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Beibhinn Parsons tilts the balance as Ireland grind out win over Scotland

A sizzling start had Ireland in control in the first half, but they were left to hang on.

Ireland 18

Scotland 14

GROUNDHOG DAY, AND Ireland appeared to be on the verge of reliving the nightmare of defeat all over again despite a sizzling start that gave them a 13-0 head-start against Scotland.

Instead, a tenacious defensive effort ensured Philip Doyle’s side took no easy gains. And the resolute rearguard effort eventually forced a critical error at 13-7, when 18-year-old Beibhinn Parsons picked off an intercept aand bolted from her own five metre line to the Old Wesley end.

cliodhna-moloney-celebrates-scoring-the-opening-try-with-anna-caplice-and-sene-naoupu Ireland celebrate Cliodhna Moloney's opener. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It was a crucial 10-point swing in a match that few would have guessed would be so delicately poised 15 minutes in.

In ideal conditions on home turf, Ireland tore through their visitors in the early portion with an inventive and energetic attack leading to tries from Cliodhna Moloney and Sene Naoupu.

However, Ireland well dealt a severe blow as Moloney suffered a head injury before the half-hour mark. The Wasps hooker was central to Ireland’s early fortunes. Having missed last year’s campaign through injury, she made her presence felt with clinical interventions at the breakdown on top of her powerful charge for the try-line that pushed the hosts into an 8-0 lead after 10 minutes.

Before Anna Caplice supplied the final pass for Moloney to complete a flowing move, Lindsay Peat also had a big hand in the score. The prop’s basketball experience was put to good use in attack as she operated as a passing hub early on and fixed defenders before whipping tight passes left and right.

Three minutes in, one such pass looked to have put Lauren Delany away on a two on one. But the fullback was caught and Ellen Murphy slotted the penalty after referee Aurelie Groizaleau called a halt.

With 15 minutes on the clock Moloney and Murphy worked a clinical loop play the set the out-half breaking to the 22. The stall was set in attack and Kathryn Dane’s efficient service kept the green shirts moving forward. Captain Ciara Griffin carried hard at the posts with an overlap in the offing, but the chance was not lost with Naoupu on hand to drive over.

sene-naoupu-celebrates-scoring-a-try Naoupu celebrates. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Scotland found their feet in the contest thereafter, but they gained a firm foothold on 27 minutes after Moloney threw herself at a bouncing ball as centre Hannah Smith was fly-hacking at it. The hooker went off for a HIA, which she failed, and the departure coincided with Scotland demolishing the home side’s scrum.

With a shaky platform, Griggs’ side were left to put in extended defensive shifts. The pressure eventually told on the stroke of half-time as inside centre Lisa Thompson barged over Murphy and under the posts to ring up 13-7 on the scoreboard at the interval.

A second injury blow was revealed when play resumed without Griffin in the back row, but the presence of powerful 19-year-old debutant Dorothy Wall was a massive mitigation. Yet still Ireland were being forced to live off scraps with Philip Doyle’s side dominating possession and piercing the line with dangerous midfield attacks.

The hosts soaked tackle after tackle and could not regain the dominance they held early in the first half. On and on the pressure grew with Scotland resolving to do the basics very well. It took a heroic stand just after the hour mark to keep a long set of pick-and-droves a bay.

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Leah Lyons and Michelle Claffey led a gutsy defensive effort to keep the visitors frustrated. And on the following set, Sarah Law’s pass was telegraphed by Parsons – the ideal athlete to hare away and finish at the other end.

beibhinn-parsons-celebrates-scoring-a-try-with-lauren-delany Lauren Delany is first to catch Beibhinn Parsons, left, after her intercept try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It was daylight on the scoreboard, but the momentum remained firmly behind Scotland and they clawed back again to create a tense endgame after Lyons was sin-binned as punishment for persisten Irish indiscipline before Emma Wassell crossed and Law’s excellent touchline conversion made it a four-point game.

The full-time whistle was greeted with massive relief and Ireland can celebrate a result brought about by a fierce defensive shift after superb early attacking flourishes.

However, Griggs’ side will need to another step up in performance to force a home win over Wales next weekend.

Scorers

Ireland

Tries: C Moloney, S Naoupu, B Parsons

Conversions: E Murphy (0/2) N Cronin (0/1)

Penalties: E Murphy (1/1)

Scotland

Tries: L Thompson, E Wassal

Conversions: H Nelson (1/1)  S Law (1/1)

Ireland: 15. Lauren Delany, 14. Aoife Doyle, 13. Sene Naoupu, 12. Michelle Claffey, 11. Beibhinn Parsons, 10. Ellen Murphy (Claire Keohane ’66), 9. Kathryn Dane (Nicole Cronin ’56), 1. Lindsay Peat (Laura Feely ’59), 2. Cliodhna Moloney (Victoria Dabanovich O’Mahony ’27), 3. Linda Djougang (Leah Lyons ’54), 4. Aoife McDermott (Ciara Cooney ’65), 5. Nichola Fryday, 6. Ciara Griffin (Dorothy Wall ’40)), 7. Edel McMahon, 8. Anna Caplice

Scotland:  15. Chloe Rollie, 14. Rhona Lloyd, 13. Hannah Smith, 12. Lisa Thomson, 11. Megan Gaffney, 10. Helen Nelson (Sarah Law ’50), 9. Mairi McDonald, 1. Leah Bartlett (Lisa Cockburn ’62), 2. Lana Skeldon, 3. Mairi Forsyth, 4. Emma Wassell, 5. Sarah Bonar, 6. Rachel Malcolm (Louise McMillan ’68)), 7. Rachel McLachlan (Siobhan Cattigan ’56), 8. Jade Konkel.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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