Old and new combine to give Ireland women hard fought Italy win
Debutant Lindsay Peat celebrates first cap with a try as experimental side have enough
Sophie Spence offloads to Ciara Griffin during Ireland’s win over Italy. Photograph: Inpho
Ireland Women 14 Italy Women 3
It was a collaboration of the old and the new in personnel terms that engineered a victory, one a great deal harder fought than the final margin on the scoreboard suggests.
Lindsay Peat, one of four players who had made their debuts by the end of a warm, sunny afternoon - fullback Kim Flood, right wing Liz Burke and replacement Claire McLaughlin the others - celebrated her first cap with a try.
The former Ireland basketball captain, Dublin footballer and underage soccer international, demonstrated her aptitude for yet another sport. She carried regularly, aggressively, ran straight seeking out soft shoulders and made her tackles, all very impressive for a fledgling rugby player.
She admitted: “It’s another to add to the collection that when I retire, I can look back fondly on it as a very proud moment. I was delighted to get the start and even nicer to cap it with a try.
“I remember I was nice and close to the line and I was like ‘if I have a chance, I’m going to drive for the line’. I remember Tom (Tierney, Ireland coach) saying to us to drive outside the edge; I looked up and spotted a little gap and just went for it.
“The captain’s run was probably the first time the hamster in the wheel wasn’t going too fast. I was nice and relaxed and it was stripped right down. Our phase play was nice and simple and I knew exactly what we were doing. Thankfully I’ve been learning on the job for the last few weeks.
“The senior players have been fantastic with me. They’ve been nice and patient because I’m sure there were times when it was very tedious. Especially not coming from a rugby background and I feel like I’m at a place now where I know where we’re going and hopefully we can kick on.
“It’s been fantastic. I’m still a little weak in the scrum. It’s such a technical position but hopefully I’ve given the coaches something to think about after today.
“We have fantastic senior players who have obviously made history for Irish women’s rugby and that can’t be taken away from them but we have to blood towards the World Cup that we’re aiming to win.
“Unfortunately this campaign was frustrating at times. There was actually very small margins where we could have been in for the Championship. We have major positives to build on and we can only go from there.”
Ireland’s second try came through the experienced, Toulouse based, replacement backrow Paula Fitzpatrick, playing the role of tiller at the back of a well-crafted lineout maul that ushered the Italian defenders backwards at a rate of knots; training ground precision in a match environment.
Ireland coach Tierney had make eight changes and three positional switches for this match from the narrow defeat to England. The experimental aspect of the selection was always going to slightly compromise the cohesiveness of the units within the team but it only partially mitigates the significant number of elementary errors.
If the home side had just been that little bit sharper in the basics and accurate in their passing, the result might have been rendered a little more straightforward. As it was the timing of their two tries was important in helping to shape the endgame.
The Italians dominated the opening 20-minutes, keeping their hosts corralled in their 22; Michela Sillari’s penalty in 12 minutes will have seemed a poor return for a team that was twice held up over the Irish line.
The centre proved to be one of the game’s outstanding players - Italian flanker Michela Este pilfered ball superbly at the beakdown - and Sillari’s duel with Ireland’s Sene Naoupu, showcased players with beautiful footwork, good passing skills, and a fine appreciation of lines of running and offloading.
Liz Burke ran strongly and Ali Miller, returning from Sevens duty, was always a threat. Cliodhna Moloney was strong in all aspects of the game. Maz O’Reilly was assured out of touch, while Elaine Anthony was conspicuously athletic. It was Ciara Cooney’s block down that led to Ireland’s important first try.
12: Sillari penalty, 0-3; 35: Peat try, Briggs conversion, 7-3. Halftime: 7-3. 64: Fitzpatrick try, Stapleton conversion, 14-3.
Ireland Women: K Flood (Leinster); L Burke (Munster), N Briggs (Munster, capt), S Naoupu (Connacht), A Miller (Connacht); N Caughey (Ulster), M Healy (Connacht); L Peat (Leinster), C Moloney (Leinster), A Egan (Leinster); E Anthony (Munster), M L Reilly (Leinster); C Conney (Leinster), C Griffin (Munster), S Spence (Leinster). Replacements: L Muldoon (Skewen) for Healy 51 mins; N Stapleton (Leinster) for Caughey 51 mins; R O’Reilly (Connacht) for Peat 54 mins; C McLaughlin (Ulster) for Briggs 60 mins; P Fitzpatrick (Toulouse) for Spence 60 mins; Z Grattage (Munster) for Moloney 66 mins; C Molloy (Bristol) for Cooney 66 mins; F Reidy (Munster) for Miller 71 mins; Miller for Reidy 78 mins.
Italy Women: M Furlan; M Magatti, M Grazia Cioffi, M Sillari, S Stefan; B Rigoni, S Barattin; E Cucchiella, L Cammarano, M Bettoni; E Pillotti, A Trevisan; M Este, I Locatelli, E Giordano. Replacements: L Gal for Bettoni 36 mins; V Ruzza for Pilotti 62 mins; Bettoni for Cammarano 69-79 mins; P Zangirolami for Grazia Cioffi 71 mins; I Arrighetti for Este 71 mins; G Giacomoli for E Cucchiella 78 mins; D Nicoletti for Giacomoli 80 min.
Referee: A Perrett (Australia)