The Ireland Women’s search for a maiden November Test victory continues after Wales snatch the spoils in dramatic fashion at the UCD Bowl this afternoon.
2019 NOVEMBER INTERNATIONAL: Sunday, November 10
IRELAND WOMEN 13 WALES WOMEN 15, UCD Bowl
Scorers: Ireland Women: Tries: Linda Djougang, Enya Breen; Pen: Ellen Murphy
Wales Women: Tries: Sioned Harries, Keira Bevan; Con: Robyn Wilkins; Pen: Robyn Wilkins
HT: Ireland Women 5 Wales Women 0
Adam Griggs’ charges were on the cusp of a winning start to their international season when Ellen Murphy landed a 74th minute penalty. Ireland had created some daylight through Linda Djougang and Enya Breen tries, before Wales fired back with 10 unanswered points.
The Ciara Griffin-led hosts were still primed to hold out for just their second success of 2019, until replacement scrum half Keira Bevan sniped over for a last-gasp try from close range which saw Wales prevail 15-13.
For the Ireland Women’s first game in just under eight months – a St. Patrick’s Day defeat to Wales in Cardiff brought their 2019 Six Nations campaign to a close – head coach Griggs included one new cap in the starting XV.
Meath teenager Judy Bobbett was named alongside Nichola Fryday in the second row and joined her Blackrock club-mates Michelle Claffey and Hannah O’Connor in the matchday squad.
Back rower O’Connor was one of four uncapped players on the Irish bench and came on to make her debut in the second half along with her Leinster colleagues, Victoria Dabanovich-O’Mahony and Niamh Ni Dhroma.
Wales gave debuts to their starting back-three of Kayleigh Powell, Paige Randall and Courtney Keight. They made the trip across the Irish Sea on the back of a 29-5 defeat to Spain in Madrid last weekend, which saw them drop down to ninth in the World Rugby Rankings.
Ireland patiently put the ball through the hands during the early stages of the contest, with captain Griffin once again a prominent figure. Murphy, who made her first start at out-half, eventually found touch in the fifth minute – kick-starting a dominant spell of possession inside the Welsh 22.
The home side were awarded a series of penalties and they looked to their set piece for a potential deadlock-breaker. Galway teenager Beibhinn Parsons impressed during Connacht’s recent march to the Interprovincial final, and her strong carry brought Ireland within touching distance of the Welsh whitewash.
The determined Welsh defence held firm, though, and earned a turnover scrum on the 10-minute mark. Both sides found it difficult to create attacking momentum, with both packs largely dictating the flow of the game.
That was until Ireland’s flying full-back and player-of-the-match Eimear Considine took the initiative with a brilliant weaving run through the defence. She was stopped just short, but some quick recycling led to powerful prop Djougang crashing over to the left of the posts for her first try for Ireland.
While Murphy’s conversion attempt went wide, Ireland were enjoying an encouraging start. Establishing good territory in response, Wales threatened to draw level in the 23rd minute only for some disciplined defence to thwart them.
Wales forced Ireland to dig deep in defence for an extended spell as they won a number of penalties to advance up the left touchline. Even when their lineout maul had them hunting inside the Irish 22, the visitors were denied by superb work by scrum half Nicole Cronin who claimed a turnover penalty.
The sturdy Irish defence maintained the 5-0 lead up to half-time, with Wales flanker Alex Callender knocking on from a late attacking move to bring a scrappy first half to a close. While the game never truly caught fire before the break, that all changed on the restart.
Catching the eye again in attack, the impressive Considine carried with serious intent. She broke into the Welsh 22, combining slickly with Murphy who managed to release Breen who cut inside Powell a few metres out for a smartly-taken five-pointer.
However, a missed Murphy conversion kept Wales within reach and they soon opened their account. Centre Robyn Wilkins superbly judged a 30-metre penalty from the kicking tee, reducing the deficit to 10-3 in the process.
With both coaching teams looking to their respective benches, the intensity of the play dipped to a certain degree. The contest remained delicately poised moving into the final quarter and a smashing Welsh strike move squared things up in the 68th minute.
Using quick lineout ball, lively replacement Sioned Harries burst onto a Wilkins pass in midfield and sliced open the home defence to raid over to the right of the posts. Wilkins comfortably added the extras to make it 10-all and set up a fascinating finale.
Ireland were hell-bent on breaking their autumn duck and were on course to do so following Murphy’s successful penalty kick. However, there was enough time for Wales to gain a couple of crucial scrum penalties and forge a final assault on the Irish line.
Although the girls in green almost turned them over with an incisive counter ruck, they could not prevent the alert Bevan from spotting a sliver of space to score with 83 minutes on the clock. Wilkins’ conversion effort was pushed wide to the right, but Wales had done enough to come out on top.
Referee: Rebecca Mahoney (New Zealand)