Tries: Parsons, Moloney, Delany, Djougang, Penalty Try Cons: Keohane 2
Tries: Smyth, Lillicrap Con: Wilkins
Ireland recorded a bonus-point victory over Wales, in stormy conditions at Donnybrook which lifted them to the summit of the Women’s Six Nations Championship table.
First-half tries from Beibhinn Parsons, Cliodhna Moloney and Lauren Delany put Ireland in the driving seat after 34 minutes as they wrestled to a 19-0 lead. Wales clawed back two tries of their own, either side of half time before Linda Djougang and a late penalty try sealed Ireland’s second consecutive victory in stunning fashion.
Despite Storm Ciara’s best efforts, the sunshine belted down on Energia Park as the National Anthems were belted out. It was the Welsh who were on the front foot in the early stages as they pinned Ireland back in their own 22. It seemed like only a matter of time before the visitors opened their account but the resolute Irish defence which was on display against Scotland last week held their ground.
Wales were unable to make the most of the early pressure and Ireland scored with their first venture into the Welsh half. 18-year-old winger Beibhinn Parsons showed dazzling footwork and balance to find a gap in the Welsh defence as she crossed the whitewash in stunning style. Parsons is quickly making a name for herself in tight situations as she made space out of nowhere to a gap the Welsh defence.
With their tails up, Ireland surged forward and began to win the gain-line battle. The likes of Anna Caplice, Cliodhna Moloney and Linda Djougang were phenomenal in giving Ireland go-forward ball which allowed a platform for the backs to show their one-on-on ability. After multiple phases and lovely hands, Sene Naoupu broke the Welsh midfield and threw a lovely offload to Moloney who thundered over in the 26th minute.
12-0 up and with all the momentum and crowd support on their side, Ireland were brimming with confidence. They quickly scored their third as the returning Eimear Considine was on hand to release Lauren Delany with a stunning off-load before Delany did the rest with a brilliant finish. In windy conditions, Ireland displayed incredible handling skills with so many offloads and difficult passes going to hand.
Wales were subsequently down to 14 after loosehead prop Gwenllian Pyrs was sent to the sin-bin. Ireland were unable to make the numerical advantage count and it was in fact Wales who benefited. Welsh winger Lauren Smyth claimed an unconverted try on the stroke of half-time to leave Ireland 17-5 up at the interval.
Following the restart, Ireland knew they would need the next score to supress any chance of a Wales comeback. They did this through the sheer power and strength of the outstanding tighthead Linda Djougang who so easily could have picked up the Player of the Match. Djougang, who only took up rugby four years ago, smashed through three Welsh tacklers to seal the bonus point just after the break. An outstanding display of brute force and awareness to dot down over the try-line.
The visitors’ captain Siwan Lillicrap hit back straightaway from close range with Robyn Wilkins converting to leave the scores 24-12.
It wasn’t long after this when the conditions took a dramatic turn for the worst. Storm Ciara announced itself in devasting fashion. The rain came pouring down with the blistering wind causing havoc. Credit to the players who braved the conditions and still put on a show for the crowd.
Understandably however the conditions had an effect on both sides’ game plan and a more abrasive brand of rugby came to the fore. Ireland began to hit their forward pods more often which seemed to suck the life out of the Welsh defence.
The introduction of fresh legs gave Ireland a final boost going into the last ten minutes as they began to dominate the set-piece. While Wales battled bravely for a final score it was the power of the Irish pack which had the final say. A scrum on the Wales 5 metre line was pushed over the try-line before it was collapsed. This earned Ireland a penalty try, their fifth try of the game, and the game ended 31-12.
Prior to the tournament, Ireland targeted three home wins from three and have already ticked two off that list. Ireland are now top of the table after the Scotland vs England game fell foul to the Storm Ciara. Next up is England away – this will be a true test of how far these Irish players have come.