Ben Brady/INPHO
Off the Mark

Five-try Ireland end long wait for Six Nations win after bonus-point heroics in Cork

Aoife Wafer, Eve Higgins, Neve Jones, Katie Corrigan and Béibhinn Parsons all touched down for Scott Bemand’s side.

Ireland 36

Wales 5

A FIRST SIX Nations victory since 2022, and Ireland delivered with a blistering display. Scott Bemand’s side continued their encouraging form in this year’s championship, but this time, they have points on the board to show for their endeavor at Musgrave Park in Cork.

Player of the Match Aoife Wafer, Neve Jones and Eve Higgins put Ireland into a commanding 21-point lead at the break. Katie Corrigan provided the bonus-point with a try from a charge down within seconds of the restart, and Béibhinn Parsons added the gravy with a scintillating effort from out on the wing. After defeats to France and Italy, Ireland are finally up and running in the Six Nations.

The visitors started brightly, earning a kick that went to the corner in the first minute after Brittany Hogan was penalised in the tackle. Ireland stood firm against the maul though and won the ball back through a penalty.

There were some erroneous moments for Ireland in the early stages. Dorothy Wall fumbled a pass when Ireland were stringing together some promising phase play. 

Another Ireland mistake gifted a scrum to Wales inside their own half when full-back Lauren Delany dropped the ball from a Welsh box-kick. Lineout issues emerged again as well, as Ireland lost their first one and barely secured their second after failing to claim the ball first time.

But after getting those wobbles out of their system, Ireland broke free to score three tries inside 25 minutes. A period of pressure saw Parsons attempt to break through the line with her trademark speed. They spotted the space out wide and sprayed the ball over to Aoife Wafer who lunged in at the corner. Dannah O’Brien swung the ball over from a tricky angle to give Ireland the maximum lead.

Ireland’s growing confidence was clear and a second try was their reward. McMahon made a vital steal from a Welsh lineout to effectively lay the foundations. Scrum-half Aoibheann O’Reilly produced a trick at a ruck to pick up the ball and sneak through unopposed. A wave of Irish shirts surged forward to put the ball in Sam Monaghan’s hands, and Eve Higgins provided the support to stretch over the line and stretch the lead. O’Brien tapped over her second conversion, and suddenly, Ireland were motoring.

Try number three arrived just over 10 minutes later from a stunning set-piece. Wales, under severe Ireland pressure, conceded a penalty for being offside. O’Brien swung the ball into the corner and a powerful maul was finished off by hooker Jones.

eve-higgins-celebrates-after-her-teams-second-try Eve Higgins celebrates her try with the team. Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

A heroic defensive effort from Alex Callender prevented a fourth Ireland try in the closing five minutes of the opening half. A knock-on at the other end ensured Wales were scoreless at the break.

To put the difference of Ireland 2023 and 2024 into context, Ireland were trailing this fixture 26-0 by half-time last year. A staggering turnaround.

A Welsh response was expected on the restart, but instead, winger Corrigan ran in for the bonus-point try. She was alert to get in a charge down on Lleucu George and the floor was hers to rush in without any fuss. She could have had a second try just before the hour-mark when she was presented with the ball out wide with no-one to stop her. But she dropped the ball at the vital moment and the chance was lost.

O’Brien continued her brilliant day from the tee with a penalty to push Ireland 31-0 ahead. There was a big Irish roar in the 51st minute when Clíodhna Moloney — who inexplicably has been omitted from selection since 2021 — made her introduction for Neve Jones. And when Wafer was withdrawn in the final minutes, the stadium erupted to honour her brilliant performance which included 13 carries.

Parsons, who had been threatening to strike throughout, left her handprint on proceedings with a brilliant try on 59 minutes. She gathered the ball out on the wing, turned on the boosters and glided past the outstretched paws in red jerseys.

Ireland couldn’t keep Wales scoreless for the day as replacement Gwennan Hopkins reached in for a try which was confirmed after a TMO review. But that was all that change that Wales could pick from Irish pockets. Carys Cox did slip under the posts in the 76th minute but her score was ruled out for a forward pass.

It’s a result that Ireland badly needed ahead of a challenging away assignment in Twickenham.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Aoife Wafer [1], Eve Higgins [1], Neve Jones [1], Katie Corrigan [1], Béibhinn Parsons [1]

Conversions: Dannah O’Brien [4 from 5]

Penalties: Dannah O’Brien [1 from 1]

Wales scorers:

Try: Gwennan Hopkins [1]

Conversion: Kayleigh Powell [0 from 1] 

Ireland: 15. Lauren Delany; 14. Katie Corrigan, 13. Eve Higgins, 12. Enya Breen [Aoife Dalton '54], 11. Béibhinn Parsons; 10. Dannah O’Brien, 9. Aoibheann Reilly [Molly Scuffil-McCabe '54]; 1. Linda Djougang [Niamh O’Dowd '63], 2. Neve Jones [Clíodhna Moloney '52], 3. Christy Haney [Sadhbh McGrath '63]; 4. Dorothy Wall [Fiona Tuite '49], 5. Sam Monaghan; 6. Aoife Wafer, 7. Edel McMahon [Nicole Fowley '66], 8. Brittany Hogan [Shannon Ikahihifo '58].

Wales: 15. Jenny Hesketh; 14. Jasmine Joyce, 13. Hannah Jones, 12. Kerin Lake [Courtney Keight '33], 11. Carys Cox; 10. Lleucu George [Kayleigh Powell 61], 9. Keira Bevan [Sian Jones '52]; 1. Gwenllian Pyrs [Abbey Constable '59], 2. Carys Phillips [Molly Reardon '52], 3. Sisilia Tuipulotu [Donna Rose '59]; 4. Abbie Fleming [Gwennan Hopkins '61], 5. Georgia Evans; 6. Alisha Butchers, 7. Alex Callender, 8. Bethan Lewis [Natalia John '29].

Referee: Sara Cox.

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