Ireland on the brink of Grand Slam
Ireland's Niamh Briggs touches down against France at Ashbourne. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland 15 France 10:Ireland’s women took another momentous step towards an historic first Grand Slam with a fraught five-point win over France at a fogs-shrouded Ashbourne RFC this evening. The results means only Italy now stand in the way of Philip Doyle’s side and a Six Nations clean sweep.
Ireland had only ever beaten France once before, the previous win coming in 2009, and for much of a tense first half it looked like following a familiar pattern as France dominated both territory and possession.
But having trailed 10-5 at the break, Ireland kept the visitors scoreless after the interval with a late Niamh Briggs penalty finally putting some breathing distance between the sides.
France opened the scoring through a huge Sandrine Agricole landed a penalty from wide left after just five minutes.
But Ireland hit back when Lynne Cantwell darted through midfield before offloading to number eight Joy Neville who was equally quick in sending Briggs away for a try from nothing.
The lead lasted a few minutes before Agricole converted Gaelle Mignot’s try from the touchline to help France to a 10-5 lead.
Ireland desperately needed their dressing room to regroup and before the second half could settle, Fiona Coghlan's pack bucked the trend of the opening 40 minutes and mauled the French over their own line, tighthead prop Ailis Egan arising from a clump of bodies.
Briggs nailed the conversion and, out of no where, Ireland were 12-10 ahead.
The scoreline remained the same until deep into injury time, when Briggs had the final say on a special night for Irish rugby.
Ireland:N Briggs (Munster); A Baxter (Ulster), L Cantwell (Exiles), J Murphy (Leinster), A Miller (Connacht); N Stapleton (Leinster), L Muldoon (Exiles); F Coghlan (Leinster, capt), G Bourke (Munster), A Egan (Leinster); S Spence (Exiles), M L Reilly (Leinster); S Fleming (Munster), C Molloy (Exiles), J Neville (Munster). Replacements:N Kavanagh for A Baxter (64 mins), G Davitt for J Murphy (74 mins), L Guest for S Flemming (80 mins).
France:C Ladagnous; J Billes, M Mayans, L Godiveau, E Guiglion; S Agricole, M-A Yahe (capt); H Ezanno, G Mignot, E Portaries; S Rabier, D Nadai Marine; C Tombe Diallo, L Grand, S N’diaye. Replacements:C Chobet for E Portaries (half-time), L Salles for G Mignot (58 mins), M Andre for L Grand (62 mins), A Bailon for L Godiveau, J Tremouliere for C Ladagnous (both 68 mins), A Koita for H Ezanno (72 mins)
Referee:N Inwood (New Zealand).