IRELAND WOMEN’S HEAD coach Tom Tierney opted to steer clear of making Claire Molloy’s worrying injury an issue in the wake of the 34 – 7 defeat to England in the Six Nations Grand Slam decider.
The openside flanker was a constant pest to England both in the carry and on the deck. The world champions were attempting to exit their 22 with the score 5 – 0 in the 50th minute when Molloy tackled powerful second row Harriet Millar-Mills, inadvertently taking a shoulder to the head that left her laid flat out.
Spanish referee Alhambra Nievas allowed play to continue rather than halt the game for the serious head injury. Both sides coughed up possession in the frenetic phases that followed, but the net result was that England had cleared their lines and established a base in Irish territory that eventually brought a 53rd minute try from replacement prop Laura Keates to swing the game irrevocably.
Asked if play ought to have been stopped for the incident, Tierney said:
“You’re asking the wrong man, the only thing that matters is that Claire’s fine.”
No arguments here. But despite the final margin of England’s victory, St Patrick’s night was full of positives for the women in green. Led by Molloy, Sophie Spence and Jenny Murphy, Ireland delivered a rare physicality match for the world’s second ranked side.
“That first 50 minutes, we were defending for most of it. It just took its toll on us, unfortunately. When they got that second try the shackles were off for them and they showed how good they are.
“We were chasing shadows for a bit of that second half. ”
It’s easy to argue that 34 – 7 doesn’t merit an optimistic outlook. Ireland left plenty of room for improvement in the performance too. Out-half Nora Stapleton, though fluid in her distribution, missed touch with a number of penalties from hand and passed up kickable opportunities when a score might have cranked up the pressure on England by narrowing their five-point lead.
Even without the goal-kicking threat, Ireland were unlucky not to force their way onto the scoreboard before half-time through their efficient maul. A score, any score, would have created a whole different Paddy’s night ball game.
“When you go in just one score down and have the wind at your back in the second half, you’re confident enough that if you can get the first 10 minutes of the second half right and get a score – which was key – it might possibly change the course of the game.
“Unfortunately we didn’t take the opportunity and then England showed their class for the last 30 minutes.
“Physically, the girls are beaten up inside (in the dressing room). That English team is very, very impressive.”
The physical bruising sustained by his team and the mental sting of the 27-point margin left Tierney downcast as he stood on the Donnybrook turf under the Friday night lights. However, when the weekend is put behind him, he has every reason to look back with pride at a performance which promises a bright summer ahead – even with a tough World Cup pool against Australia, Japan and France in store.
“We don’t run away with ourselves when we win and we don’t get too down when we lose,” the coach shrugged.
“There were certain aspects of the game, when we look back we’ll be happy with and others we’ll need to work on.
“If we are to become competitive in the World Cup we’ll have to meet teams like England again and we have to be more accurate than we were today.
“Great credit due to the girls, we knew we were going to be up against a hugely physical English team that can play both types of game – kicking game, and running game.
“They’re definitely going to be favourites for the World Cup.”