Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Dan Sheridan/INPHO
'There's more in us,' says Naoupu after birthday battle
The Ireland cente turned 36 before Ireland beat Scotland, but wasn’t in celebratory mood.

‘THEY DIDN’T GIVE a penalty after the first 20 minutes,’ says Sene Naoupu with adrenaline still pumping through her veins in the wake of Sunday’s win over Scotland.

It certainly felt that way. Ireland had hit their straps with thrilling clinical accuracy and expertly dragged the Scots around the park to rack up a 13-0 lead inside the opening 15 minutes thanks to tries from Cliodhna Moloney and the veteran centre.

And still Ireland wound up hanging on as Philip Doyle’s side revelled in doing the fundamentals well, with robust intent to bring about an almost-complete turnaround as the penalty count ended 16-8 against the home side.

“The first 20 minutes we were pleased. We were happy that we were able to execute what we wanted to. Those tries in the first 20 minutes were straight off the training pitch,” said Naoupu.

“We were certainly very pleased with how we were able to adapt to the defence but fair play to Scotland they were able to put a bit more pressure defensively. There’s other areas that we can get better at in terms of executing certain things.”

She adds: “we were disappointed with the way we executed some things and some of our decision-making in parts, especially in that second half. There’s some easy fixes as well.”

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

The 18-14 win on Sunday coincided with Naoupu’s 36th birthday.

When she crossed for a 15th-minute try it all looked set up for the perfect celebration. Instead, it became a test of her staying power and lung capacity before she got a chance to blow out any candles.

Naoupu passed stern exams, responsible for some of Ireland’s brightest moments in attack after the opening salvo. And, with 83 metres gained with ball-in-hand, she was second only to the woman half her age, 18-year-old match-winner Beibhinn Parsons.

“She’s phenomenal,” says head coach Adam Griggs and he extends the compliment to 39-year-old Lindsay Peat.

“In their 30s, they’re key to this group and I’d say they’re rejuvenated by the younger girls coming through. Again, 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 girls would get as well. I think that hugely excites them.”

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Naoupu, however, was quick to deflect the birthday wishes and instead look to what awaits at the end of week one of her 37th year.

“Thank you.  Ah no, plenty to work on. Plenty more to work on, there’s more in us, more to learn, more to give and it’ll be a case of reviewing footage and seeing where we can be better.

“Certainly after the first 20 minutes, we had a good hard and fast start but it’s just a matter of keeping our discipline in certain moments. 

“As a team, we’ve certainly been working hard on executing new defensive system that we’re all pretty excited about but there’s certainly some areas that we need to work on for the next few days in terms of preparing for another tough test straight off the back of today.”

That Test, against Wales in Donnybrook on Sunday, looms all the larger now.

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