Underwhelming Ireland hold on to deny France at Donnybrook
Ireland 13 France 10
Ireland Women's Rugby team played host to France in their opening home game of the Six Nations yesterday at Donnybrook, and were fortunate to claim a narrow 13-10 victory in what was a real arm-wrestle of a match.
Ireland were very much the in-form team of this year's championships, having claimed two bonus points wins in their opening fixtures against Scotland and Italy, but struggled to get on the scoreboard despite exerting territorial dominance in the opening half.
An early penalty saw out half Nora Stapleton hit the post, but despite blustery conditions Stapleton made amends with her second kick of the game, when a holding penalty on Claire Molloy by Romaine Menager allowed Ireland to open the scoring after 12 minutes.
Ireland managed to maintain their precarious three-point lead until the break, but were unable to convert their territorial dominance into a more convincing scoreline.
With three minutes of the first half remaining, Ireland captain Paula Fitzpatrick was shown a yellow card and sent to the sin bin for dragging down a maul, and the Irish pack felt her absence on the other side of the break.
The French started the second half with a much more focused attacking intent. Caroline Ladagnous broke through into clear space to score the opening try of the game, and Jessy Tremouliere's superbly struck conversion saw France go 7-3 ahead.
But an Irish reply was almost imminent, and off the back of another impressive lineout inside the French '22', Leah Lyons steered the Irish maul over to claim the try and Stapleton's conversion saw Ireland reclaim the lead at 10-7.
Ireland continued to exert pressure on the French, who conceded a penalty in 63rd minute, which Stapleton managed to convert to secure their dominance at 13-7.
But France continued to edge forward, and a Tremouliere penalty kick saw them close the gap to 13-10 as the game entered the final quarter.
Ireland managed to hang on to their slight lead in a scrappy final 10 minutes to see the game out, and the hard fought victory ensures that the girls in green keep their Grand Slam hopes alive.