Ireland’s quest for a place at next year’s Rugby World Cup is over after a devastating 20-18 defeat to Scotland at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
RUGBY WORLD CUP 2021 EUROPE QUALIFIER – ROUND 3: Saturday, September 25
IRELAND WOMEN 18 SCOTLAND WOMEN 20, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
Scorers: Ireland Women: Tries: Linda Djougang, Lindsay Peat; Con: Stacey Flood; Pens: Stacey Flood 2
Scotland Women: Tries: Rhona Lloyd, Lana Skeldon, Chloe Rollie; Con: Sarah Law; Pen: Helen Nelson
HT: Ireland Women 5 Scotland Women 8
With Eve Higgins in the sin bin, Scotland worked an overlap to send Chloe Rollie over in the final minute, tying up this ultra-high stakes contest at 18-all.
Replacement Sarah Law held her nerve to land the all-important conversion from the right, the last-gasp win putting the Scots in second place and through to the final repechage tournament.
Italy’s impressive 34-10 bonus point victory over Spain sends them through as automatic qualifiers for the World Cup, as Ireland could not match their maximum haul.
Adam Griggs’ charges finished third in the round-robin series, their hopes of playing on the biggest stage in New Zealand next year dashed by some nightmare moments.
A tense first half ended 8-5 in Scotland’s favour, the highpoint for Ireland coming midway through when Linda Djougang beat four defenders to run in a superb solo try.
Ireland defended with fierce determination during flanker Edel McMahon’s sin-binning, yet Scotland out-half Helen Nelson kicked a penalty and deftly created Rhona Lloyd’s late score to edge her side ahead.
Eight minutes after the break, hooker Lana Skeldon drove low to add the Scots’ second try. Ireland rallied and found renewed energy with Claire Molloy starring off the bench.
Two Stacey Flood penalties sandwiched a Lindsay Peat try, created cleverly by Sene Naoupu. The repechage berth was within reach with Ireland leading 18-13.
However, Scotland had one final push and capitalised on Higgins’ yellow card. Rollie’s pace taking her in closer to the posts and Law delivered the killer blow.
Early nerves were evident given the prize on offer, a couple of rips-in-the-tackle blunting both attacks. Ireland’s lineout was proving more reliable, though, with the scrum also winning a free-kick.
Flood’s smart kicking game pinned Scotland back, but the Dubliner missed touch from a 15th-minute penalty opportunity as the scoreboard remained bare.
That changed at the end of the first quarter, a loose pass scooped up by Djougang who displayed brilliant pace and power to charge over in the left corner from just outside the Scottish 22.
Following Flood’s missed conversion, Scotland gained good field position and McMahon saw yellow for a high tackle on opposite number Rachel McLachlan. Nelson fired over from the tee to make it 5-3.
Ireland’s scramble defence coped admirably without McMahon – and Eimear Considine who was down receiving treatment. A scampering Rollie threatened but the girls in green were up to the task.
The Scots soon smelt blood, a fumble by replacement Lauren Delany giving them a prominent scrum. Hannah Smith gobbled up yards into the 22, and Nelson’s pinpoint kick was grounded by Lloyd just ahead of Beibhinn Parsons.
The try went unconverted but it was hugely disappointing for Ireland to concede just before the interval. Bryan Easson’s charges headed to the dressing room with a three-point advantage.
Ireland’s decision-making let them down early in the second half. After winning a scrum penalty, they elected for another set piece and the Scots got the referee’s call this time. A subsequent maul had them inches away from a try.
Playing the penalty advantage, hooker Skeldon managed to burrow over for an unconverted score, with Dorothy Wall and replacement Peat unable to stop her.
Cliodhna Moloney led Ireland’s response, carrying strongly as they got to within a few metres out. The penalty came and Flood took the points on offer, closing the gap to 13-8.
Djougang and Parsons made more headway approaching the hour mark, the Irish pack taking up the baton and the bench – including the vastly-experienced Molloy – had the desired impact in contact.
The waves of attack wore down the Scottish defence sufficiently enough for Naoupu to draw in two defenders and send Peat over on a hard line, from a few metres out. Flood’s conversion moved Ireland back in front – 15-13.
The gap was out to five points after another good strike from Flood’s left boot, yet with the clock ticking down, Ireland’s lead was never an assured one.
Scotland ramped up the pressure again, Molloy having to stem the tide with a rip in the tackle and then another big play at the breakdown to force a relieving penalty.
Parsons then did well to bring down Rollie right on the Irish 22-metre line as the Scots hunted once more, their persistence eventually paying off.
Higgins lifted Lisa Thomson above the horizontal in a tackle, picking up a yellow after a TMO review. Thomson missed touch from the penalty, only for Scotland to spark again.
Ireland ran out of numbers out wide as some crisp passing released Rollie for the levelling score, and Law coolly converted to send her team-mates – and the table-topping Italians in the stand – into raptures.
TIME LINE: 19 minutes – Ireland try: Linda Djougang – 5-0; conversion: missed by Stacey Flood – 5-0; 24 mins – Ireland yellow card: Edel McMahon; 24 mins – Scotland penalty: Helen Nelson – 5-3; 39 mins – Scotland try: Rhona Lloyd – 5-8; conversion: missed by Helen Nelson – 5-8;
Half-time – Ireland 5 Scotland 8; 48 mins – Scotland try: Lana Skeldon – 5-13; conversion: missed by Sarah Law – 5-13; 53 mins – Ireland penalty: Stacey Flood – 8-13; 61 mins – Ireland try: Lindsay Peat – 13-13; conversion: Stacey Flood – 15-13; 65 mins – Ireland penalty: Stacey Flood – 18-13; 76 mins – Ireland yellow card: Eve Higgins; 80 mins – Scotland try: Chloe Rollie – 18-18; conversion: Lisa Thomson – 18-20; Full-time – Ireland 18 Scotland 20
IRELAND WOMEN: Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster); Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster), Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Blackrock College/Connacht); Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster), Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster); Laura Feely (Blackrock College/Connacht), Cliodhna Moloney (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Nichola Fryday (Blackrock College/Connacht), Sam Monaghan (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/Munster), Edel McMahon (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt).
Replacements used: Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby) for Considine (37 mins-half-time), Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster) for Feely (half-time), Claire Molloy (Wasps/IQ Rugby) for McMahon (52), Emily Lane (Blackrock College/Munster) for Dane (63), Brittany Hogan (DCU/Old Belvedere/Ulster) for Monaghan (66). Not used: Neve Jones (Malone/Ulster), Leah Lyons (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby), Lucy Mulhall (Rathdrum/Leinster).
SCOTLAND WOMEN: Chloe Rollie (Harlequins); Rhona Lloyd (Les Lionness du Stade Bordelais), Hannah Smith (Watsonians), Lisa Thomson (Sale Sharks), Megan Gaffney (Heriot’s); Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning), Jenny Maxwell (Loughborough Lightning); Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning), Lana Skeldon (Worcester Warriors), Christine Belisle (Cartha Queens Park), Emma Wassell (Loughborough Lightning), Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill), Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning) (capt), Rachel McLachlan (Sale Sharks), Jade Konkel (Harlequins).
Replacements used: Sarah Law (Sale Sharks) for Nelson (49 mins), Lisa Cockburn (Darlington Mowden Park) for Bartlett (63), Sarah Bonar (Harlequins) for McMillan (67), Molly Wright (Watsonians) for Skeldon (69). Not used: Katie Dougan (Hillhead Jordanhill), Evie Gallagher (Stirling County), Mairi McDonald (Hillhead Jordanhill), Abi Evans (Darlington Mowden Park).
Referee: Clara Munarini (Italy)
All images used in this article are credit to INPHO and were sourced on the IRFU’s website- Irishrugby.ie