Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO Ireland's Lynne Cantwell and Niamh Briggs celebrate after the game.
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Irish rugby fans say goodbye to another legendary 13... Lynne Cantwell
The outside centre made her Ireland debut in 2001.

IRISH RUGBY SUPPORTERS waved goodbye to another outside centre legend today as Lynne Cantwell signed off with a victory over Italy. While Brian O’Driscoll was in exquisite form on his Test farewell at home — setting up three tries — Cantwell backed herself to score and squirrelled over for a crucial first half score.

The 39-0 victory over a determined yet jaded Italian side was a fitting home send-off for the 2013 Grand Slam winner ahead of her final Test, away to France, next weekend.

Opening half tries from Claire Molloy and Cantwell provided the platform for Ireland in the Aviva Stadium, as Philip Doyle’s side kept their RBS Women’s Six Nations Championship prospects alive with a comprehensive victory.

Following a bright start to the contest, Ireland edged into the lead courtesy of a 5th minute penalty by full-back Niamh Briggs, which raised ominous signs for the Azzurri. However, thanks to fine victories over Wales and Scotland, Andrea Di Giandomenico’s outfit were not to be dismissed lightly, and only for a last-gasp interception by the Irish rearguard, Benetto Treviso’s Manuela Furlan may well have broken through on the left-wing.

Indeed, as the first-quarter wore on, the visitors were posing a number of problems for the home defence. Philip Doyle’s charges eventually weathered this storm, though, and despite hitting the woodwork from a 22-metre penalty, UL’s Briggs made no mistake from a similar effort 28 minutes in.

Jenny Murphy scores a try Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

This offered further breathing space to the Scrum Queens, and following excellent spade work by Nora Stapleton and Gillian Bourke, flanker Molloy crossed over for the game’s opening try four minutes later. The confidence-boosting score for Ireland, and thanks to a second converted try by pacey centre Cantwell two minutes before into the interval, Ireland started the second period with a comfortable 20-0 cushion.

The final outcome was then effectively placed beyond any doubt nine minutes after the restart, when Connacht’s Alison Miller (a daughter of former Laois GAA star Bobby) powerfully broke through for the try that her performance deserved.

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Given that this was the first time that a women’s rugby international had been played at Irish Rugby HQ, all of Doyle’s replacements were eager to see action before the end. Indeed, the Ireland bench was eventually unloaded, and after No 8 Heather O’Brien added her side’s fourth try of the evening, substitute Jenny Murphy brought the curtain down on a fine performance with a 79th minute converted score.

This now places Ireland in an excellent frame of mind ahead of a crunch clash against France next week. Having been on the international scene for 13 years, Cantwell will be hoping to finish her career on a silverware high.

Forward power too much for Italy as Ireland women keep party going

Masterful Brian O’Driscoll pulls the strings as Ireland glide past Italy