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Hard-tackling Caplice thrilled to help Ireland hang tough until Parsons breakaway

The talismanic back row put 21 tackles into a phenomenal defensive effort from Ireland.

Caplice carries with Lindsay Peat in support.
Caplice carries with Lindsay Peat in support.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

ANNA CAPLICE SHOWS little evidence of the Trojan workload she has just gotten through as Ireland got their Six Nations off to a winning start against Scotland.

The Mallow woman is waiting to follow her coach Adam Griggs in front of the press, but the cold is setting as she stands, still in full kit.

So she begins to dance on the spot. An 18-14 win, Ireland’s first since beating Scotland in last year’s Six Nations, is well worth celebrating. But after the defensive shift Caplice and Ireland put in, you might have expected her to be lying prone.

Although Ireland hit the ground running in this Championship. lighting up the game with a brilliant expansive brand of rugby, this was a match decided by Ireland’s willingness to get off the ground over and over again to continue making tackles while Scotland amassed over 61% and 62% in territory and possession.

Caplice led the count of Ireland’s dominant tackles and contributed a massive 21 overall to the resistance – a figure only eclipsed by Edel McMahon’s 23 and Victoria Dabanovich O’Mahony’s 22. The total tackle count came to a jaw-dropping 245. Every last one them were crucial to sealing the win.

“It was brilliant, really tough,” says Caplice, who matched up opposite Harlequins team-mate Jade Konkel, “and we knew it would be. We just dug our heels in. We were determined to keep them out towards the end.”

The visitors did well to recover from Ireland’s early excellence, working their way back into the game inch by inch and scrum by scrum to the point that they were pushing to take the lead around the hour mark with the scoreboard reading 13-7.

Injuries were mounting for Ireland with Ciara Griffin departing at half-time through illness after Cliodhna Moloney suffered a suspected concussion midway through the first half.  The defence was understandably flagging after playing for long tracts of the game without the ball and out-half Ellen Griffin was doing her best to hide on the blindside while hobbling around with an ankle injury.

Fortunately, Scotland didn’t spot the lame 10 and instead veered right where…. well, Caplice’s succinct version is all the match report you need.

Beibhinn, after defending our own line for so long. Beibhinn!”

Parsons’ name is belted out like a refrain to a prayer from Caplice. And her intercept was indeed the divine answer Ireland needed to tilt the balance of the match their way when all the momentum was piled behind the visitors.

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beibhinn-parsons-celebrates-scoring-a-try Parsons and team-mates celebrate the match-winner. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We built it into our defence that, if the intercept was on, our quick girls could go for that intercept. And Beibhinn had the confidence to do it and the legs to go all the way. She did us all so proud.”

The penalty count ended 16-8 and played a huge role in keeping the home side on the back foot physically and, mentally, they had to figure out how to adapt to the referee’s perception of the breakdown.

“We’re disappointed with (the penalties), but I was saying inside I’d prefer to win ugly and have a list of things to work on.

“You train all through January and, yes we had a warm-up game, but nothing tests you like a Test. We’ve so much to work on so we’ll take the win.”

Caplice was so intently focused that she found a thought flicker in her head that the whole world must be stopped to watch on. If they weren’t, where were they?

“Today was just so enjoyable. The crowd were just buzzing. I was almost thinking to myself… ‘why isn’t everyone here! This is unbelievable, just as entertaining as the men’s game and good quality too.’

“That’s my plea to everyone: to come out, get into the stands and sell it out completely.”

You won’t be short-changed on drama or effort.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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