Ireland make loud statement of intent as they crush Wales in Cardiff
Béibhinn Parsons and Eimear Considine each grab two tries in shutout
Ireland’s Dorothy Wall scores a try during the Women’s Six Nations match against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Wales 0 Ireland 45
Ireland looked every inch the professional outfit they hope to become with a seven-try dismissal of Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in their opening Six Nations match.
“You could see there was a real hunger in the group,” said Irish captain Ciara Griffin following the six-month layoff. “That just gave us a platform to play attacking rugby.”
France, next Saturday’s visitors to Donnybrook, have been put on notice.
Béibhinn Parsons will rightly fill the headlines after a stunning brace of tries and while Eimear Considine matched the teenage flyer for scores, the shuddering impact of a Tipperary blindside will give Welsh players nightmares.
Wall’s destructive tackling proved as dispiriting for a Wales team now on a downward spiral having conceded 98 points in two Six Nations outings. The 20-year-old is also the primary ball carrier and, to be frank, Irish rugby has never had a comparative athlete to lead the charge.
It took Considine 126 seconds to profit from the excellent Hannah Tyrrell’s outside break with a try in the left corner.
The second try after 10 minutes came from an utterly dominant scrum – take a bow Rob Sweeney – with quick hands and a clever skip pass by Sene Naoupu giving Parsons her first real opportunity to attack.
The UCD student exceeded all the pre-game hype. She burned outside Lisa Neumann and bumped fullback Robyn Wilkins before gliding inside the covering Courtney Keight for what can be described as the perfect winger’s try.
Tyrrell, the left-footed former Dublin goalkeeper, found her range with the conversion.
Unlike most of her team-mates, Wales captain Siwan Lillicrap kept bringing the fight to Ireland and her turnover offered outhalf Elinor Snowsill a chance to relieve constant pressure. Griffin had other ideas, blocking Snowsill’s punt like a corner back and haring towards the try line. The Kerry woman was held up but a lovely crossfield kick by Tyrrell found the unmarked Parsons.
It all looked so easy but there was plenty of method and no shortage of clever coaching on display. For example, new cap Eve Higgins brought her Sevens experience to the championship by catching Welsh restarts and instantly putting the heat back on the hosts.
Considine banked the bonus point on 17 minutes when she exposed Snowsill’s inability to tackle before striding to the line unopposed.
Wales appeared to have given up. At the next water break, assistant coach Sophie Spence, the former Ireland lock, entered their huddle to offer some choice words, perhaps about attitude and desire.
It made little difference as Naoupu claimed the fifth try after another rock solid scrum and clever play by scrumhalf Kathryn Dane.
The touchline might be out of Tyrrell’s range for the time being, but her curling conversions kept the scoreboard ticking towards the 53 points France put on Warren Abrahams hapless side last week.
A sixth touchdown went a begging before half-time when Lindsay Peat, who is 40 years young, lost control of the possession diving over the whitewash.
Ireland struggled to maintain the same standards after half-time but their offloading game, with Aoife McDermott and Peat transferring basketball skills to the grass, ensures they will always be a threat. It also left them open to an array of handling errors.
Stacey Flood won her first cap at outhalf as Adam Griggs sought to reinvigorate a contest that lost its way in the third quarter. Katie O’Dwyer and Brittany Hogan also came into the front five where the scrum continued to destroy the Welsh pack.
In truth, the second 40 minutes was a mess. Wall did barge over late on and Tyrrell ensured Ireland finished with a flourish, which she also converted, but the drop in intensity gives Griggs plenty of avenues to examine before the players come back into camp.
The scope for improvement is what makes this result so impressive.
SCORING SEQUENCE – 2 mins: E Considine try, 5-0; 10: B Parsons try, 10-0; H Tyrrell con, 12-0; 13: B Parsons try, 17-0; 17: E Considine try, 22-0; H Tyrrell con, 24-0; 27: S Naoupu try, 29-0; H Tyrrell con, 31-0. Half-time. 71: D Wall try, 36-0, H Tyrrell con, 38-0; 80: H Tyrrell try, 43-0; H Tyrrell con, 45-0.
WALES: Robyn Wilkins; Lisa Neumann, Hannah Jones, Kerin Lake, Courtney Keight; Elinor Snowsill, Jess Roberts; Cara Hope, Kelsey Jones, Cerys Hales; Natalia John, Gwen Crabb; Georgia Evans, Manon Johnes, Siwan Lillicrap (capt).
Replacements: Caitlin Lewis for C Keight (32 mins), Molly Kelly for K Jones (39), Caryl Thomas for C Hope, Donna Rose for C Hales, Niamh Terri for K Lake (all half-time), Bethan Dainton for M Johnes (56), Megan Davies for S Lillicrap (75).
IRELAND: Eimear Considine; Lauren Delany, Eve Higgins, Sene Naoupu, Béibhinn Parsons; Hannah Tyrrell, Kathryn Dane; Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Linda Djougang; Aoife McDermott, Nichola Fryday; Dorothy Wall, Claire Molloy, Ciara Griffin (capt).
Replacements: Stacey Flood for L Delany (53 mins), Katie O’Dwyer for L Peat, Brittany Hogan for N Fryday (both 57), Enya Breen for E Considine, Hannah O’Connor for C Griffin, Emily Lane for K Dane (all 62), Neve Jones for C Moloney, Laura Feely for L Djougang (both 69).
Referee: Hollie Davidson (Scotland).