PHILADELPHIA, PA – After the exciting final weekend of the Women’s Six Nations tournament, Ireland emerged on top, joining their male counterparts as champs after blowing out Scotland with a final score of 73-3. The Irish women more than doubled the 27 points they had to have won by to emerge in first place, leaving France in second despite a win against England. Italy finished third, with their win over the Welsh team, making 2015 their best year of participation in the tournament with three wins. England finished fourth after a grueling game. Wales’ fifth place finish was largely a result of the team’s struggle to maintain consistency on the pitch, even after a win against England in Round 1. Scotland finished last with not a single win in the whole tournament.
Here’s a recap of each round of the tournament:
New skipper Niamh Briggs scored and converged the only try of the first half, starting strong in Round 1 of the tournament. Ireland’s subsequent scoring, which occurred on behalf of Briggs’ consistent kicks and the backs’ exploitation of loose balls, was finally met by overdue pressure from Italy, whose home support gave them the push they needed. Ireland won 30-5. On France’s pitch, with their 2014 Championship title, the home team gave no mercy to their visitors with their relentless forwards, tricky backs, and Julie Billes’ hat-trick. Scrum-half Jenny Maxwell threatened to break France’s streak but was met with the classic tricky ball handling from France and Julie Billes was left to make the team’s fourth, and then fifth try, though they ended with a total of seven, leaving them victorious in the 42-0 game. To conclude Round 1, England reached close to scoring only to be met with Wales’ desperate defense on multiple occasions. Moments of possession were controlled by England, including a break from Ceri Large, but the phases did not result with points like it did for Wales’ Catrin Edwards and Megan Doddard. England’s Ruth Laybourn was the closest to scoring for her team on the wing, but was met with a higher degree of intensity by Wales’ tackling, even after the English gathered momentum following the injury to their scrum-half, LaToya Mason. Wales finished their win 13-0.
The first game of Round 2 saw a close game between Ireland and France, with France taking the lead after the second half with the help of winger Caroline Boujard’s interception try and full-back Jessy Tremoulière’s penalty kick and conversion. France won in the end, with a score of 10 to Ireland’s 5. The second game of the Round marked Wales’ last win of the tournament over Scotland. Flanker Sioned Harries contributed a try, and accompanied by fly-half Laurie Harries’ consistent conversion kicks, the team seemed like they might have had a chance of winning the tournament. Scotland struggled to retain control of the game, and despite a penalty kick by outside-centre Nuala Deans, the team was unable to recover and lost to Wales 3-39. Finally, England was able to secure an incredible win over Italy. Fly-half Katy McLean contributed to England’s success, but was inconsistent with completing kicks. Flanker Hannah Gallagher also contributed a try for England. Though the Italian team could not pull-out a win over England, lock Flavis Severin and winger Michela Sillari were both able to put points on the scoreboard. In the end, England won 39-7.
After Niamh Briggs of Ireland and McLean of England scored a penalty each, the first match of Round 3 was set to be close, especially both having suffered a loss from the previous rounds. The match left room for satisfaction, starting from Paula Fitzpatrick’s knock-on that offered England valuable space, to England’s incapability of escaping their own half for quite some time. Fortunately for Ireland, Briggs was able to kick the winning penalty and, in conjunction with Muldoon’s try, grant Ireland their victory of 11-8. In the second game, France did not hesitate to put Wales under immense pressure as they held a comfortable 23-0 lead until Wales restored their possession strength, but not enough to keep Billes out and prevent her from scoring her second try. Set on scoring, Wales’ pack did push the five metres from the tryline and scored a penalty try, leaving Laurie Harries to clean things up with her conversion, which left the victory to France 28-7. Next, Italy celebrated their first win of the 2015 tournament, which started with their backs, who granted their lead early in the match. Scotland’s Nuala Deans hit a penalty to make up for lost ground, but Italy was gaining momentum and scored after the Scottish line knocked-on. Even though Italy’s Flavia Severin was sent to the bin for consistent infringement and Michela Este received the yellow card for not rolling, they still pulled out with the final try, right after Scotland’s consolation try that put the final score at 31-8.
In Round 4, England dominated the still winless Scots 42-13. Winger Ruth Laybourn made impressive strides with a hat-trick performance that led England to victory. Katy McLean, however, was still struggling on the boot, missing several conversions and penalty kicks. Scotland fought back with winger Eilidh Sinclair who scored the first try in England in seven years. Italy won against the previously undefeated French team in the second game of Round 4. Though France’s Julie Biles and Tremoulière contributed points to the final score, Italy’s Maria Magatti’s try in the last ten minutes of the game put Italy in the lead. Tremoulière’s missed penalty kicks and conversions certainly contributed to France’s loss against Italy as the final score was 17-12. The third game saw Ireland completely shut-out the Welsh team with a final score of 20-0. Though the Welsh team made several attempts at the try line with No.8 Shona Powell Hughes and winger Elen Evans, the Irish defense–namely Sophie Spence and Marie Louise Reilly–was able to hold off Welsh attacks. A combination of patience, excellent kicks by skipper Niamh Briggs, and hard work led the women of Ireland to another victory.
Italy v. Wales
In the first game of the fifth and final round of the tournament, Italy won their third consecutive game of the tournament over Wales with an ending score of 22-5. After an impressive fourth round victory against France, Italy maintained a dominating presence on the field against Wales. Though Wales was able to score a try when No.8 Sioned Harries broke through the line, the Italian team otherwise dominated with fly-half Veronica Schiavon contributing seven points in conversions and penalties and other players contributing tries. In the end, the Italians celebrated their most successful 6 Nations championship with their third win against France.
England v. France
In the second game of Round 5, both England and France were desperate to be the victor by a large margin in order to have a chance at winning the championship. France started off strong with Tremoulière scoring an impressive penalty kick within ten minutes of the start of the game. After a grueling battle for yards between the two packs, French hooker Mignot was able to secure the first try of the game. Though exciting attempts from English Abbie Scott and Ruth Laybourn to score ended in failure, England got in the game in the form of a penalty scored by Amber Reed and then a try from Hannah Gallagher. In the end, though England fought valiantly, it was France who came out on top with a score of 21-15.
Ireland v. Scotland
In order to secure their victory with threats of a French win against England, Ireland had to beat Scotland by 27 points, which they did, and then some. About twenty minutes in, Ireland already on the scoreboard, their intensity rocketed forward, with Claire Molloy’s try coming off a rolling maul, and Heather O’Brien’s off the powerful scrum. Full-back Niamh Briggs was winning her 50th cap for Ireland as she claimed a total of 23 points for herself. Her penalty score addition was followed by Scotland’s Nuala Deans, the only Scotland player to see the scoreboard, who also scored on a penalty. Three minutes before the halfway mark, Ireland had already reached its sufficient score gap, but this did not stop their momentum. Ireland broke the 50-point ceiling with Sophia Pence’s try and Briggs’ subsequent conversion. To conclude, Jenny Murphy’s score locked in the scoreboard at 73-3 and a Women’s Six Nations Championship title for the Irish. In celebration of their win, scrum-half Tania Rosser expressed her hopes of spreading involvement in the sports amongst young women. She said:
“The game has really come on but it has taken a while. I think how well we did in the World Cup has pushed it on again, and hopefully the Women’s Six Nations can do the same. So we have just got to keep performing and keep a positive light on the game and continue to grow the sport.”
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