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Dublin: 10 °C Monday 18 March, 2019

Five-try Ireland show clinical edge to claim bonus-point win over Wales

Adam Griggs’ side held off a Welsh fightback to finish strongly and rack up a big win.

Naoupu goes over for Ireland's third try.
Naoupu goes over for Ireland's third try.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ireland 35

Wales 12

Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook

A PERFORMANCE BRIMMING with intent, purpose and physicality yielded the maximum return for Ireland in terms of points, but perhaps more significantly it was  result which should act as a real yardstick for this side under Adam Griggs.

Ireland were forced to defend for large periods but their work without the ball in subduing a dangerous Welsh outfit was only matched by their clinical edge at the other end, with the hosts running in five tries to record their second win of the Six Nations campaign.

Claire Molloy, named player of the match, was outstanding and drove standards throughout with her tireless industry around the breakdown frustrating the visitors, while there were big performances from the likes of Leah Lyons, Paula Fitzpatrick and Sene Naoupu.

Molloy crossed twice, including the final score which sealed an impressive bonus-point victory, while Lyons, Naoupu and replacement wing Hannah Tyrrell were also on the mark in front of a healthy Sunday afternoon crowd at Donnybrook.

Those who braved the biting conditions were treated to a fine game with Ireland’s handling and execution of the basic skills much improved from last day against Italy and that was reflected in the end result, with the home side improving vastly as the tournament progresses.

Next up is a home game against Scotland and Ireland will take real confidence into that game, with a Triple Crown tilt very much on the table ahead of the campaign finale on St Patrick’s weekend against England.

Ireland know they will need to up their game again for the final two outings, but they got much pretty everything right on this occasion.

After a scrappy and error-strewn opening quarter, Ailsa Hughes set the contest alight with a sharp break down the blindside after a solid scrum. The scrum-half showed all her pace but could have set the supporting Megan Williams free on her inside shoulder but delayed and took the ball into contact.

Claire McLaughlin with Elinor Snowsill and Lisa Neumann Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Wales were quick over the ball in search of the turnover but were penalised for being off their feet, allowing Briggs to kick deep into opposition territory. Lyons found her target and when the first maul was taken down, there was no stopping Ireland second time around as the tighthead crashed over.

The visitors continued to dominate possession and territory but a combination of poor handling and strong Irish defence meant the hosts kept the door shut, before striking for the second time on the stroke of half-time.

Ireland’s set-piece is a real strength and the work of Mike Ross as scrum coach is evident, with another big shove providing the platform for Briggs to feed the ever-willing Naoupu to carve through midfield and feed her centre partner Katie Fitzhenry.

Wales scrambled defensively and winger Hannah Bluck managed to haul Fitzhenry down millimetres short of the whitewash, but Ireland recycled quickly and Molloy forced her way over from close range.

Wales felt aggrieved to be behind at the break — their profligacy costing them on more than one occasion — but Rowland Phillips’ side came flying out of the blocks after the interval, and hit back instantly through a powerful maul of their own. Prop Amy Evans was the player to finish off.

The momentum was beginning to turn, and when referee Sara Cox played advantage after Lindsay Peat’s flaying arm caught Mel Clay dangerously high on halfway, Ireland were caught sleeping and Sioned Harries ghosted through two would-be tacklers to bring the score back to 14-12.

Elinor Snowsill missed the conversion attempt from this near touchline but Wales had landed a double-blow as Peat was correctly sent to the bin for 10 minutes.

Wales continued to probe, looking to stretch Ireland at every opportunity, but the hosts were steadfast in their defensive duty and tireless work from the likes of Lyons, Griffin and Molloy ensured this was to be their day.

Most impressive, however, was Ireland’s ruthlessness in taking their chances.

Sene Naoupu celebrates her try with teammates Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

After another driving maul, Briggs linked with Naoupu again, and the centre, running a superb line from deep, did the rest as she raced under the posts to extend Ireland’s lead, with Briggs adding the extras.

Ireland, crucially, had breathing space heading into the final quarter, but there was no let-up in their work without the ball and Griggs’ charges moved through the gears to pull clear.

Replacement Tyrrell and Molloy both crossed in the final exchanges to the delight of the home crowd, with fullback Kim Flood taking over the kicking duties and landing both conversions.

Five tries, five points and an excellent performance to build on. Onwards and upwards from here.

Ireland scorers:Tries: Leah Lyons, Claire Molloy [2], Sene Naoupu, Hannah Tyrrell
Conversions: Niamh Briggs [3 from 3], Kim Flood [2 from 2]Wales scorers:Tries: Amy Evans, Sioned Harries
Conversions: Elinor Snowsill [1 from 2]

IRELAND: 15. Kim Flood, 14. Megan Williams, 13. Katie Fitzhenry, 12. Sene Naoupu, 11. Claire McLaughlin (Hannah Tyrrell 61’), 10. Niamh Briggs (Michelle Claffey 70’), 9. Ailsa Hughes (Nicole Cronin 66’); 1. Lindsay Peat (Fiona Reidy 75’), 2. Ciara O’Connor (Cliodhna Moloney 49’), 3. Leah Lyons (Laura Feely 76’), 4. Orla Fitzsimons (Edel McMahon 66’), 5. Aoife McDermott, 6. Ciara Griffin (captain), 7. Claire Molloy, 8. Paula Fitzpatrick.

WALES: 15. Lisa Neumann, 14. Hannah Bluck, 13. Kerin Lake, 12. Rebecca De Filippo (Hannah Jones 43’), 11. Jess Kavanagh-Williams, 10. Elinor Snowsill, 9. Rhiannon Parker (Jade Knight 61’); 1. Caryl Thomas, 2. Carys Phillips (captain), 3. Amy Evans, 4. Siwan Lillicrap, 5. Mel Clay, 6. Alisha Butchers, 7. Beth Lewis, 8. Sioned Harries.

Referee: Sara Cox [RFU].

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Ryan Bailey

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