- Three tries sink champions Ireland
- Head Coach Gary Street looks to improve execution
England Women 17 Ireland Women 10
Nerves were tested for a second time this evening as England’s Women followed the men by putting in a resilient performance in another tight encounter against the Irish.
Tries from Vice Captain Sarah Hunter, winger Kay Wilson and replacement Marlie Packer denied Ireland the Triple Crown and secured England’s second victory on the bounce. Having beaten Scotland away 63-0 two weeks ago too, their opening 18-6 defeat to France is now well behind them.
It was the home side who were the first to score, driving over the line and touching down through No. 8 Sarah Hunter, after they had kept Ireland under pressure with a number of lineouts in the 22. Captain Katy Mclean converted to take a seven-point lead inside 10 minutes.
Some lively runs from Ireland’s Alison Miller and Niamh Briggs followed, but with the visitors giving away a number of penalties England maintained the upper hand in territory, moving the ball well through the hands and making good ground down the wings.
Momentum looked to be changing, however, when full-back Briggs kicked a penalty on 24 minutes. Scrum half Nora Stapleton then sniped over after a strong maul from Ireland put them within a metre of the line. Briggs added the additional points to put the visitors ahead, 10-7.
With 10 minutes of the first half remaining England responded with a surging run from Kat Merchant before Maggie Alphonsi carry left the Irish defence in tatters. The ball was moved quickly to exploit the overlap that had developed on the far side and Kay Wilson dived over in the corner to regain the lead as the whistle wen for half-timet.
England had the chance to extend the lead after 50 minutes but Mclean pulled her penalty kick wide. Alphonsi and player of the match Emily Scarratt lifted the Twickenham crowd with strong runs into the 22 but the women in white were unable to turn the breaks into scores.
A try-saving tackle denied Wilson her second but the home side were eventually rewarded when Marlie Packer touched down in the corner from a driving maul. Mclean missed the conversion, leaving England seven points ahead with 20 minutes remaining.
Play was disrupted for both sides by a number of sin bins which took England down to 14 and Ireland to 13 players. In missing several penalties, England were unable to put the game out of reach but determined play by the forwards allowed them to run down the clock and end a memorable double header and successful evening for England Rugby at Twickenham Stadium.
Afterwards, Head Coach Gary Street said: “I thought Ireland defended outstandingly and kept the score line closer than they perhaps deserved. We need to address a number of errors but we played some exciting rugby and this evening was a good advert for the women’s game. It is always an honour to play at Twickenham and especially in front of such a strong crowd.
“We need to look at our execution as we created more chances than we took but we can take confidence from the way we opened up a very good Ireland team. The competitiveness of the game puts us in good stead ahead of our next fixture against Wales at Twickenham Stoop but we will have to raise our performance again if we are to be successful in this campaign.”
15 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester), 13 Amber Reed (Bristol), 12 Rachel Burford (Thurrock), 11 Kay Wilson (Bristol), 10 Katy Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) C, 9 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), 1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester), 2 Emma Croker (Richmond), 3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 4 Rebecca Essex (Richmond), 5 Joanne McGilchrist (Wasps), 6 Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), 7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens), 8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield) VC. Replacements: 16 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), 17 Laura Keates (Worcester), 18 Sasha Acheson (Bristol), 19 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), 20 Marlie Packer (Wasps), 21 La Toya Mason (Wasps), 22 Ceri Large (Worcester), 23 Lydia Thompson (Worcester).
Tries: Hunter (7 mins), Wilson (39 mins), Packer (60 mins)
Conversions: McLean (8 mins)
Replacements: Packer on for Gallagher (46 mins), Fleetwood on for Croker (51mins), Taylor on for Essex (51 mins), Mason for Hunt (56 mins), Acheson on for Hemming (58 mins), Keates on for Clark (58 mins), Thompson on for Wilson (58 mins), Large on for Burford (71 mins)
15 Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster), 14 Ashliegh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), 13 Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exile), 12 Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), 11 Alison Miller (Portlaoise RFC/UCC/Leinster), 10 Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), 9 Larissa Muldoon (Bristol/Exile). 1 Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) C, 2 Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), 3 Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere /Leinster), 4 Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere, Leinster), 5 Marie-Lousie Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), 6 Siobhan Felming (Tralee/Munster), 7 Claire Molloy (Bristol, Connacht), 8 Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster). Replacements: 16 Stacey-Lee Kennedy (Cooke/Ulster), 17 Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), 18 Kerrie Ann Craddock (Saracens, Exile), 19 Laura Guest (Highfield, Munster), 20 Amy Davis (Blackrock, Ulster), 21 Hannah Casey (Saracens/Exiles), 22 Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), 23 Jackie Shiels (Richmond, Exile)
Tries: Muldoon (30 mins)
Conversions: Briggs (31 mins)
Penalties: Briggs (24 mins)