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Ireland Women Begin With Away Win

Ireland Women Begin With Away Win

The Ireland Women won on Welsh soil for the first time since 2005 as Gillian Bourke’s late try proved decisive in a 12-10 cliffhanger in Port Talbot.

Hooker Gillian Bourke scored out wide following a free-flowing pass move in the 75th minute, edging Ireland into a two-point lead that they determinedly held onto.

It was a tenacious fight-back from Philip Doyle's side who suffered a sin-binning in each half with forwards Sophie Spence and Stacey-Lea Kennedy seeing yellow.

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The Welsh scrum managed to get on top initially in the wet underfoot conditions, but in a cagey opening in Aberavon neither side was able to break the deadlock.

Ireland tried to build momentum as they ran a penalty, with captain Fiona Coghlan and Joy Neville showing great leadership.

They pressed again from a five-metre scrum and second row Spence did extremely well to ground the ball in the left corner for the game's opening try after 22 minutes.

Niamh Briggs, an ever influential figure at full-back, added a brilliant conversion from the touchline. But Spence was sin-binned six minutes later for hands in the ruck, allowing Wales to dictate approaching half-time.

The pressure eventually told as a rare visit from the hosts to the Irish 22 yielded a five-metre lineout. The Welsh pack went through the phases against the gritty green-shirted defence.

Ans although the move looked to have broken down, full-back Rosie Fletcher appeared from nowhere to ghost in from the right for a 38th minute try. The conversion from out-half Elinor Snowsill levelled the sides at 7-7 for half-time.

The Welsh, fired up for revenge after a record 36-0 defeat in Ashbourne last year, went close on a couple of occasions to scoring second half tries.

Briggs had to clear her lines with some well-timed kicks as Ireland were forced on the back foot. She carried a threat with ball in hand, but Doyle's charges struggled for territory in the third quarter.

A crucial moment came in the 65th minute when Alison Miller's outstretched left boot denied Caryl James a certain try in the right corner – it was the sort of committed play that has become a trademark of this Irish team.

But with replacement Kennedy off the pitch, Wales continued to press and with 11 minutes remaining Laura Prosser slotted the resulting penalty to move them ahead for the first time.

Back came Ireland though and a storming attack yielded the match-winning score for Bourke, who had notched three tries in her last two outings against Wales.

Briggs was unable to add the conversion, but it was not needed as the girls in green made a winning start to the Six Nations, joining Italy and table toppers England on two points after the first weekend's action.

It was only Ireland's second ever Championship victory in Wales and keeps them on course to qualify directly for the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup.

They are back at their own fortress of Ashbourne RFC next Saturday afternoon (kick-off 2pm) for a crunch clash with defending champions England.

Referee: Claire Daniels (England)