Ireland get World Cup hopes back on track with win over Italy

Adam Griggs’ team bounce back from shock defeat to Spain with improved performance

Ireland’s Beibhinn Parsons scores a try during the World Cup qualifier against Italy. Photo: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

Ireland’s Beibhinn Parsons scores a try during the World Cup qualifier against Italy. Photo: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

 

Italy 7 Ireland 15

Head coach Adam Griggs praised the defensive efforts of his troops as the Ireland women’s rugby team got their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with victory against Italy in a sun-drenched Parma.

The win moves Ireland up to second in the group with all four teams on five points after Scotland’s win over Spain on Sunday. Ireland have a points difference of +7 with Italy on +10 which means it will come right down to the wire next weekend. Italy face Spain while Ireland meet Scotland needing to better the Italian result by at least 10 points if they are to automatically qualify.

While tries in either half from wingers Beibhinn Parsons and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe were pivotal for Ireland - who were desperately in need of a win following an opening round defeat to Spain - the manner in which they denied the Italian a potentially-crucial losing bonus point is something Griggs was particularly pleased with.

“We’ve always spoken about the five minutes before half-time and the five minutes after half-time being really important to us. If we look back at the game from memory, that five minutes of that defensive set [before half-time] was huge and we got a couple of crucial turnovers,” Griggs remarked in his post-match press conference.

“I’m happy that we got the result that we were after. I think we probably still could have been more clinical in that green zone and come away with more points. At the same time, what was more important was stopping Italy from getting a bonus point. It was really important that they didn’t get anything from the game.”

Showing four changes from the team that lost out in surprising fashion to Spain at the same venue six days earlier, Ireland were forced to be patient in this second round encounter. Italy enjoyed a lot of possession around the middle of the field during the early moments, but a succession of errors meant they couldn’t establish a foothold in the Irish 22.

The visitors were also struggling to create an attacking platform, until the prodigious Parsons broke forward into the opposition half just past the first-quarter mark. Even though outhalf Stacey Flood rattled the posts off a close-range penalty, Italy couldn’t force their way out of defence and found themselves in arrears on 29 minutes.

Ireland’s Ciara Griffin at a scrum. Photo: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho
Ireland’s Ciara Griffin at a scrum. Photo: Giuseppe Fama/Inpho

Following Nichola Fryday’s superb catch off a Cliodhna Moloney line-out throw, Kathryn Dane and Stacey Flood combined to release Parsons for a try on the left-flank. This was the Galway teenager’s seventh try in just 13 international appearances and with Ireland holding firm under relentless Italian pressure, it was enough to give the Ciara Griffin-led side a 5-0 interval buffer.

However, having conceded a try to the Spanish when down to 14 last Monday, they suffered the same fate on the resumption.

With fullback Eimear Considine in the sin-bin for a high tackle on Michela Sillari, Beatrice Rigoni rounded off a breakaway move with a converted try on 51 minutes. This was a set-back for Ireland, but Considine’s return to the fray immediately followed Rigoni’s own yellow-card for a deliberate knock-on.

In her absence, Ireland enjoyed a dominant spell that ultimately swung the game in their favour. A routine Stacey Flood penalty edged them back in front, before Murphy Crowe - at the end of an attack that saw Parsons evading no fewer than seven attempted tackles - crept inside on the right-flank for her third try in two appearances against the Italians.

Flood was on hand to supply the extras as Ireland saw out the game effectively to keep themselves in contention for a spot at next year’s finals in New Zealand.

Even if they don’t emerge as victors of this round-robin competition, a second-place finish will offer them a final chance of qualification at a forthcoming repechage tournament. In order for either of these scenarios to become a live possibility, another win is required against Scotland in Parma on Saturday.

Scorers - Ireland: B Parsons, A-L Murphy Crowe try each, S Flood pen, con. Italy: B Rigoni try, M Sillari con.

Ireland: E Considine; A-L Murphy Crowe, E Higgins, S Naoupu, B Parsons; S Flood, K Dane; L Feely, C Moloney, L Djougang; N Fryday, S Monaghan; D Wall, E McMahon, C Griffin.

Replacements: L Peat for Feely, 54 mins; C Molloy for McMahon, 58 mins; E Lane for Dane, 66 mins, B Hogan for Griffin, 73 mins; E Breen for Flood, 78 mins.

Italy: V Ostuni Minuzzi; M Furlan, M Sillari, B Rigoni, M Magatti; V Madia, S Barattin; G Maris, M Bettoni, L Gai; V Fedrighi, G Duca; I Arrighetti, F Sgorbini, E Giordano.

Replacements: V Vecchini for Bettoni, G Franco for Arrighetti, both 66 mins; A Muzzo for Ostuni Minuzzi, 73 mins;, A D’Incá for Sillari, S Stefan for Barattin, I Locatelli for Sgorbini, all 76 mins.

Referee: H Davidson (Scotland).

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