The Irish Women’s Rugby Team defeated Wales 29-19 in Donnybrook, in preparation for the fast- approaching Six Nations Championship which gets underway on February 1.
Irish captain Ciara Griffin, Anna Caplice and Lauren Delany crossed the white line for Ireland in the first half, before Laura Sheehan and Linda Djougang secured victory after a spirited Welsh fightback. With the opening Six Nation’s match against England less than a fortnight away, Ireland impressed trying out new combinations whilst running in five tries on the way to victory.
Head-coach Adam Griggs had announced a 29-strong squad to face Wales, with eight uncapped players named. However, teenage Enya Breen was the only new face to feature in the starting fifteen as she partnered Michelle Claffey in midfield.
Ireland dominated the opening exchanges winning the battle on the gain line and their pressure told after Ellen Murphy was held up short on the try-line. Captain, Ciara Griffin, opened the scoring for Ireland as she peeled off the scrum and barged her way over the Welsh try-line. The Munster and UL Bohemian back rower has been one of the first names on the Ireland team sheet since making her international debut in 2016, and Ireland will be looking to her for inspiration over the upcoming Six Nations Championship.
The pressure continued to mount as flanker Caplice, who plays her club rugby for Richmond in England scored in the corner after a number of phases for Ireland.
Wales responded with a try of their own as Kelsey Jones crossed over for a try after a strong set-piece move. Wales couldn’t keep the momentum however as Ireland’s fullback flyer Lauren Delany once again showed her dancing feet as she jinked past a covering defender to claim another eye-catching score.
Ireland went into the half-time interval with a 15-7 lead but Wales came out firing in the second half and turned the game on its head. Speedster Jasmine Joyce got on the end of a sweeping counter attack to grab Wales’ second try of the game. Soon after, Wales profited from a charged down kick to take the lead 19-15, in the space of six second half-minutes.
Ireland showed great character and the strength of their bench as a number of replacements were made and Ireland soon began to exert their dominance on the match.
Nicole Fowley’s cross-field kick made its way out towards the left wing where Munster’s Laura Sheehan, another recent debutant, calmly ran in for Ireland to retake the lead with a simple finish. The UL Bohemians speedster enjoyed a try-scoring debut with the Ireland Women’s 15s team against the USA in November.
The momentum had truly swung in the way of the girls in green as their pack began to assert their dominance. Linda Djougang carried the ball over the line for Ireland on her first start as the Irish pack brilliantly set up another rolling maul. Djougang began playing rugby only four years ago, learning the rules in the Trinity College tag rugby league. She now fids herself training and playing with the Ireland squad – a remarkable achievement for the powerful athlete.
Victory marked a great performance and rehearsal for Ireland who now turn their attention to the opening round of the Championship on Friday, February 1, where they take on England in the 5pm kick-off.
IRELAND WOMEN 29 WALES WOMEN 19, Energia Park, Donnybrook
Tries: Ciara Griffin, Anna Caplice, Lauren Delany, Laura Sheehan, Linda Djougang;
Cons: Nicole Fowley 2
Tries: Kelsey Jones, Jasmine Joyce 2
Cons: Robyn Wilkins 2
HT: Ireland Women 15 Wales Women 7
IRELAND WOMEN’S SIX NATIONS FIXTURES:
Friday, February 1:
IRELAND WOMEN v ENGLAND WOMEN, Energia Park, Donnybrook, 5pm (live RTÉ/Sky Sports)
Friday, February 8:
SCOTLAND WOMEN v IRELAND WOMEN, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow, 7.35pm (live RTÉ)
Saturday, February 23:
ITALY WOMEN v IRELAND WOMEN, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, 7.30pm local time/6.30pm Irish time (live RTÉ/Eurosport Italia)
Saturday, March 9:
IRELAND WOMEN v FRANCE WOMEN, Energia Park, Donnybrook, 7pm (live RTÉ/France Televisions)
Sunday, March 17:
WALES WOMEN v IRELAND WOMEN, Cardiff Arms Park, 1.30pm (live RTÉ/S4C)