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Two Wins Out Of Two For Ireland Women

Two Wins Out Of Two For Ireland Women

It was a lot less emphatic that their opening round victory over Scotland, but a 61st minute try from the influential Heather O’Brien kept Ireland’s hopes of securing back-to-back Women’s RBS 6 Nations titles very much alive in blustery Ashbourne.



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Although major challenges against England, Italy and France await them in the coming weeks, there is reason for Fiona Coghlan and her team-mates to be pleased with their efforts in the first two rounds.

The fact that they have yet to concede a try is testament to the way they have been going about their business, continuing to display the sort of defensive grit that was a hallmark of last year's Grand Slam.

They had to dig deep throughout this contest at their County Meath base, with the fired-up visitors determined to gain revenge for their narrow 12-10 loss at home twelve months ago.

But the defending champions showed that they are more than capable of grinding out a result, and it was clear from early on that this was going to be a much tougher assignment than Scotland last week.

Ireland continued where they left off in that 59-0 demolition of the Scots, with Claire Molloy, Nora Stapleton and Alison Miller all featuring prominently during some promising initial passages.

However, Wales performed their defensive duties in a meticulous fashion. Indeed, having weathered the early Irish storm led by centres Lynne Cantwell and Jenny Murphy, the Welsh girls made their own inroads.

A bout of indiscipline eventually presented highly regarded centre Robyn Wilkins with an opportunity to open the scoring from a close range penalty 17 minutes in.

Her kick at goal was from an awkward left hand angle, but she slotted it comfortably. Wilkins added a second penalty from a similar position eight minutes later, handing her side a six-point platform.

Having made such a promising start to the proceedings, Ireland found themselves pegged back by a team that were desperate to atone for their narrow defeat at home to Italy last Sunday.

Despite enjoying plenty of possession towards the end of the first half, the wet and windy conditions were making it difficult for Ireland to execute their customary brand of attacking rugby and there a good deal of errors throughout.

The well-organised Welsh defence continued to frustrate Ireland as the second quarter wore on – the onrushing Hannah Casey was brought down by Rebecca de Filippo's solid tackle – but the girls in green did manage to reap some form of rewards for their endeavours.

Their patience was rewarded when returning full-back Niamh Briggs landed a penalty just a minute before half-time to cut the gap to 6-3.

There was a sense that Briggs' timely opener, with the Irish pack growing in influence, could prove to be a crucial moment in the game.

And following a lengthy spell of dominance in the Welsh 22, during which Miller dropped a Casey pass with the whitewash close by, Briggs brought Ireland level with a second routine penalty in the 50th minute following a Murphy burst.

Her second successful place-kick came after Wales' Laurie Harries was penalised for a high tackle on Cantwell and she saw yellow for her indiscretion.

During Harries' time in the sin-bin, Ireland continued to dominate possession and with momentum very much on their side, they were ready to turn the tie in their favour.

The pivotal moment arrived just past the hour mark when a scrum close to the Welsh line provided Ireland with an ideal platform.

Number 8 Heather O'Brien displayed great initiative to break off the back of the scrum, beat the cover and drive over forcefully in the right corner for her second try of the Championship.

Briggs was wide of the mark from a tricky conversion attempt in the wind, but with Wales struggling to mount much in attack, Ireland's 11-6 lead looked a secure one with time running out.

Doyle's charges were perilously close to crossing the whitewash for a second time in the dying embers as Miller and Briggs combined but Wales, who also had lock Shona Powell Hughes sin-binned, held out.

It fell to leading lady Briggs to seal the result in injury-time as her superbly-struck penalty from the 22-metre line confirmed Ireland's seventh consecutive Six Nations victory.

Referee: Nicky Inwood (New Zealand)