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'It was definitely ugly at times, but we’ll take it'

Ireland Women’s head coach Adam Griggs was a relieved man after yesterday’s 18-14 win over Scotland.

THE RELIEF WAS still daubed on thick across Adam Griggs’ face half an hour after the full-time whistle was as gratefully received as a cool glass after a day in the hot sun.

edel-mcmahon-celebrates-with-michelle-claffey-after-the-game Edel McMahon and Michelle Claffey celebrate. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Ireland Women head coach had primed his team to unleash a response to an array of setbacks and losses in 2019. And the work done in preparation was put on full display throughout the first quarter in Donnybrook as Ireland played with an attacking swagger at odds with their formbook.

They flowed forward with verve and pierced the defence with venom. And with the score reading 13-0 after 15 minutes, they ought to have been on course for a bonus point win to banish the bad memories of the past year.

Instead, they had to embrace the pain of 245 tackles as Scotland hoovered up 61% and 62% of territory and possession. The visitors teetered on the verge of taking the lead on 65 minutes, but turned to watch their hopes of victory go up in smoke as Beibhinn Parsons intercepted and blazed a trail from Bective to Old Wesley.

“If anyone was going to get that intercept and go the length of the field, it was Beibhinn,” said Griggs, “I was probably breathing heavier than she was after running the field.”

“There’s some smiles (in the dressing room). I’d say it’s probably more relief at the moment.

beibhinn-parsons-runs-in-a-try Parsons breaks away for the match-winner. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We needed the win. We said we’d take it if it was ugly. It was definitely ugly at times, but we’ll take the result and hopefully we can move forward.”

Although his side were forced to play for long stints without the ball, there was clear evidence of forward progress in the manner of Ireland’s early attacking prowess. And while Scotland have been the weakest side in the Six Nations over recent years, the mental strength shown to then get up time and time again is well worth commendation.

A very well-coached Scotland side look set to rise in the estimation over the course of this Championship, but Griggs’ side will need to prolong their purple patches in possession to achieve two more home wins in this tournament.

If we could play the style of rugby that we did for the first 20 minutes for 50, 60, 70 minutes, you’d see the benefit that those (younger) girls would get as well. I think that hugely excites them.

“The group is moving forward and we said, we’ve just got to be consistent and a little bit more disciplined. Sticking to some structures and not going off on our own, keep doing what works for you.”

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He adds:  “The first 20, 25 minutes we were really sharp. We got the rub of the green. Everything that we’d practiced was starting to come off. That’s the potential that the group have.

“We looked really good and then we gave away a lot of penalties,” 16 in all, while Scotland were pinged just eight times, “we played a lot of good rugby and there are positive signs there, but when you’re not getting the rub of the green you’ve got to be clever about how you go about the game.”

Perhaps some shortcomings of game management is to be expected in a side that won just once last year and are crying out for more Test matches. As Scotland – who have been able to fill their match schedule in the second half of last year – continually crept forward, Griggs feared a repeat of the last-gasp loss to Wales in November.

“But for us to make sure our D held firm, force the turnover and get rid of it. It’s shows the character,” said the Kiwi.

nicole-cronin-celebrates-after-the-game Nicole Cronin celebrates post-match. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Talking to some of the players even, they were saying ‘we know it shouldn’t have been that close’, but at the same time, sometimes getting out of a situation like that is actually even better for you. To make sure you move forward.”

The veteran figures of Lindsay Peat and Sene Naoupu were central to the win and the established Cliodhna Moloney and Anna Caplice had massive impacts. Yet the presence of powerful young talent like Parsons, 19-year-old flanker Dorothy Wall and Aoife Doyle returned after five years on the Sevens circuit, meant there was room to hope for better days ahead from the personnel as well as the performance.

“(Parsons) really good today and I thought Aoife Doyle was really good as well. The way we tried to box them in a little bit with our D, which was really good.

“I thought they were really good, but at the same time losing Ciara [Griffin] at half-time was a little bit of a blow. I think that also showed with just not being able to control things when we were put on the back-foot. She’s huge to this group, so I’m sure she’ll bounce back.”

The captain was withdrawn at the halfway mark due to illness and should be fit to tackle Wales. But there will be an anxious wait to see how out-half Ellen Murphy and hooker Moloney progress with their injuries in the coming days.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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