (Australia)