Big blow for Ireland Women as sloppy showing sees Spain win

Adam Griggs’ side have had a worrying start to their World Cup qualifying tournament in Italy.

Ireland 7

Spain 8

IRELAND WOMEN HAVE suffered a big blow in their opening game of the World Cup 2021 Qualifier tournament with a surprise 8-7 defeat to Spain.

Adam Griggs’ side had been expected to open their account with victory over Spain, ranked one place below them in World Rugby’s official list, but were deservedly beaten in Parma, Italy.

lindsay-peat Ireland struggled in the second half. Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland delivered a very poor performance that featured major set-piece issues, handling errors, poor discipline, and breakdown woes.

They led until the 71st minute but Spanish pressure finally told as they crossed for a winning try.

The defeat leaves Ireland with an uphill battle ahead of their remaining games against hosts Italy and Scotland, both of whom are Six Nations teams – whereas Spain are not part of that frontline tournament.

The winner of this Qualifier tournament in Italy will secure a place at next year’s delayed World Cup in New Zealand, while the second-placed team will have one last shot at making it in a final qualification competition.

Ireland will need to make swift improvements if they are to get their hopes back on track by beating Italy on Sunday after the Italians recorded an impressive 38-13 victory over Scotland earlier today.

dorothy-wall Dorothy Wall carries the ball for Ireland. Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO / INPHO

Spain started the brighter in Parma as Patricia Garcia slotted her second shot at goal following some early scrum pressure but left wing Beibhinn Parsons soon had Ireland in front at the end of their first attacking opportunity in the Spanish half.

Experienced centre Sene Naoupu carried in midfield from a right-hand side lineout before out-half Stacey Flood skipped a long pass to Parsons wide on the left, where she stepped and accelerated sharply outside Spanish fullback Iera Echebarria in her latest display of dazzling finishing ability.

Flood converted Parsons’ try to leave Ireland with a 7-3 lead, one they carried all the way into half-time.

There were chances aplenty in between though, with the Spanish attack repeatedly threatening only for key breakdown turnovers by captain Ciara Griffin and hooker Cliodhna Moloney to help Ireland cling on.

Both sides missed opportunities from five-metre lineouts, while Ireland were also held out in the closing minutes of the half after a superb 50:22 kick from Flood was followed by Spain centre Amalia Argudo being sin-binned for her infringement close to the tryline as Moloney was then held up.

Ireland had a numerical advantage and created a chance wide on the left in the 37th minute but Griffin’s pass was in front of Parsons and into touch. 

beibhinn-parsons-celebrates-with-the-teammates-after-scoring-a-try Beibhinn Parsons scored early on for Ireland. Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO / INPHO

Griggs’ side thought they had scored just a minute into the second half as wing Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe swept over via a short line off Flood’s outside shoulder in midfield, but a TMO intervention showed that scrum-half Kathryn Dane had knocked on just before passing to Flood. 

Spain gratefully welcomed Argudo back from her yellow card having denied Ireland a score during that 10-minute window, while the Irish error count also stymied their hopes of extending the four-point lead.

Consistent bouts of pressure inside the Spanish 22 failed to yield results on the scoreboard, with a 64th-minute visit looking particularly promising until Ireland went off their feet at the breakdown.

Those failures were compounded by Spain constructing an excellent maul down the other end just minutes later, with debutant Irish replacement lock Sam Monaghan yellow-carded for collapsing it close to the Irish tryline as the Spanish looked likely to score.

Griffin and co. needed to produce a big response and managed to force a relieving penalty under their own posts as Spanish sealed off at the breakdown. 

But Ireland’s defence finally cracked in the 71st minute as Spain quick-tapped their latest penalty in the Irish 22 and then shifted the ball wide to the left for Lea Ducher to cross, her unconverted try leading the Spanish 8-7 in front.

maika-brust-celebrates-with-teammates-after-scoring Spain celebrate their winning try. Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO / INPHO

An offside penalty concession from Spain allowed Ireland back down into their 22 but once again, the Irish lineout malfunctioned to waste another opportunity. 

A double tackle by Edel McMahon and Griffin forced another Spanish turnover soon after, however, and Ireland’s ensuing attack earned them another penalty.

Replacement out-half Enya Breen took on the shot at goal from over 30 metres out but her attempt dropped underneath the crossbar.

Spain closed it out from there to celebrate a huge victory.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Beibhinn Parsons

Conversions: Stacey Flood [1 from 1]

Spain scorers:

Tries: Lea Ducher

Conversions: Patricia Garcia [0 from 1]

Penalties: Patricia Garcia [1 from 2]

IRELAND: Eimear Considine; Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, Lucy Mulhall, Sene Naoupu (Emily Lane ’74), Beibhinn Parsons (Lauren Delany ’54); Stacey Flood (Enya Breen ’56), Kathryn Dane; Lindsay Peat (Laura Feely ’66), Cliodhna Moloney (Neve Jones ’66), Linda Djougang (Leah Lyons ’66); Aoife McDermott (Sam Monaghan ’52), Nichola Fryday; Dorothy Wall, Ciara Griffin (captain), Brittany Hogan (Edel McMahon ’54).

SPAIN: Iera Echebarria (Lea Ducher); Bea Dominguez, Amaia Erbina, Amalia Argudo (yellow card ’35) (Eva Aguirre ’68), Maria Garcia; Anne Fernandez de Corres, Patricia Garcia; Saioa Jaurena (Cristina Blanco ‘), Marga Rodriguez (Isabel Rico ’47), Laura Delgado (captain) (Maika Brust ’65); Anna Puig, Monica Castelo (Carmen Castellucci ’55); Olivia Fresneda, Maria Calvo, Lourdes Alameda.

Replacements: Carmen Rodera, Lucia Diaz

Referee: Nikki O’Donnell [RFU].

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