Two out of two for Ireland and France women

(IRB.COM) Monday 10 February 2014
 Two out of two for Ireland and France women
Heather O'Brien scores her second try of the 2013 campaign for Ireland - Photo: Inpho

Defending champions Ireland and Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 hosts France remain unbeaten in the Women’s Six Nations after two rounds following victories over Wales and Italy respectively.

Both sides are yet to concede a try and could be set for a Grand Slam decider in the final round, although Ireland must negotiate the tricky hurdle of England at Twickenham in a fortnight when France also face their WRWC 2014 pool opponents Wales in Aberavon.

Ireland had enjoyed an emphatic 59-0 victory over Scotland in round one, but had to grind out a 14-6 victory over a Welsh side eager to avenge their narrow loss in last year’s competition and also bounce back from a last-gasp 12-11 loss to Italy.

With conditions again wet and blustery in Ashbourne it was a much closer affair on Friday with Wales going in at half-time with a narrow 6-3 advantage with two penalties from Robyn Wilkins cancelling out Niamh Briggs’ effort for the home side.

Briggs’ kick seemed to galvanise the girls in green after the break and a lengthy spell of dominance in the Welsh 22 ended with 50th minute penalty by the full back to level things up. Briggs added a third to edge Ireland ahead of a Welsh side down to 14 after Laurie Harries yellow card for a high tackle.

Ireland continued to build momentum and were rewarded just after the hour mark when  number 8 Heather O’Brien powered over the line for her second try of the campaign. Briggs missed the conversion but Ireland were 11-6 up.

The hosts came close to crossing the whitewash again but had to settle for another Briggs penalty at the death to make it seven Six Nations victories in a row for Phillip Doyle’s charges.

France were also made to work hard for their 29-0 victory over Italy at the Stade Ernest-Argeles in Blagnac, cutting loose in the second half with Marion Lievre, Lise Arricastre and Assa Koita touching down in addition to a penalty try.

England bounce back in style

Italy could have been forgiven for feeling optimistic going into the second half with the score only 5-0 after Koumiba Djossouvi’s try, but their hosts upped their intensity and were simply too strong for their opponents.

England meanwhile bounced back from the disappointment of losing their opening match to France with an emphatic 63-0 victory over Scotland in Aberdeen on Sunday with 11 different players crossing for tries on the heavy pitch.

Last year’s match had ended in a 76-0 win for England and the visitors dominated from the first whistle this time with Joanne McGilchrist, Amber Reed, Lydia Thompson, Claire Purdy and Sarah Hunter touching down for a 29-0 half-time lead.

Captain Katy McLean, Emily Scarratt, Maggie Alphonsi, Claire Allan, Sophie Hemming and Hannah Gallagher got their name on the scoreboard in the second half with Scotland unable to handle the power from the England forwards.

“I’m pleased with the win overall. Scotland is a difficult place to come but some of our play today was fantastic, including the play between our backs and forwards,” said England coach Gary Street.  

“We made mistakes too, and that is partly because I made lots of changes to the team, but we know if we can keep playing with that sort of intensity we can still be a threat in this championship. 

“Certainly losing to France rallied us on this week. It was a painful result but we have made amends today to an extent with this comprehensive result. Now this victory sets up a big clash against Ireland in two weeks’ time. 

“Our entire World Cup training squad has now had an opportunity to show what they can do so selection for Ireland will be interesting.”