Ireland begin Women’s Six Nations campaign with defeat to Wales

Attendance of 6,113 a record for a standalone women’s international on these shores

Ireland 19 Wales 27

It was a disappointing start to the Women's Six Nations Championship for Ireland at the RDS on Saturday night as an under-par second half display saw them suffering an eight-point reversal at the hands of Wales.

In front of a record attendance of 6,113 for a standalone women's international on these shores, tries from Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe and Linda Djougang - either side of a similar effort by Carys Phillips for the visitors - helped Ireland to establish a 14-5 buffer at the midway stage. This left them in a strong position to push on for an opening round victory under new head coach Greg McWilliams, but their stubborn opponents had other ideas.

Despite Ireland adding a third try through inside centre Stacey Flood, Jasmine Joyce, Donna Rose (two) and Hannah Jones all crossed over to give Wales the spoils.

Having watched on from afar last November as his predecessor Adam Griggs signed off with back-to-back wins over the USA and Japan at the same venue, McWilliams was finally taking charge of Ireland for the first time at test level.

Wales have a new head coach of their own in the form of Ioan Cunningham and with 12 of his match day squad on professional contracts since the beginning of the year, it was anticipated that there wouldn’t be a repeat of last year’s 45-0 drubbing at the hands of Ireland.

The hosts initially struggled to establish a foothold inside the opposition half, before eventually breaking the deadlock off their first meaningful attack on 17 minutes.

After Eimear Considine and Dorothy Wall created attacking momentum with strong carries into the Welsh ‘22’, Flood threw the ball out wide for Murphy Crowe to race over in the right-corner.

Nicole Cronin’s superb touchline conversion moved Ireland seven points in front, but Wales issued a swift response in the shape of a Carys Phillips try off a lineout maul.

Despite suffering this blow, a wayward Elinor Snowsill bonus strike ensured Ireland remained in the ascendancy and they subsequently reinforced their authority at the opposite end.

Cushion

At the end of a multi-phased attack that saw several players moving the ball at pace through the hands, loosehead prop Djougang was released for a five-pointer underneath the posts just shy of the half-hour mark. Cronin effortlessly supplied the extras to give Ireland a commanding 14-5 cushion at the interval.

Wales were proving themselves to be stubborn opponents, however, and they cut into the Irish lead once again on the resumption. Although she was stationed on the left-wing for this encounter, Jasmine Joyce is capable of popping up anywhere in attack.

With seven minutes played in the second period, she found herself on the end of a short pass from Snowsill on the right flank and proceeded to side-step her way over the line. Another miscued Snowsill effort left the gap between the teams at four points, but Ireland gave themselves some much-needed breathing space with a third try on 57 minutes.

They always looked capable of scoring whenever they ventured into the Welsh half and when Considine picked out Flood just before being forced into touch, the latter raced over for her maiden Six Nations try.

This moved Ireland to within range of a bonus point, but the stubborn Welsh brought an abrupt halt to this quest.

Another set-piece score courtesy of replacement prop Rose set up a tantalising finale and Ireland found themselves under the cosh when Considine was sin-binned nine minutes from time.

This significantly incentivised Wales and following a series of five-metre drives that left them within inches of the Irish whitewash, Rose crashed over for her second try off the bench.

The clock was against Ireland in their bid to avoid a first reversal to Wales since 2019 and despite their best efforts, a breakaway try from Hannah Jones sealed the deal for the visitors in the dying moments.

Whereas the Welsh can celebrate ending a previous run of seven straight losses in the Six Nations, Ireland will have to dust themselves down for a daunting away clash against France at Stade Ernest Wallon in Toulouse next Saturday.

Scorers - Ireland: A-L Murphy Crowe, L Djougang, S Flood try each, N Cronin 2 cons. Wales: D Rose 2 tries, C Phillips, J Joyce, H Jones try each, R Wilkins con.

Ireland: E Considine; A-L Murphy Crowe, E Higgins, S Flood, L Mulhall; N Cronin, A Reilly; L Djougang, N Jones, K O'Dwyer; N Fryday, S Monaghan; D Wall, E McMahon, B Hogan.

Replacements: C Pearse for O’Dwyer, B Parsons for Murphy Crowe, both 54 mins; K Dane for Reilly, 59 mins; A McGann for Hogan, 62 mins, E Breen for Mulhall, 63 mins; H O’Connor for Fryday, 79 mins.

Wales: K Powell; L Neumann, H Jones, K Lake, J Joyce; E Snowsill, K Bevan; G Pyrs, C Phillips, C Hale; N John, G Crabb; A Butchers, A Callender, S Lillicrap.

Replacements: K Jones for Phillips, S Harries for John, both 52 mins; C Hope for Pyrs, F Lewis for Bevan, both 56 mins; D Rose for Hale, B Lewis for Callender, both 62 mins; R Wilkins for Snowsill, 70 mins.

Referee: K Roche (USA).

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