A convincing win over Wales sets Ireland on their way to defend their Six Nations title
Scores came from impressive Sene Naoupu and Sophie Spence tries, while captain and full-back Niamh Briggs added 11 points with the boot in front of the home crowd at Donnybrook.
The full Ireland squad features three players who line out for clubs in the UK, including Claire Molloy (Bristol) and Larissa Muldoon (Skewen), who both started against Wales at the weekend.
Jackie Shiels is also in the squad, and made the bench at the weekend, just weeks after captaining her side Richmond RFC to the Women’s Premiership final against Saracens. Wales got off to the brighter start as Robyn Wilkins capitalised on Ireland’s mistake at going off their feet at the ruck to score the first penalty, but it was quickly negated by Robyn Wilkins soon afterwards.
Ireland began to assert their dominance on the match after this point, and had all of the meaningful territory for long periods.
They forced an error from Rachel Taylor, who conceded another penalty as she drifted offside, and Ireland chose to kick to the corner to chase the try.
Another penalty later, there was no let-up from Ireland, as they refused to settle for three points, and they were in luck as their opposition were reduced to 14 as Megan York was sin binned for not rolling away.
But, the Welsh defence proved hard to break down, and took a huge effort for them to finally cross for the first try through centre Naoupu, who broke through in midfield and beat her markers with her pace.
Briggs converted to make it 10-3. Naoupu was proving dangerous when in possession and as she broke again, she offloaded superbly to Briggs to run rapidly down the left wing on a good counter-attack.
She found Mairead Coyne outside her, who in turn recycled the ball for Sophie Spence to power her way over. There was no successful conversion this time, but the try gave Ireland a 15-3 lead at half-time. Three minutes into the second half Briggs scored a simple penalty to stretch the lead to 15 points.
Wales should have got themselves back into it when they worked their way right up to the Irish line, but replacement Gemma Rowland couldn’t collect wasted the ball as it fell just beyond her reach and Wales came away from the play scoreless.
Leading by 15, the win looked to be in the bag and was sealed as Briggs added another three points with 15 minutes remaining to stretch the lead a little further.
Wales did not threaten again, but despite a long period of possession in the Welsh 22, Ireland couldn’t find a third try.