December 20th, 2008
England 19 Ireland President's XV 8
England Women will head into next season's RBS Six Nations Championship with confidence after overcoming a hard fought 19-8 victory against an Ireland President's XV on Saturday at St. Mary's RFC in Dublin.
The victory gave the reigning Six Nations champions their 19th win on the trot and thereby handing England the title of record holders in both the men's and women's game for most consecutive test wins.
England had to work hard for the win though, but in doing so they underlined why they are the number two ranked team in the world. They showed tremendous patience and dogged determination to secure the win after playing catch-up for 50 minutes. Two tries in the last five minutes of the game from skipper Catherine Spencer and Worcester wing Kat Merchant eventually secured the victory.
Both sides kicked off this season's international campaign at a furious pace despite atrocious wind and wet conditions, and although England dominated possession Ireland drew first blood with a 13th minute penalty from the boot of fullback Niamh Briggs.
England kept the momentum going though and were rewarded for their efforts on 23 minutes when a great break from Saracens flanker Maggie Alphonsi saw her get the tourists into Ireland's 22. Some well executed running lines then saw Lichfield's talented young winger Emily Scarratt charge her way over the line. Fly half Katy McLean added the conversion in stiff winds to take a 7-3 lead.
Ireland immediately bounced back and were given the chance to take six points, but they failed to convert two penalties. A good line-out and driving maul in England's 22 however saw the hosts take an 8-7 lead at half-time with a try from Chris Fanning.
England benefitted from having the wind behind them in the second-half, but for most of the period they struggled to convert possession into points and with Ireland missing a third penalty attempt the President's side stayed ahead until the 75th minute of the game.
With minutes remaining on the clock England maintained their composure and waited for their chance. They were duly rewarded when some good work by the forwards and tremendous patience saw McLean dart down the pitch and then execute a great pass to wing Merchant, who wasn't going to waste her chance, and touched down. McLean then added a superb conversion out-wide to take England into a 14-8 lead.
The action didn't stop there though, and straight from the restart England worked their way back into Ireland's 22. After some more good work by the forwards, England gained further territory and finally captain Spencer took the ball from a ruck and drove her way over the line to secure the 19-8 victory.
England Head Coach Gary Street said: "Ireland proved to be our toughest opponents in the Six Nations last season so we knew this was going to be a very tough fixture. Coupled with the fact that we've had limited training and we have been balancing six nations and 7s world cup preparations, this was a challenging fixture.
"However we came through it. For me seeing how patient we were and seeing the tremendous character of this team coming out, underlines why we have been so successful and we I think we can continue to be. This is certainly a very special group of players.
"I was also pleased to see three players make their England debuts today. Becky Essex, Rowena Burnfield and Tina Lee - Tina who was only brought in at the last moment - all made a real impact and have proved to the coaching staff that they have got what it takes to be international rugby players."
1 Rochelle Clark (Blaydon Team Northumbria), 2 Amy Garnett (Saracens), 3 Katy Storie (Blaydon Team Northumbria), 4 Natalie Binstead (Wasps), 5 Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps), 6 Karen Jones (Richmond), 7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens), 8 Catherine Spencer (C) (Bristol), 9 Amy Turner (Richmond), 10 Katy McLean (VC) (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 11 Francesca Matthews (Richmond), 12 Charlotte Barras (Saracens), 13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 15 Danielle Waterman (Blaydon Team Northumbria). Replacements: 16 Emma Layland (Richmond), 17 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 18 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 19 Rebecca Essex (Richmond), 20 Georgina Rozario (Plymouth Albion), 21 Michaela Staniford (Wasps), 22 Tina Lee (Bristol)
Tries: Scarratt, Merchant, Spencer
Conversions: McLean (2)
Substitutions: Staniford for Matthews, Rozario for Turner (40), Hemming for Storie, Layland for Garnett, Burnfield for Binstead (46), Essex for Jones (56), Lee for Barras (70), Garnett for Layland (70 - injury)
Ireland President's XV
15 - Niamh Briggs (Munster), 14 - Grace Davitt (Leinster), 13 - Lynne Cantwell (Munster), 12 - Helen Brosnan (Munster), 11 - Amy Davis (Ulster), 10 - Joanne O'Sullivan (Ulster), 9 - Louise Beamish (Munster), 1 - Fiona Coghlan (Leinster), 2 - Yvonne Nolan (Leinster), 3 - Gillian Bourke (Munster), 4 - Caroline Mahon (Leinster), 5 - Louise Austin (Leinster), 6 - Kate O'Loughlin (Munster), 7 - Sinead Ryan (Leinster), 8 - Joy Neville (Munster) Captain. Replacements: Chris Fanning (Munster), Lauren Day (Ulster), Deirdre O'Brien (Leinster), Helen Jones (Connacht), Paula O'Connor (Munster), Natasha O'Keefe (Munster), Claire Molloy (Connacht), Imogen Porter (Ulster), Fiona Hayes (Munster), Nicole Fitzgerald (Munster), Jackie Shiels (Leinster), Julie Craig (Leinster), Mairead Kelly (Munster).
Half-time score: Ireland President's XV 8 England 7
Referee: Mark Hermin
Assistant Referees: Peter Dennehy & John Montayne