Ireland 11- 8 England
ENGLAND’S young side could not hold out this evening despite heroic defence as Ireland captain Niamh Briggs landed a late blow in Ashbourne. A penalty for coming in at the side of a ruck offered the full-back a straightforward kick in front of the posts and Briggs duly slotted the ball home six minutes from time.
England Acting Head Coach Nicky Ponsford said: “We knew it was going to be a really tough game against Ireland on a Friday night – this one is always a hard one. In a lot of respects we fronted up pretty well. At the end of the day our execution wasn’t good enough. The team put in a great effort defensively and both teams defended their lines under huge amounts of pressure. But I am really pleased with the way the girls dug in to survive when Ireland were driving forwards five or six times and we put into practice what we have been working on.
“The wind was incredibly difficult to deal with but they probably played the conditions better than we did. It really disrupted our passing and handling. This side has come a long way from the Wales performance in our opening game and we managed to put together a lot more passages of play.”
England had to endure an opening 10 minutes of sustained Irish pressure before they got into their stride.
Captain Katy Mclean and flanker Alex Matthews were at the forefront and Mclean got over the ball to force a penalty for not releasing. Her long-range effort fell short but her next attempt sailed through the posts for a 3-0 lead after putting Matthews through on an inside ball and the flanker was high tackled.
Briggs levelled the scores with a penalty but England finished the half the stronger when Mclean was held up over the line and, from the resultant scrum, No 8 Harriet Millar-Mills kept the ball at her feet and steered it over the line before dropping on it.
Larissa Muldoon’s quick tap penalty and dart over the line pulled Ireland level but Briggs could not add the extras to her first half penalty.
England looked to be holding on for their second victory over Ireland in six months after their World Cup semi-final triumph in August. But they could not make their territory count despite being camped on the Ireland line and the home team rallied for a final push that resulted in Briggs’ penalty.
Ireland: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemian/ Munster) (Capt), Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/ Leinster), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/ Leinster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock/ Leinster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/ Leinster), Larissa Muldoon (Skewen RFC); Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/ Connacht), Gillian Bourke (Olympico de Pozuelo RFC), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/ Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/ Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/ Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St Marys/ Leinster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/ Connacht), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/ Munster). Replacements (unused): Sarah Mimnagh (Wasps/Exiles), Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemian/ Munster), Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere/ Leinster), Orla Fitzsimons (St Marys/ Leinster), Katie Norris (Blackrock / Leinster), Tania Rosser (Blackrock/ Leinster),Jackie Shiels (Richmond/ Exiles), Sene Naoupu (Galwegians/Connacht)
Try: Muldoon; Penalties: Briggs (2)
England: Lauren Cattell (Saracens); Ruth Laybourn (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Abigail Brown (Bristol), Ceri Large (Worcester), Sydney Gregson (Bristol); Katy Mclean (capt, Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Bianca Blackburn (Worcester); Rochelle Clark (Worcester), Victoria Fleetwood (Saracens), Laura Keates (Worcester), Tamara Taylor (vice-captain Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Abbie Scott (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Alexandra Matthews (Richmond), Hannah Gallagher (Saracens), Harriet Millar-Mills (Waterloo). Replacements: Amber Reed (Bristol) for Laybourn 75, Hannah Field (Richmond) for Matthews 78, Fiona Davidson (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) for Blackburn 80, Megan Goddard (Worcester) for Brown 80. Unused: Amy Cokayne (Lichfield), Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks), Justine Lucas (Lichfield), Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
Try: Millar-Mills; Penalty: Mclean
Referee: Leah Berard (USA)
Six Nations playing schedule:
Sunday, February 8, Wales 13 England 0, Swansea RFC
Sunday, February 15, England 39 Italy 7, Twickenham Stoop,
Friday, February 27, Ireland 11 England 8, Asbourne RFC
Friday, March 13, England v Scotland, KO 735pm, the Northen Echo Arena, Darlington, live on Sky Sports.
Saturday, March 21, England v France, KO 7.20pm, Twickenham Stadium, live on the BBC Red Button.