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Dublin: 2 °C Sunday 24 March, 2019
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'As long as they can keep the faith in us, we'll keep fighting'

Adam Griggs praised the record crowd at Donnybrook on Friday night, but it was one of few positives to come from Ireland’s heavy defeat to England.

A RECORD CROWD for a standalone women’s international was one of few positives that could be extracted from another chastening night for Adam Griggs’ Ireland, as they slipped to a heavy defeat to England.

But the Ireland head coach has urged the 4,367 supporters who turned up at a bitterly cold Donnybrook on Friday night to ‘keep the faith in us’ as a youthful team continues to go through a difficult transitional phase. 

Megan Williams dejected after the game It was a tough night for Ireland's women. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland were utterly outclassed by a more physical and fitter England outfit on the opening night of the Women’s Six Nations, as the visitors ran in eight tries in Dublin to further underline the gulf in class between the two nations at present.

Simon Middleton’s side, who have been on professional contracts with the RFU since the start of the year, demonstrated their power up front to bully the hosts — Ireland missed 38 tackles — before cutting loose in the second half to ease to victory.

Although on the receiving end of a 51-7 scoreboard hammering, there were encouraging signs for Ireland in the performance of their scrum — hardly surprising given Mike Ross is in charge of this aspect of their game — while the opening quarter of the contest provided evidence of their improving ability in possession. 

There were also debuts for Linda Djougang, Anne Marie O’Hora and Kathryn Dane off the bench as Griggs continues to deepen the resource pool, but neither he or captain Ciara Griffin were making excuses post-match.

“It’s definitely disappointing, to have that scoreline put on us at home is tough to swallow,” Griggs said.

“You’ve got to look at some positives as well. Certainly, in the first half we created a few chances but just couldn’t capitalise on those but you’ve got to give credit to England, that defensive wall they have is pretty rock solid.

“And for them to be able to flip that around and transition into attack, it’s a different beast. They’re very quick, they’re very strong and that physicality told on us in the end.

“When you have to make so many tackles and soak up all the pressure, the try line is going to open up. We believed in ourselves 100% and we put them under pressure with some of our attack but we just couldn’t get that final nudge over the line.

“We certainly had believe but in the end, their fitness and physicality told on us and we probably ran out of gas.”

Although dominated, and the end result was certainly a reflection of the superior strength and speed in the English side, there were strong individual performances from Claire Molloy, Griffin, Laura Feeley and Michelle Claffey.

Ireland fans at the game A record crowd showed up at Donnybrook on Friday night. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The ever-present Molloy made 21 tackles, completed one turnover and made 12 carries for 66 metres during her 80-minute cameo, although Ireland were simply unable to compete on the ground against a bigger and more robust English pack. 

One of the bright sparks was Ireland’s scrum and the pressure they exerted on the England set-piece eventually led to a penalty try in the second half, giving the thousands who braved the conditions something to cheer about.

Despite the early 5pm kick-off, and sub-zero temperatures, Griggs praised the support his side received.

“It was unbelievable,” the Kiwi added.

You could hear the crowd every time we got into the 22, they really lifted us. We need that and always want that, and hopefully that’s a sign that they can see we’re trying to play rugby, we’re trying to make sure we put teams under pressure.

“They’ve just got to be here with us as it’s going to take time to make sure these younger players get a feel for this. This Test match arena and atmosphere is a lot tougher than coming from an AIL or inter-pro game, it’s a different beast altogether.

“As long as they can keep the faith in us, we’ll keep fighting.”

Scotland next up at Scotstoun.

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Ryan Bailey

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