Fit-again winger Alison Miller marked her first international start in over a year with a try as the Ireland Women triumphed 22-5 over Scotland at a wet and windy Scotstoun Stadium tonight.
Adam Griggs’ side picked up their first Six Nations points with a very encouraging display on the 3G pitch, dominating possession for long stretches with tries from influential forwards Aoife McDermott and Leah Lyons sandwiching Scottish centre Hannah Smith’s 20th-minute score to set up a 10-5 interval lead.
Aoife McDermott scores a try. Photo: INPHO/Craig Watson
Miller’s 20th try of her Six Nations career arrived five minutes into the second half and player-of-the-match Anna Caplice burrowed over on the hour mark as Ireland avenged last year’s 15-12 home defeat to Scotland.
The final quarter saw debuts for Sevens players Claire Boles and Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, with the latter fresh from last week’s historic World Sevens Series finish of fourth.
Ireland’s strong start in Glasgow was rewarded with lock McDermott’s sixth-minute try, the initial damage caused by a well-worked maul and although Miller was crowded out on the left wing, Nicole Fowley cleverly straightening up the attack with a sharp run and McDermott managed to drive through Debs McCormack’s tackle and crash over to the right of the posts.
Scotland regrouped impressively and quickly got their pacy backs on the ball as Chloe Rollie and captain Helen Nelson both made breaks.
They turned down a kickable penalty straight in front of the posts before retaining possession off two scrums and then sending the pacy Smith darting over out wide as she exploited a gap between Michelle Claffey and Miller.
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Like Fowley, Lana Skeldon also missed the conversion, and Ireland’s attempts to respond were spoiled by some poor decision-making and handling errors.
Nonetheless, they continued to ask questions of the Scottish defence with the heavily-involved Ailsa Hughes, who pressed from a couple of quickly-taken penalties, brought down by full-back Rollie to end a promising break.
They had to convert the pressure into points and duly succeeded in scoring on the stroke of half-time. With the elusive Eimear Considine and Miller both evading tackles on opposite wings, the girls in green crept back into try-scoring range.
Off a reliable set piece platform, the Irish pack forced the issue late on and there was no stopping Lyons – and the latch from Laura Feely – from five metres out.
Early pressure on the restart yielded a third unconverted try as Lyons went close from another bout of forward pressure before Miller, who broke her leg against Italy a year ago, did well to hold onto Sene Naoupu’s pass to slide over in the left corner.
Ireland were territorially dominant now and punchy carries from captain Ciara Griffin and Claire Molloy, coupled with a scrum won against the head, hammered home that advantage.
They continued to take Scotland through some strength-sapping phases and Molloy was stopped just short before Caplice, another of the all-action flankers on show, plunged over to wrap up the result in the 58th minute.
Out-half Fowley converted with aplomb for her only success on a difficult night for goal-kickers, and it was her booming relieving kick which brought up Scotland’s best attack of the second half.
Ireland were able to hold them at arm’s length for the remainder, despite a fine individual performance from Scottish hooker Skeldon who had an impact on both sides of the ball.
One particular turnover penalty thwarted the visitors just as they appeared to be building for another try. Instead, smart kicking from Fowley and replacement scrum half Kathryn Dane kept the Scots pinned and the 17-point gap remained in place.
TIMELINE: 6 minutes – Ireland try: Aoife McDermott – 0-5; conversion: missed by Nicole Fowley – 0-5; 20 mins – Scotland try: Hannah Smith – 5-5; conversion: missed by Lana Skeldon – 5-5; 40+1 mins – Ireland try: Leah Lyons – 5-10; conversion: missed by Nicole Fowley – 5-10; Half-time – Scotland 5 Ireland 10; 45 mins – Ireland try: Alison Miller – 5-15; conversion: missed by Nicole Fowley – 5-15; 58 mins – Ireland try: Anna Caplice – 5-20; conversion: Nicole Fowley – 5-22; Full-time – Scotland 5 Ireland 22
SCOTLAND: Chloe Rollie (Lille Metropole Rugby Club Villeneuvios); Liz Musgrove (Hong Kong RFC), Hannah Smith (Hillhead Jordanhill), Lisa Thomson (Darlington Mowden Park) (capt), Annabel Sergeant (Heriot’s Rugby Club); Helen Nelson (Montpellier), Mhairi Grieve (Firwood Waterloo Ladies); Lisa Cockburn (Darlington Mowden Park), Lana Skeldon (Watsonians), Megan Kennedy (Stirling County), Emma Wassell (Heriot’s Rugby Club), Debs McCormack (Harlequins), Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning), Rachel McLachlan (Stirling County), Sarah Bonar (Loughborough Lightning).
Replacements used: Nicola Howat (Edinburgh University) for McCormack (half-time), Sarah Law (Edinburgh University) for Grieve (52 mins), Mairi Forsyth (Stirling County) for Kennedy, Rhona Lloyd (Loughborough University) for Musgrove (both 59), Jodie Rettie (Saracens) for McLachlan (66), Lisa Martin (Lille Metropole Rugby Club Villeneuvios) for Nelson (69), Sophie Anderson (Hillhead Jordanhill) for Malcolm (74), Malcolm for Bonar (76). Not used: Katie Dougan (Gloucester-Hartpury).
IRELAND: Lauren Delany (Firwood Waterloo Ladies/IQ Rugby); Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster), Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Michelle Claffey (Blackrock/Leinster), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht), Nicole Fowley (Galwegians/Connacht); Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union/Leinster), Laura Feely (Galwegians/Connacht), Emma Hooban (St. Mary’s/Leinster), Leah Lyons (Harlequins), Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/Leinster), Nichola Fryday (Galwegians/Connacht), Anna Caplice (Richmond), Claire Molloy (Wasps), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt).
Replacements used: Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster) for Hughes, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Hooban, Claire Boles (Railway Union/Ulster) for Molloy (all 60 mins), Megan Williams (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Miller (64), Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Feely (67), Claire McLaughlin (Old Belvedere/Ulster) for Caplice (70), Ellen Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Fowley, Caplice for McLaughlin (both 74). Not used: Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians/Munster).
Referee: Maria Beatrice Benvenuti (Italy)
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