While the Ireland men’s rugby teams dreams of a Six Nations title are over, after a disappointing loss to Wales last Friday, the women’s team can still clinch a Grand Slam this weekend.
The men’s team host England in Dublin this Saturday, and while the atmosphere against the old foe will ensure that it won’t be an also-ran game, there is little more significance to the tie, rather than acting as ‘party poopers’.
But a fourth win from four for the women’s team against Wales sees them have it all to play for this weekend, as they face, also unbeaten, England for a winner-takes-all battle in Donnybrook this Friday night.
Due to the new bonus points system, Ireland are a point behind England, with one round remaining, and they are chasing their third title in five years, although they had to be patient in Cardiff, as it took 39 minutes for the deadlock to be broken.
A try in each half from Lindsey Peat and Hannah Tyrrell was enough to edge past Wales, whose only try came through Shona Powell-Hughes, thanks to Lindsay Peat peeling off the back of a driving maul. Defences were on top in the first half and while both teams had their chances it took 39 minutes for the deadlock to be broken.
While Wales had enjoyed some early possession as the half drew on it was Ireland who started to take control of the game and dominate territory. That eventually paid dividends on the stroke of halftime when they earned a penalty and kicked to the corner. Their maul was stopped just short of the line, but prop Peat peeled off the back and showed her power to crash over.
Nora Stapleton’s conversion from the left put the visitors 7-0 up at the break, but Wales hit back immediately in the second half. Try-scorer Peat paid the penalty for a succession of Irish infringements, earning a yellow card for hands in the ruck following a brilliant break by Dyddgu Hywel, and Wales took advantage of their numerical advantage.
After a good scrum Powell- Hughes picked and went and although she was stopped just short of the line, she was able to reach over and dot down. Robyn Wilkins added the conversion to level the scores with Wales still a player up. Ireland controlled the ball for the remainder of Peat’s sin-bin, and instead it was Wales who found themselves down to 14 when Amy Evans was yellowcarded for a high tackle.
The visitors tried to take advantage, with Peat again looking strong on one carry, but the home defence was able to hold her up and force a scrum, which they then won against the head.
But still Ireland came, with Paula Fitzpatrick the next player to work her way over but again Wales were able to hold her up with Rachel Taylor defending brilliantly.
And Fitzpatrick was denied again by some last-ditch defence by Keira Bevan to just get her hand under the ball as the No.8 tried to place the ball. The Welsh defence was being put under huge pressure, and finally it could hold no longer, just as Evans prepared to return. After Jenny Murphy’s initial burst, a brilliant pick-up from Tyrrell after a slightly loose pass by Stapleton allowed the winger to go over on the right. Stapleton couldn’t convert from the touchline but Ireland led 12-7.
Wales gave their all in the final stages but could not find a way through as Ireland saw things out. Meanwhile England look a force to be reckoned with, as they stormed home to a 64-0 victory over Scotland.
It was one-way traffic, with the hosts bagging the try bonus point within 20 minutes and Wilson had crossed the whitewash four times herself to help them open up a 40-0 halftime lead.
England head coach Simon Middleton said: “We’re thrilled with that performance. “We had a clear picture about what we wanted to do, to play with intensity and tempo, and we delivered that for the most part.”
Meanwhile, the boys in green need to put their disappointment behind them: