Storm Ciara swept across the British Isles, forcing the abandonment of the Scotland-England fixture. But Ireland’s captain Ciara Griffin wasn’t giving way to her namesake. Her side took on Wales at Donnybrook and brought off an important win. The weather worsened before the end to leave the players suffering a blend of rain, sleet and high winds. What a contrast with Pau last week!
Good News, Bad News:
Bad: the Scotstoun game was called off
Good: it will be played at Murrayfield the next day, Monday 10 February!
Bad: it will be played behind closed doors for safety reasons
Good: it will be the rarest of visits to the Scottish HQ
France 45 Italy 10 Saturday 8 February
Ireland 24 Wales 10 Sunday 9 February
Scotland England POSTPONED to be replayed Monday 1 February
Ireland v Wales (at Dublin)
This was a game both teams were desperate to win, to help restore the self-belief that is vital for on-going success. The visitors had the encouragement of two consecutive wins over their opponents.
Despite Wales dominating the opening minutes at Donnybrook, inaccuracies prevented them from scoring. Instead the Irish took the lead on 17 minutes when Beibhinn Parsons scored a second startling try of the series. She is fast becoming one of the most feared wingers in the 6N.
On 26 minutes Sene Naoupu created a try by making space for Cliodhna Moloney to go over. Matters worsened for the Welsh as Lauren Delany ran in from 35 metres to stretch the lead to 17-0. There was some lovely handling in the build-up, but Welsh marking was at fault to let the right-winger slip away.
Just before half-time Lauren Smyth, a late call-up at full-back, scored for Wales to renew hope. Keira Bevan took a very quick tap, the ensuing ruck lasted a good while, but Smyth still found space in the left corner.
Linda Djougang extended Ireland’s lead with a powerful thrust. Lindsay Peat gave her a great off-load but she still had obstructions to overcome. That brought a bonus point for Ireland which could yet prove decisive for them.
Siwan Lillicrap finished off a strong Welsh counter with a converted try.
The storm arrived with a vengeance some six minutes before – according to rarely-considered regulations – a game can be awarded points. That magic mark is 60 minutes. The flags might have been made of wood, so horizontal were they. The game continued in much worsening conditions nonetheless.
On 80 minutes the Welsh pack suffered a series of powerful scrums by the hosts; they resulted in a penalty try and a heartening conclusion for the rain-soaked crowd.
To add to Wales’ discomfiture the heater went on strike in their changing-rooms – no hot water. The IRFU apologised profusely.
The Welsh might wonder if they didn’t draw the short straw. For all the disappointment of the Glasgow no-show, Scotland and England may be able to complete a game in decent conditions; Wales lost theirs in appalling conditions and saw their opponents gain that invaluable bonus point.
Referee: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Player of the Match: Cliodhna Moloney
France v Italy (at Limoges)
This game was allowed to start on Saturday.
France’s side was much changed; even Gaëlle Hermet was asked to stay on the bench, so Safi N’Diaye took command.
Right at the start Morgane Peyronnet exploited a huge defensive hole behind a clean line-out to gain momentum. The first scrum doubled the French advantage: Hollie Davidson awarded an immediate penalty. In under three minutes Marine Ménager was held up over the line having bullied her way through three tackles. Soon after, Audrey Forlani forced her way over an unguarded ruck and under the posts. A Jessy Trémoulière penalty put France into double figures, then she converted a try by Cyrielle Banet on the far right.
Her second try was of quite different order, begun on her own 22. It came from a turnover quickly exploited by French forwards, then backs – the sort of quick-thinking slickness they couldn’t manage often enough the previous week.
As France powered towards another try, a loose pass was intercepted by none other than Sara Barattin, celebrating a colossal 93rd cap. She had most of the pitch to cover; nobody got near her.
It was Italy’s first try against France away in ten years; but the unexpectedness of their second place last year was brought into sharp relief by the result in Limoges under lights.
French superiority brought them three second-half tries, first to Julie Annery, then a penalty try as forward power took its toll, then a last-minute addition by the tiny but dangerous Laure Sansus.
Referee: Hollie Davidson
The French were able to erase some of the bad memories of that defeat in Padua and the first round defeat. Now they must continue building to ensure they finish the current sequence in full flow, ready for the bigger challenges next year.
Once again Italy didn’t quite have enough firepower and experience worry the hosts. Five of the benchers could offer only twelve caps between them – compare that with any octet England place on the side-line this series. Di Giandomenico has to be satisfied with a slow growth. They still need to find a handful more top-quality players.