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Italian Women produce brilliant attacking display to take first win over Ireland

Adam Griggs’ side take two bonus points away from Parma, but will rue defensive errors which led to a thrilling Italy win.

Italy Women 29

Ireland Women 27

BONUS POINTS ALL round, but Ireland won’t look back fondly on a night when they slipped to a first Six Nations loss to Italy.

Italy were led by the brilliantly abrasive Giada Franco, with Beatrice Rigoni pulling strings with aplomb in midfield to unleash the pacy threat of Aura Muzzo and Sofia Stefan out wide.

Ireland found themselves 17-5 down after just 16 minutes, but Eimear Considine’s two tries ensured they did not fall far adrift and Anna Caplice helped the visitors take the lead before being pegged back at 22-22 after a breathless first-half.

Though tournament debutant Laura Sheehan brought up a bonus point for Ireland with the game’s eighth try, the visitors were unable to keep control of the contest and find a winning score, so it was Franco’s second try and the conversion from Michela Sillari which decided the outcome.

Sara Barattin the excellent Barratin makes a break. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

The Azzuri attacked with dynamic energy backed up by silky handling skills and their movement caused problems for Ireland’s defence.

Muzzo got the benefit of a central break in the seventh minute as the wing rounded off a scything move.

Ireland’s response was efficient, Nicole Fowley expertly delivered a cross-field kick into the arms of Considine who grounded her first score of the game.

Italy’s quality passing stretched Ireland again soon after though, and the powerful Franco finished the sweeping left to right move by barreling over in the corner having turned possession Italy’s way with a blockdown on Kathryn Dane.

Eimear Considine celebrates her try Considine celebrates her try. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

At 17-5, the momentum belonged to the hosts, but Ireland never let go of their coat-tails thanks to Considine’s excellent read to intercept Rigoni’s flat pass and run in a 17th minute try. Ireland then took an unlikely lead through Caplice after Ciara Griffin’s big carry brought the try-line into reach.

There was more expansive Italian rugby to come before the break, however. Rigoni made amends for her earlier intercept with a superb pass into the on-rushing Sofia Stefan.

Sillari’s conversion cracked off the upright to leave the score-line locked at 22-apiece after a frenetic first 40 minutes.

The host’s thrilling attack clicked back into gear 10 minutes after the restart.

Ali Miller appeared to suffer a blow to the head carrying into contact, and shortly after Italy won a breakdown turnover the experienced wing bit in to a tackle as the Azzurri counter-attacked on the short side. Muzzo made the most of the space on Ireland’s left and powered down the wing before offloading inside to gift Franco a second try and ring up a second try-scoring bonus of the tournament.

Sene Naoupu tackles Manuela Furlan Sene Naoupu tackles Manuela Furlan of Italy. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Adam Griggs’ side were rocked, but they did not fall away easily. On her full Six Nations debut, Dane was excellent and delivered consistently sharp and crisp passes from the base of the ruck to help give Ireland forward progress.

After a big Lauren Delany break, Ireland’s pack wrestled their way to get an upper hand in set-piece and Fowley again used her kicking skill to create Ireland’s fourth try.

The cross-field pass found Laura Sheehan, introduced for a Six Nations debut before half-time, and the UL Bohs woman caught despite a wild incoming tackle from Stefan and wriggled over the line after hitting the deck.

Fowley wasn’t able to nail the touchline conversion, so the visitors still had a two-point deficit to close as the clock ticked towards the 80.

Buoyed by a fervent home crowd, it was Italy who looked the most likely to grab a late score though. And so they powered towards the finish line and sealed the win to remain unbeaten and move Italy top of the Six Nations table before England face Wales tomorrow.

Scorers:

Italy

Tries: A Muzzo, G Franco (2), Stefan

Conversions: M Silari (3/4)

Penalties: M Silari (1/1)

Ireland

Tries: E Considine (2), A Caplice, L Sheehan

Conversions: N Fowley (2/4) 

Penalties: N Fowley (1/1)

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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