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No big stage nerves from Ireland as Six Nations defence starts with a bang

Tom Tierney’s side were dominant at Donnybrook.

Niamh Briggs' break led to the second try.
Niamh Briggs' break led to the second try.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland 21
Wales 3

Ryan Bailey reports from Donnybrook

AS FAR AS opening games of a Six Nations campaign go, this was pretty much faultless from Ireland as they produced a performance befitting of the occasion.

Tom Tierney’s side dictated proceedings from start to finish and two first-half tries provided the foundation for a resounding victory over Wales at Donnybrook.

It took Ireland a couple of minutes to settle into the contest, initial nerves evident during an error-strewn opening passage, but they soon found their stride in-front of a healthy crowd.

There was an energy and purpose in the hosts’ play and the winter skills work captain Niamh Briggs had spoken about in the build-up was evident.

The support play was exceptional and Ireland found gaps in the Welsh defence at regular intervals. Sene Naoupu was the stand-out player and it was her piece of individual brilliance which set the home side on their way.

The centre, whose husband George plays for Connacht, burst through midfield and showed great speed and strength to hold off the tackles and force her way over.

Sene Naoupu runs in a try Sene Naoupu was excellent all day and scored the game's opening try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It was Briggs who created the second try with a break of her own, before Sophie Spence, once again excellent in the second-row, finished the move off in the far corner.

The 15-3 half-time lead left Wales with far too much to do and they found themselves penned inside their own half for much of the second period as the pattern of the game continued.

Briggs added two penalties from the tee to extend the lead as Ireland closed at the game with minimal fuss.

The reception the players received at full-time spoke volumes of the performance and the sense of occasion surrounding the day.

Ashbourne had served this team so well in previous years but they felt right at home on the bigger stage, one which they have earned the right to showcase themselves on.

There is, of course, room for improvement ahead of next week’s trip to France but the manner in which the defence stood firm to shut out any Welsh fight back was testament to the months of hard work.

It was, however, Wales who opening the scoring. Out-half Robyn Wilkins dissected the posts from close range after Ireland were penalised at the breakdown.

Sophie Spence with Sian Williams and Carys Phillips Ireland started their campaign with a bang. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

But the guests found themselves on the back-foot from that juncture. Ireland enjoyed periods of sustained territory and Wales prop Megan York was sent to the bin for a series of infringements.

Ireland made hay of their numerical advantage as Naoupu and then Spence converted the dominance into points.

A solid start for the defending champions.

Ireland scorers:
Tries: Sene Naoupu, Sophie Spence
Penalties: Niamh Briggs [3]
Conversions: Niamh Briggs
Wales scorers:Tries:Penalties: Robyn Wilkins 

Conversions: 

IRELAND: 15. Niamh Briggs,  14. Elise O’Byrne-White, 13. Aine Donnelly (Jackie Shiels 70′)), 12. Sene Naoupu, 11. Mairead Coyne, 10. Nikki Caughey (Nora Stapleton 61′), 9. Larissa Muldoon; 1. Ailis Egan (Lyndsay Peat 75′), 2. Zoe Grattage (Cliodhna Moloney 49′), 3. Ruth O’Reilly, 4. Sophie Spence, 5. Marie-Louise Reilly (Ciara Cooney 70′), 6. Paula Fitzpatrick, 7. Claire Molloy, 8. Heather O’Brien (Ciara Griffin 61′).

WALES: 15. Adi Taviner, 14. Bethan Dainton (Dyddgu Hywel 70′), 13. Kerin Lake (Gemma Rowland 32′), 12. Hannah Jones (Elinor Snowsill 52′), 11. Elen Evans, 10. Robyn Wilkins, 9. Keira Bevan; 1. Megan York, 2. Carys Philips, 3. Amy Evans (Katrin Edwards 60′), 4. Rebecca Rowe, 5. Sioned Harries, 6. Rachel Taylor, 7. Shena Powell-Hughes, 8. Sian Williams (Alisha Butchers 44′).

Referee: Leah Berard (USA).

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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