‘We’ve got to keep being positive’: Bemand says Ireland must learn from ‘bruising’ England defeat

Visibly broken Irish side suffer a demoralising 14-try defeat at Twickenham that will be hard to forget

Six Nations: England 88 Ireland 10

Coach Scott Bemand rightly deflected to Ireland’s final match in the championship against Scotland next weekend. The sooner Ireland put a ruthless England in the rear-view mirror, the better. There were few positives to take home from Twickenham with the England shock and awe knocking Ireland backwards from the beginning of the match and never slowing down.

Bemand also pointed to naivete among the Irish players after England ran in 14 tries, six in the first half followed by eight more in the second half against a visibly broken side. Both England fullback Ellie Kildunne and winger Abby Dow claimed hat-tricks with the scintillating Kildunne winning her third Player of the Match award of this Six Nations series.

The win sets up England for a Grand Slam meeting with France next week with Ireland facing Scotland in Belfast looking for two wins after beating Wales last time out.

“The Irish girls are quite a young group . . . coming into an occasion like this . . . the girls have to handle the occasion. I think we looked quite young,” said Bemand after the match. “After half-time, the girls showed something after a reasonably bruising first half. Ireland haven’t scored a point against England for three years I think [not since 2019] . . . so it’s a small win. We’ll take our learnings from this . . . the great thing about sport is you get to go again.”


Ireland was always expecting Twickenham to be a difficult fixture but not the extent it was – a record points win in front of a 48,778 crowd. The team has not beaten England since 2015 and has not scored a point against them since 2019. That small detail was rectified with a first-half penalty from Dannah O’Brien.

But there wasn’t much to take home from falling off tackles to set-piece failures in a hopelessly one-sided match. Much as they try, Ireland will find this one hard to forget with the England onslaught beginning from just seven minutes in as Dow ominously went down the right for the first try.

Aoibheann Reilly and Lauren Delany put hands on her but could not stop the right wing in a tackling failure that would repeat itself throughout the match across the team. Two minutes later scrumhalf Natasha Hunt broke, was grounded. But the Irish pillars were missing and in the next phase she picked up and ran in. Too easy.

The third arrived on 13 minutes as Ireland struggled with the England tempo after Megan Jones powered over. That gave inspiration to Zoe Aldcroft minutes later when she ran up the middle, but again Irish attempts to bring her down were brushed off with growing confidence. With Hollie Aitchison converting, England were 26-0 up after 20 minutes.

In one sense Ireland can improve easily for Scotland by repairing the damage done by a lack of basics. Better tackling, cutting out the individual handling errors and tightening up at the set pieces are simple fixes. But the dent to confidence could be harder to mend.

O’Brien kicked for 26-3. But England had huge momentum with Kildunne finally adding her name to the score sheet after several runs from deep that scattered the Irish defence. It was Kildunne who became provider for the last try of the half, feeding Dow out wide right and again Irish tackling buckling under the pressure.

Irish effort and bravery was not in short supply but the half closed with England 38-3 ahead.

“We’ve got some really good players coming through,” said Bemand. “It’s learning to put it out there on these occasions. We’ve got to keep being positive. England played really well, fair credit to them . . . we’ll keep going after stuff, we want to fire some shots in these big games, and we’ll keep going after it.”

Unfortunately Ireland did not come into the second half firing shots but were again set into reverse by the waves of England attacks.

Jess Breach then went in followed by backrow Sadia Kabeya and an avalanche of tries again began. Lucy Packer dragged down a maul, earning Ireland a penalty try to break the monotony of white shirts spilling into the Irish goal. That cost her a spell in the sin bin. But even a player down nothing changed and England continued to rip. Jones got over again before Dow claimed her third on 64 minutes.

Four minutes later the unstoppable Kildunne had her second try before Breach was again in. Kildunne then claimed her ninth try of this tournament for 83-10, Maddie Feaunati closing England’s account in the 76th minute with try number 14 and an 88-10 scoreline. Minutes later with the clock in the red, Ireland kicked the ball into the crowd to end a traumatic afternoon.

Scoring sequence – 7 mins A Dow try 5-0; 9 mins N Hunt try H Aitchison con 12-0; 13 mins M Jones try, Aitchison con 19-0; 19 mins Z Aldcroft try, Aitchison con 26-0; 21 mins D O’Brien pen 26-3; 27 mins E Kildunne try, Aitchison con 33-3; 37 mins Dow try 38-3. Halftime. 44 mins J Breach try 43-3; 49 mins S Kabeya try, Aitchison con 50-3; 56 mins pen try 50-10; 58 mins Jone try, Aitchison con 57-10; 64 mins Dow try, Aitchison con 64-10; 68 mins Kildunne try, Aitchison con 71-10; 72 mins Breach try, Aitchison con 78-10; 74 mins Kildunne try 83-10; 76 mins M Feaunati try 88-10.

England: Ellie Kildunne; Abby Dow, Megan Jones, Tatyana Heard, Jess Breach; Holly Aitchison, Natasha Hunt; Hannah Botterman, Lark Atkin-Davies, Maud Muir; Zoe Aldcroft, Morwenna Talling; Sadia Kabeya, Marlie Packer (capt), Alex Matthews. Replacements: Connie Powell for Aitkin-Davies (34 mins), Mackenzie Carson for Botterman (44 mins), Kelsey Clifford for Muir (49 mins), Maddie Feaunati for M Packer (61 mins), Lucy Packer for Hunt (49 mins), Emily Scarratt for Heard (63 mins), Sydney Gregson for Jones (68 mins). Yellow card: L Packer

Ireland: Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby); Katie Corrigan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster), Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Béibhinn Parsons (Blackrock College/Connacht); Dannah O’Brien (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Aoibheann Reilly (Blackrock College/Connacht); Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury), Christy Haney Blackrock College/Leinster), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/Munster), Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock College/Leinster), Aoife Wafer (Blackrock College/Leinster), Edel McMahon (Exeter Chiefs) (c), Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere/Ulster). Replacements: Enya Breen (Blackrock College/Munster) for Higgins, Méabh Deely (Blackrock College/Connacht) for Delany (both half-time), Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere/Ulster) for O’Connor, Clíodhna Moloney (Exeter Chiefs) for Jones (both 44), Niamh O’Dowd (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Haney (48), Shannon Ikahihifo (Trailfinders Women/IQ Rugby) for Hogan (55), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Leinster) for Reilly (59), Sadhbh McGrath (Cooke/Ulster) for Djougang (61).

Referee: Aurélie Groizeleau (FFR).

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times