After seven long months, the Women’s Six Nations resumed with a 21-7 Irish victory over Italy – Ireland’s third-straight home win this Championship. In a game that saw errors on both sides, forwards dominated as Ireland emptied the tank in a decisive victory.
The match saw the visitors start strong with the Stefan-Madia pairing’s quick thinking and cohesiveness cinching a Melissa Bettoni try off of Giada Franco – the “thorn in the Irish side”. The remainder of the half saw Italy hold their ground deep in Irish territory but unable to convert their many opportunities into points with handling errors running rampant, despite undoubtedly having the superiority in playmaking. While the Irish defence held strong, the hosts struggled to clear their 22, with the newly-appointed fly-half Hannah Tyrrell struggling to make ground with her boot and the Irish pack conceding penalty after penalty at the breakdown.
The 30th minute saw the Irish side find their rhythm, seeming to get the hang of their lineouts and win possession in the ruck. 18-year-old Beibhinn Parsons burst onto the scene with a twenty-metre sprint before being struck down. The Irish were finally just metres off the Italian line when they were again quelled by the defensive might of the Italian pack, causing Nichola Fryday to knock on just five metres short of the line.
Eventually Ireland were rewarded for their effort with a bulldozer of a try from Lindsay Peat in the 37th minute, with Tyrrell’s boot finding the posts to convert shortly after. Not five minutes later the Irish found the line once again – doubling their lead – this time through Peat’s offload to Claire Molloy.
Both sides were clearly feeling the effects of such a long hiatus
The start of the second-half saw both sides struggle to maintain possession or create opportunities. The Italian scrum once again dominated and Franco continued to make her presence known to the Irish defence, breaking tackles and continuing to gain ground for the Italians, who were unable to put any more points on the board.
The hosts once again extended their lead in the 70th minute with captain Ciara Griffin initially thought to be the one to dot down, only to be awarded a penalty try after Kathryn Dane was found to be blocking an Italian defender during an Irish advantage.
Although the Irish victory was decisive, both sides were clearly feeling the effects of such a long hiatus. The Italian attack had the potential to be devastating to the hosts were it not for poor decision-making and a plethora of unforced errors. The Irish defensive effort was something to be applauded but Adam Griggs’ side must ensure their discipline if they have any hope for competing with an unforgiving French side 1 November.