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Girls in green go top of table with bonus point win over Italy

Italy 3-27 Ireland

By Bill Kiely

Patience was the order of the day as hooker Leah Lyons finally broke the Italian resistance and the Ireland Women secured a vital bonus point win to go top of the Six Nations table with victory over Italy at Stadio Tommaso Fattori in L'Aquila.

Lyons, former World Player of the Year nominee Sophie Spence, Paula Fitzpatrick and Hannah Tyrrell touched down in the second half, and Tom Tierney's women left with the maximum points haul for the second weekend in a row.

It is the perfect start to their bid for silverware, following last week's opening 22-15 victory over Scotland at the Broadwood Stadium.

It was just 3-3 at half-time as Ireland struggled to break down Italy going forward, but the tries came after the break.

Ireland and Italy turned down kickable penalty opportunities in the early stages, but the visitors took the lead in the 28th minute when Nora Stapleton slotted her first penalty.

Italian wing Michela Sillari scored a penalty just before half-time, while Ireland messed up another chance in the 45th minute when Mairead Coyne knocked on with the Italian line at her mercy.

But eventually it clicked, Lyons touched the ball off the base of the post for the first try in the 51st minute. And after Stapleton converted Ireland came back up the pitch and Spence touched down.

Stapleton's second conversion gave Ireland a 17-3 lead in the 56th minute, and the game was turned on its head.

Captain Fitzpatrick put the game beyond doubt with their third try after the hour, and Tyrrell sealed the bonus point at the end.

Scorers - Italy: M Sillari pen. Ireland: L Lyons, S Spence, P Fitzpatrick, H Tyrrell tries; N Stapleton pen; N Stapleton 2 cons.

Italy: M Furlan; M Sillari, M Cioffi (P Zangirolami 39), S Stefan, M Magatti (C Salvadego 75); B Rigoni, S Barattin; E Cucchiella (M Ferrari 42), M Bettoni (G Giacomoli 75), L Gai (I Arrighetti 50); F Severin (M Este 60), A Trevisan; L Cammarano, I Locatelli (E Pillotti 55), E Giordano.

Ireland: M Coyne; H Tyrrell, J Murphy (C McLaughlin 38, HIA) (Murphy 40), S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, A Hughes (M Healy 40); L Peat (I van Staden 74), L Lyons, A Egan (C O'Connor 74); E Anthony (S Spence 40), ML Reilly; C Griffin (C Cooney 62), C Molloy, P Fitzpatrick.

Referee: Rachel Horton (Australia)

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