Ireland’s women’s rugby side – fittingly on International Women’s Day – defeated France 15-10 at Ashbourne RFC last night and following England’s comprehensive win over Italy at Esher this (Saturday) afternoon, they have now also added a historic first ever RBS 6 Nations title to the Triple Crown they had already won having previously defeated Wales, England and Scotland.
It was a hard fought win last night, before a near 4,000 attendance at foggy Ashbourne and in the presence of President Michael D.Higgins.
Lovely to see the President at Ashbourne on such a historic evening. Great shame though that it was not shown LIVE on RTE. A huge lost opportunity to support the team on this momentous occasion.
Both sides were desperate to win, with the French having very surprisingly lost to Italy in their opener at Rovato, Brescia.
Sandrine Agricole’s seventh minute penalty put the French ahead and they were on top in the opening 10 minutes until a great break by Alison Miller down the left ended with Joy Neville putting Waterford full-back Niamh Briggs through for the vital opening try.
The French though did soon hit back and hooker Gaëlle Mignot went over in the corner with Agricole again converting.
In the second half, and with the wind in their favour, the Irish with Captain Fiona Coghlan in full flight dominated a third quarter which saw Ailis Egan gain the all-important second Irish try. Briggs, converted this one. The big crowd were by now in full voice in support of the Irish XV and it was Briggs again who scored the final penalty to put the game out of the reach of the French.
After the game, Tralee’s Siobhan Fleming told RTE : ”We were the fitter side and we knew that. We had to keep playing simple and do what we do best. In the end we finished on top which was enough. That is enough for us any day.
“We needed that try (Niamh Briggs) to settle us, get us going and get into the rhythm again. They were never going to make it easy. You have to play what is in front of you – there was no way we were going to pull away from them.
“We did the best we could in the circumstances. They were physically bigger but once we got into it, once we could maintain possession, we were laughing then.”
“I thought the referee would never blow the full-time whistle but when she did it was brilliant. I don’t want to leave the field, it’s brilliant playing at home, there is so much support from family and friends. The effort they go to, it makes it all worthwhile. Whatever the work we put in, the support we get is absolutely brilliant.
“It means so much because France being the team they are, it was always going to be tough”
One of the heroes of the game, and not for the first time. was Limerick-based Gardaí, Niamh Briggs who plays her club rugby for Clonmel. The former Waterford Gaelic footballer holds eight All-Ireland medals from underage to senior level.
Meantime this afternoon, England Women returned to winning ways with a dominant performance against Italy in the Six Nations at Esher RFC, running in six tries in a 34-0 win.
Ireland plays their final match, against Italy at Parabiago, Milan next weekend but they are already 6 Nations Champions . Congratulations to Head Coach Philip Doyle, Captain Fiona Coghlan and all the Irish Squad from SportsNewsIreland on this magnificent achievement.