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Ireland Women Open With Record-Breaking Rout

Ireland Women Open With Record-Breaking Rout

The Ireland Women’s team ran in 11 tries to make a record-breaking start to their Six Nations title defence, as they hammered Scotland 59-0 in wet conditions in Ashbourne.



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It was the girls in green's biggest ever international win, eclipsing a 55-0 defeat of Japan from November 2004, as Philip Doyle's Grand Slam winners dominated from start to finish.

Second row Sophie Spence led the way with a hat-trick of tries against an overwhelmed Scottish side in what was Ireland's first competitive outing since they lifted the Six Nations trophy in Italy last March.

The Doyle-coached hosts started with ferocious intent, and after a lengthy spell of pressure inside the Scotland 22, it was no surprise to see them breaking the deadlock with little over three minutes gone in the contest.

Spence touched down in the left corner to open the scoring following a quick-witted move involving Siobhan Fleming at a lineout.

Although Spence's Old Belvedere club-mate Nora Stapleton missed the conversion from an awkward angle, Ireland had issued a serious statement of intent.

Indeed, such was their dominance during the early exchanges – they regular turned over the Scots with accurate work at the breakdown and tackle area – it was only a matter of time before the holders added to their advantage.

Just six minutes after Spence’s opener, Alison Miller got her name on the scoresheet after centre Lynne Cantwell had held off Katy Green and created space for the speedy winger to cross on the right.

Out-half Stapleton was able to find her range with the conversion that followed, and with Scotland constantly forced on the back foot, a rampant Ireland registered their third try on the 20-minute mark courtesy of powerful number 8 Heather O'Brien.

The impressive Highfield forward drove over for a deserved score with Cantwell influential once more in the build-up, but Miller's second five-pointer of the game three minutes later was undoubtedly the stand-out moment of the evening.

The Portlaoise flyer initially picked up possession on the halfway line before racing through unopposed on the left wing, evading a couple of tackles from the covering defenders.

Scotland, who suffered a 30-3 reversal in last year's meeting in Lasswade and are rebuilding currently, simply could not cope with the relentless intensity of the girls in green.

Any chance they had of forging an unlikely comeback were effectively diminished when the classy Cantwell broke through the cover for a 30th minute try after some good running from full-back Jackie Shiels.

It was a night where everything seemed to fall into place for Ireland and with their confidence levels at an all-time high, they breached the Scotland line again six minutes before the interval when Spence showed superb initiative at the back of an enterprising ruck.

This ensured that Ireland brought an insurmountable 32-0 lead into the second half and as a result, it was effectively damage limitation for Scotland upon the resumption.

However, they were powerless in their attempts to prevent Spence completing her hat-trick just after the restart, the dynamic lock dotting down at the end of a period of sustained pressure and a decisive maul drive.

Jenny Murphy took over the kicking duties from Stapleton and although she missed her first effort at goal, Ireland remained largely unaffected, as prop Ailis Egan found a way through 12 minutes into the half to make it 42-0.

As the half wore on, Doyle unloaded his bench and the number of Irish debutants was increased to three as Kerrie-Ann Craddock joined her Saracens club-mate Hannah Casey on the pitch and Orla Fitzsimons from St. Mary's also got on.

The fit-again Niamh Briggs, Ireland's top scorer in the 2013 Championship, also made her return in the green jersey.

Stacey Lea-Kennedy – the sole Ulster player in the starting line-up – followed her front row colleague Egan onto the scoresheet towards the end of the third quarter, scooping up a low pass to cap off a terrific break from flanker Claire Molloy.

Murphy converted in emphatic style from the right touchline, giving Ireland a seven-point salvo for only the second time in the match.

To their credit, a deflated Scotland battled admirably as they attempted to secure some form of consolation score and they did test the Irish defence during a ten-minute spell.

However, the determined home side registered their 10th try on 64 minutes thanks to a second effort from Cantwell, who retrieved a dropped ball from Fiona Hayes.

The brilliant Molloy also touched down in injury-time time as Ireland brought the curtain down on a stunning display at their Ashbourne fortress.

Referee: Claire Hodnett (England)