Sunday, July 20, 2014


2014-07-20 16.48.39


If it’s in-depth coverage of the women’s game online that you seek, I would point you in the direction of websites like ScrumQueens or Facebook pages like Show Women’s Rugby Live on TV
We’d love to be able to devote more time here at HarpinOnRugby but over the course of the long season, time is generally the one thing we don’t have when it comes to giving the women’s game the coverage it deserves.
But please don’t let my glaring honesty scare you off and instead allow me to take this opportunity to explain how simply getting yourself to an occasion like this can convert you from a casual fan to a fully-fledged supporter of the girls in green.
Simply put, if you’re a fan of quality rugby there was nothing in this contest to disappoint you.  The reality may have been that this was an uncapped international with no competitive consequences, but if this 80 minutes was anything to go by then the Women’s Rugby World Cup in France is definitely something to look forward to.
The Welsh defence was tough to break down in the first half despite the fact Ireland had practically all the possession, and perhaps we telegraphed our backline patterns a bit too much which helped Welsh number 8 Sionad Harries nick an intercept in her own half and run it all the way back herself to give the visitors a surprise 7-0 lead.  I could be wrong in this but I believe that was the only time in the entire 80 minutes they were close to our try-line. 
Still, for the remainder of the first half we could not cross the whitewash despite several penalties being turned into attacking lineouts in their 22.  The closest we got was when a break got us to within 5m  right under the posts and as the Welsh scramble D tried to slow down our attack a stray hand in the ruck from winger Adi Taviner was penalised leaving the ref no choice but to send her to the sin bin.
Out-half Nora Stapleton converted the penalty from under the posts but we went in at the interval 3-7 down on the scoreboard.  It wasn’t until just before Taviner was due to return to the field in the opening minutes of the second half when we finally made the most of the extra player, and didn’t winger Ashleigh Baxter do it in style.
She collected the ball around the half-way line and simply had too much pace for the Welsh tacklers, evading several before touching down.  Stapleton added the conversion and from there the result was only ever going one way.
In the lead photo you see tall Irish lock Marie Louise Reilly (ironically from the same village as Devin Toner) take what was one of many clean lineout catches and on this occasion we finally got the maul working when it mattered and it was Grand Slam winning captain Fiona Coughlan who got the touchdown.  Stapleton showed her kicking prowess from the other side of the pitch to add the conversion, 17-7 to Ireland.
With one winger and one prop already on the scoresheet, not to be outdone Alison Miller and Ailis Egan added tries 3 & 4 to give the scoreline the look it deserved on the run of play.
You have to admire the Irish 23 for the way they stuck to their task…they were posed problems by the visitors early on but eventually sorted them out and they showed great resilience themselves without the ball, forcing choke tackles and turnovers on several occasions. 
Other stand out Irish players on the day included Reilly’s lock partner Sophie Spence but it was the overall attitude throughout the squad which impressed most…at pitchside you can hear all the encouragement they give each other during breaks in the action and it was really clear that this was a group of players who were focussed on their objective.
That objective is of course the World Cup itself which kicks off on Friday, August 1st, when remarkably the Irish squad should be even stronger when experienced players like Niamh Briggs and Lynn Cantwell return after being rested on this occasion. 
We find ourselves in a tough pool along with New Zealand, the USA (who apparently had representatives at this match taking notes) and, surprisingly to women’s rugby newbies like myself, Kazakhstan.  To reach the semifinals we have to either win the pool or be the best runner-up so we’ll need at least two wins from our three matches.
Well all I can say is that if you are fan of Irish rugby and you have yet to get behind the girls, I suggest you do so now.  Our World Cup campaign will be screened live on TG4 and of course you can send messages of support through social media to the IRFU, or even directly to the players as most are on twitter.
And if you don’t still believe me that women’s rugby is well worth a watch, take it from Joe Schmidt, Les Kiss and even Katie Taylor, all of whom were in attendance.
I’d like to thank Malahide RFC for putting on a great event, with free admission, ample parking, a barbecue and bouncy castles for what was an excellent family afternoon out.  And despite the other sporting distractions on the day like Dublin v Meath, Rory McIlroy at the British Open and the Tour de France, there was a more than decent turnout.
Of course thanks must also go to Philip Doyle, his coaching staff and the entire squad for all the hard work they have clearly put in to prepare for the World Cup - they have certainly built on the the successes of the 2013 Grand Slam and are well poised to make a mark in France.
Last but certainly not least I must give a special thanks to Nicholas Thompson and his daughter Nadine who drove all the way from Portarlington - missing kickoffs at matches is a pet peeve of mine and if it wasn’t for their offering me a lift from the bus stop I would have been at least 15 minutes late….they even kindly dropped me back to my stop afterwards!
All in all a terrific way for a rugby nut to spend a Sunday afternoon. And like I said, the girls are ready, willing and able to make an impact on the World Cup in France so I hope you’ll join me in being ready, willing and able to give them our full support.  JLP


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019