The Ireland Women lost 15-5 to their Welsh counterparts in today’s uncapped warm-up match at the CCB Centre of Sporting Excellence in Caerphilly, South Wales, as they continued their preparation for the fast-approaching Six Nations Championship.
The game served as Ireland's last chance to test out different combinations and structures against top-class opposition. Head coach Tom Tierney used 26 players as he prepares to finalise his Six Nations squad in the coming week.
With a sizeable crowd in attendance, Wales looked to attack Ireland aggressively from the off. They moved the ball quickly across their back-line and only for the last pass to let them down on a couple of occasions, they could have scored in the opening minutes.
There were some strong tackles put in from Ireland, with out-half Nikki Caughey and lock Ciara Cooney landing some big hits, however Ireland's discipline in defence let them down when they strayed offside and offered Wales number 10 Robyn Williams a kickable penalty, but she failed to convert.
When Ireland failed to retreat the required 10 meters from another penalty, Wales opted to kick for touch and from the resulting lineout, they moved the ball across the pitch to feed lively winger Elen Evans who took the opportunity well to touch down in the corner. Williams missed the difficult conversion.
The hosts continued to cause problems for the Irish out wide and with Cooney in the sin-bin for not rolling away at a ruck, uncapped wingers Elise O'Byrne White and Liz Burke were made to work hard in defence. While they kept the Welsh attack at bay for as long as they could, sustained pressure saw Wales register their second unconverted score of the game through centre Adi Taviner.
Trailing 10-0, Ireland responded by stringing a number of phases together and edged their way into the Welsh 22, only to concede possession at the breakdown where Welsh scrum half Amy Day suffered an ankle injury that saw her receive treatment on the field.
She was deemed fit to play on and Wales restarted the game with a scrum, but as Day picked the ball from the base, her ankle gave way and Ireland number 9 Larissa Muldoon snapped up the ball and raced across the line to score. Niamh Briggs was unsuccessful with her conversion attempt from out wide as the game edged towards half-time.
Tierney made a number of changes at the break, allowing all members of the squad the chance to put their hand up for selection for the opening Championship opener against Wales in less than a fortnight's time.
The fresh legs on the Irish side saw them start the second period encouragingly, with replacement half-backs Mary Healy and Sene Naoupu looking to up the tempo of Ireland's attack. Forwards Elaine Anthony, Lindsay Peat and Fiona Reidy all managed to exploit space close to the breakdown which allowed Ireland to get in behind the Welsh defence.
Ill-discipline around the ruck from Welsh flanker Rachel Taylor saw referee Claire Hodnett show her a yellow card. At a time when Ireland should have been capitalising on their numerical advantage, they instead found themselves stuck in their own 22 and under increasing pressure.
Wales went through a number of phases, sucking in Ireland's defence before releasing the ball out wide to Elen Evans who crossed the line for her second try of the afternoon to make it 15-5.
With both sides using rolling substitutes, the closing stages of the game lost some structure and the contest became somewhat disjointed, with the majority of late play limited to between both sides' 22s.
The worthwhile exercise will leave both camps with a number of areas to focus on ahead of Saturday, February 6 when they meet again in the first round of the Six Nations at Donnybrook. Ireland Women v Wales Women match tickets are available to purchase here from Ticketmaster.
Referee: Claire Hodnett (England)