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Ireland Women Lose Tight Game At Twickenham

Ireland Women Lose Tight Game At Twickenham

It was another performance full of courage and commitment, but the back-to-back Grand Slam dreams of the Ireland Women’s team ultimately came to an end at Twickenham this evening.


Tries from Sarah Hunter, Kay Wilson and Marlie Packer helped perennial Six Nations champions England to a seven-point victory at the end of an enthralling encounter watched by an estimated 15,000-strong crowd.

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Larrisa Muldoon's 31st-minute try had made it 10-7 to Ireland, but Wilson's score at the end of the first half enabled England to rein in the challenge of Philip Doyle's side before Packer's second half contribution put the seal on a hard-fought triumph.

Last year's meeting in Ashbourne saw the girls in green announce their presence as a major nation in women's rugby, upsetting the odds as a hat-trick of tries by Alison Miller propelled them to a first ever win over England (25-0).

That result, and the subsequent Grand Slam success, has helped to put women's rugby on the map in Ireland and following their recent wins over Scotland and Wales, Ireland were primed for another shot at the Triple Crown.

Motivation was always going to be a major factor for Gary Street's England charges though, and it came as little surprise when they broke the deadlock just seven minutes in.

Scrum half Natasha Hunt orchestrated an enterprising scrum in the Irish 22 and her Lichfield club-mate Hunter was on hand to touch down as they made it past the try-line.

The conversion was comfortable slotted by skipper Katy Mclean. However, despite coming off second best in terms of possession, Ireland managed to prevent quick-fire tries from the eight-time champions with some strong defence.

When returning Saracens flanker Maggie Alphonsi obstructed Irish scrum half Muldoon on 25 minutes, UL Bohemians star Niamh Briggs journeyed up from full-back to knock a 35-metre penalty between the posts.

This opening score was a morale-boosting effort for the Fiona Coghlan-captained team and as the first half wore on, they started to cause numerous problems for the English defensive line.

One promising passage eventually led to their only try of the game just past the half hour mark. An excellent maul – a consistent feature of Ireland's pack play – all the way from the 22-metre line provided the platform for Muldoon to snipe off the back and dot down to the left of the posts.

Briggs make no mistake with the conversion and having weathered the early storm, Ireland were suddenly 10-7 to the good with the interval approaching.

Crucially though, England hit back with a try on the stroke of half-time. Wilson dived over out wide on the left following fine approach work by McLean, Rachael Burford and Emily Scarratt.

There was a question mark over Scarratt's final pass to Wilson, but referee Sherry Trumbull eventually awarded the try for a 12-10 scoreline.

Fired-up England continued to threaten on the resumption, although Ireland remained focused thanks to their relentless work-rate and tackling with forwards Claire Molloy, Marie Louise Reilly and Heather O'Brien leading the way.

Mclean had an ideal opportunity to increase her side's lead ten minutes into the half, but she was well wide of the mark from a straightforward-looking penalty.

The injury-enforced loss of Briggs and influential centre Jenny Murphy shortly after this miss significantly dented Ireland's hopes.

And when replacement flanker Packer drove powerfully over the whitewash at the end of a lengthy maul on the hour mark, Ireland were really up against it.

The sin-binning of England's Joanne McGilchrist after 62 minutes, and yet another wayward Mclean penalty attempt, did give Ireland something of a lifeline.

Against that, Ireland's most-capped player, centre Lynne Cantwell, also received a yellow card eight minutes from the end and the pressure was lifted on the Alphonsi-inspired English outfit.

The girls in green, who fell foul of referee Trumbull's whistle at times, did their level best to try and salvage something from the game.

Some probing breaks by Nora Stapleton and work-hungry winger Miller tested the English defence, but the hosts were worthy winners on the night and Ireland's frustrating night ended with number 8 Heather O'Brien in the sin-bin.

Ireland's first Championship defeat since 2012 will come as a disappointment to Doyle and his squad but with games against Italy and France still on the horizon, they remain well in contention to retain their Six Nations crown.

Referee: Sherry Trumbull (Canada)