Ireland 20 USA 10
At the end of a turbulent week, the Ireland women’s rugby team did the business on the field of play by securing a hard-fought victory over USA in the RDS on Friday night.
At the eighth time of asking, Ireland finally claimed the spoils in a November international Test as Beibhinn Parsons, Leah Lyons and the evergreen Lindsay Peat all crossed the whitewash as the hosts held off a stern challenge from the Eagles.
The build-up to this game had been dominated by comments attributed to the IRFU director of women's rugby Anthony Eddy at a media briefing on Monday. While the fallout from this episode is set to rumble on, this win undoubtedly comes as a morale boost in the wake of Ireland's failed bid to reach next year's World Cup in New Zealand.
This was an historic evening of sorts on Dublin’s southside, with the Ballsbridge venue hosting a women’s rugby international for the first time.
Although the final attendance was smaller than initially hoped, it was also the first home game the Irish women played in front of spectators since February 9th, 2020.
While Ciara Griffin was captaining the side, it was 41-year-old prop Lindsay Peat who led out the team on the night. A former Dublin ladies footballer who also represented her country in underage soccer and senior basketball, this could well be Peat's final game in green before she steps into retirement.
Both sides had their share of possession during the early exchanges, but a series of errors served to deny them attacking momentum.
If the game was lacking a spark, however, it well and truly gained one in the 25th minute. After gathering a crossfield kick by outhalf Stacey Flood, Ballinasloe winger Parsons cut in off the left flank and raced over in spectacular style for her eighth international try.
Even though Flood’s conversion was off target, Parsons’s deadlock-breaker was the catalyst for a lively end to the half. USA thought they had cancelled out the Irish lead when hooker Saher Hadman touched down just past the half-hour.
It was eventually ruled out by the TMO, but left wing Bulou Mataitoga did get through for an unconverted try on 35 minutes. In spite of this setback, Ireland entered the interval with a 12-5 cushion courtesy of Lyons’s powerful finish, and a Flood bonus strike, off a multi-phase move.
Yet the USA are sixth in the world rankings for a reason and showed what they are made of with an outstanding try four minutes after restart. Moving the ball through the hands at pace, Kayla Canett and Katana Howard released replacement Elizabeth Cairns for a fine effort in the left corner.
Thanks to a place-kick malfunction from Megan Foster, Ireland remained in the ascendancy and subsequently restored their seven-point advantage on 49 minutes.
With try-scorer Mataitoga in the sin-bin, the hosts sensed an opportunity to pounce and it was left for Peat to mark her potential swansong with a five-pointer off a lineout maul.
As the action progressed, Adam Griggs – in his penultimate game as Ireland head coach – opted to unload his bench. This included introducing debutant Maeve Óg O'Leary, who prevented an almost certain try within minutes of replacing Griffin inside the final-quarter.
Tess Feury then looked set for a simple score off a Canett break, but a lack of precision from the USA attack spared the Irish blushes.
This attacking surge from the Eagles was eventually weathered by Ireland and after Flood knocked over a routine penalty on the stroke of full-time, a gutsy home success was confirmed.
SCORERS – Ireland: B Parsons, L Lyons, L Peat try each, S Flood pen, con. USA: B Mataitoga, E Cairns try each.
IRELAND: L Delany; L Sheehan, E Considine, S Naoupu, B Parsons; S Flood, A Hughes; L Peat, C Moloney, L Lyons; N Fryday, S Monaghan; C Griffin, E McMahon, A Caplice.
Replacements: L Djougang for Lyons, E Higgins for Considine (both 55 mins); N Jones for Moloney, K O'Dwyer for Moloney, K Dane for Hughes (all 58); M Óg O'Leary for Griffin (63), A-L Murphy Crowe for Parsons (67); H O'Connor for Caplice (68).
USA: K Canett; T Feury, A Talei Bonte, K Howard, B Mataitoga; M Foster, C Waters; C Benson, S Hamdan, H Rogers; K Sommer, A Washington; R Ehrecke, R Johnson, K Zackary.
Replacements: E Cairns for Johnson (18 mins); N James for Benson (51); O Ortiz for Waters, S Levy for Feury, M Hawkins for Foster (all 67); H Taufoou for Washington (71); M Learned for Rogers (78).
Referee: S Cox (English RFU).