Ireland Women failed in the same way their male counterparts had hours earlier, as they suffered a narrow 13 – 9 defeat against England at Twickenham
The holders produced a plucky performance as they recovered from 8-0 down to lead in the second half but were ultimately undone by Abbie Scott’s try.
It means England top the table with an 100 per cent record after three rounds of matches and remain on course for a first title since 2012. Ireland, meanwhile, head to Donnybrook on March 13 looking to end a run of two straight defeats when they take on a resurgent Italy side.
A decent crowd braved the biting winds in southwest London as the girls in green looked to become the first Irish women’s side to beat England away from home.
They struggled in the opening exchanges, however, and Amber Reed confirmed the hosts’ dominance with a successful penalty in the ninth minute. England continued to pressurise the Irish backline and were rewarded with a try when hooker Emma Crocker barged over the line after a strong catch and drive.
The front rower, who was recalled for this fixture, was heavily involved in the moves which resulted in the score and her teammates were quick to show their appreciation for her efforts.
Reed failed to add the extras but it was already clear that Ireland would have to up their game if they were to take anything away from the match.
England continued to come forward with pace and fluidity, with full-back Katie Mason always willing to join the attacking line as they looked to put the game to bed. Ireland refused to bow to the heavy pressure, however, and were given the chance to get back into the tie following a smart break from Claire Molloy.
They were awarded a penalty and Niamh Briggs stepped forward to plant a great kick straight through the middle of the posts to draw the visitors to within five points. She added a second penalty just before the halftime whistle and, despite Ireland being under the cosh for the majority of the first 40, the game was firmly in the balance.
The away side continued where they had left off and started the second half on top.
A series of quick-ball phases combined with English indiscipline resulted in another Irish penalty just inside the tenmetre line. Captain Briggs made no mistake once more as Ireland moved into the lead for the first time, a representation of a markedly improved performance after falling 8- 0 behind.
It looked as if the visitors would drive home their advantage when England’s openside flanker Harriet Millar-Mills was sin binned in the 56th minute.
But a number of handling errors, alongside some superb defensive work from the home side meant Ireland found themselves falling just short of opening up a substantial lead.
And despite their numerical disadvantage, England worked through the phases and edged ever closer to the Irish try line with the lively Twickenham crowd roaring them on.
Substitute Amy Cokayne was peerless in terms of work rate and her skill at the breakdown created a gap for Scott which she duly exploited to run in the decisive score.
Reed again failed to land a difficult conversion but England held on for a hard-fought victory and their dream of securing another Grand Slam remains very much alive. Ireland will see this as an opportunity missed, they did well to claw their way back into the match and were very much on top when Millar-Mills saw yellow.
But England showed once again why they are the current World Champions and 13-time winners of Europe’s premier international competition by grinding out a result when they were not at their best.
They next face Wales, who secured an impressive win over previouslyunbeaten France in this round of fixtures, in a match which could well decide the outcome of this year’s tournament.
Ireland play the Italians in Dublin before rounding off their campaign with another home game against Scotland, hoping to salvage some pride in defence of their title.