James Lloyd reports from Cardiff Arms Park
IRELAND REMAIN ON course for a Women’s Six Nations Grand Slam after a hard-fought 12-7 victory over Wales in Cardiff.
Tom Tierney brought back Alison Miller, Hannah Tyrrell and Sene Naoupu to his side after their stint with Ireland’s Sevens side in Las Vegas as they aimed to build on round three’s 13-10 win over France and build towards a second Six Nations clean sweep in three years.
Tries from Lindsay Peat and wing Tyrrell helped them over the line to set up a tense final fixture against England at Donnybrook next weekend.
Before the game, an emotional Cardiff Arms Park crowd paid tribute to Elli Norkett, a 20-year-old Wales international who was tragically killed in a car accident a fortnight ago.
A united Wales made the brighter start and were happy to fling the ball around in the early exchanges, but the Irish wall twice held firm in the opening 10 minutes.
Jenny Murphy (pictured above) then made a midfield break for the visitors who were unable to capitalise on the gain of ground with the hosts clearing their lines.
It took 38 minutes until the game’s first score with Ireland sneaking ahead on the stroke of half time. Fly-half and player of the match Nora Stapleton booted for touch from a penalty and a brutal driving maul saw prop Peat slam over. Stapleton added the extras.
After the break, Peat turned from hero to villain after being yellow carded following Dyddgu Hywel’s surging run from her own 22. And soon after, Wales had their reward. An initial attempt from the catch and drive fell short, but Shona Powell-Hughes peeled off the back and crashed over by the posts with Robyn Wilkins tying the game with the conversion.
Source: Ian Cook/INPHO
Ireland returned to 15 and the tables then flipped when Wales prop Amy Evans was sin-binned for a high tackle on Kim Flood.
The game remained on a knife-edge going into the final 20 minutes as Ireland looked to make the most of the extra player.
The visitors were twice held up by an inspired red wall, with scrum-half Keira Bevan valiantly halting what looked like a certain Irish try.
But seconds later the visitors had their reward when Stapleton picked out Tyrrell on the wing, who did enough to dive over in the corner. Stapleton missed the extras to keep the difference at five points, but Ireland remained calm to secure a crucial victory.
Tries – Powell-Hughes,
Conversion – Wilkins
Yellow Card – A Evans
Tries – Peat, Tyrrell
Conversions – Stapleton
Yellow Card – Peat
Wales: Hywel; E Evans (Rowland, 63), Lake, De Filippo (Snowshill, 56), Taviner; Wilkins, Bevan (Parker, 72); Thomas, Phillips (capt) (L Harries, 68), A Evans (Pyrs, 72), Rowe (Lillicrap, 53), Clay, S Harries (Hale, 55-63), Taylor, Powell-Hughes (Butchers, 63)
Ireland: Flood; Tyrrell, Murphy (Caughey, 72), Naoupu, Miller; Stapleton, Healy (Muldoon, 40); Peat, Lyons, Egan (O’Reilly, 68), Spence, Reilly (Cooney, 72), Griffin, Molloy, Fitzpatrick (capt) (van Staden, 42-50)