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Irish up and running but injuries take shine off win

Ireland 21-8 Italy

First win: Ireland’s Megan Williams celebrates her try
First win: Ireland’s Megan Williams celebrates her try
David Kelly

By David Kelly

Ireland's women put Italy to the sword as they reignited their Six Nations challenge, but like their male counterparts it came at a cost.

After Ciara Cooney saw her campaign ended by a serious injury in France last week, Ireland's problems continued to mount.

Prolific winger Ali Miller was stretchered off inside the opening five minutes with what looked like a nasty leg injury, while hooker Cliodhna Moloney suffered a shoulder problem.

It soured what was an overall positive day for Ireland, but they will feel that they definitely should have left Donnybrook with the bonus point.

The hosts were vastly superior to Italy all over the park, but sloppy errors when in good positions denied them the chance to pick up five points.

The error count was high, which ultimately left Ireland struggling to put a dogged Italian side away, but two second-half tries from captain Ciara Griffin ensured that they bounced back from the heavy defeat in France.

Led by the outstanding Claire Molloy, Ireland were only 7-3 in front at the break, but they stuck to the task and eventually got the job done late on.

Lindsay Peat carried relentlessly throughout and the Italians struggled to cope with the prop's power in the loose.

"It was absolutely massive, it's been a while since we got the win, so this is a massive boost for the girls," a relived Molloy reflected.

"I think we played a more expansive game of rugby at times. Our handling and execution let us down, but it was nice to show that we can move the ball around and really threaten teams in attack.

"We're disappointed that we conceded the try there at the end, otherwise we just know what we need to work on for the next game, which is going to be a big one against Wales."

Not deterred by the lengthy stoppage for Miller's injury, Ireland went over for the opening try after nine minutes when Megan Williams, who was winning her second cap, capitalised on an overlap out wide.

Niamh Briggs added the extras, but Italy hit back late in the first-half when Michela Sillari knocked over a penalty.

Nicole Cronin came off the bench and provided plenty of zip from scrum-half, but Ireland were shooting themselves in the foot with their rising error count.

Their scrum was rock solid, but the lineout certainly needs plenty of work.

Briggs knocked on with the line at her mercy shortly after the hour mark, as the frustration levels grew, but those tensions eased when Griffin was on hand to dot down after 66 minutes.

"At times our handling really let us down, that's something we need to work on," Molloy admitted. "We want to make Donnybrook a fortress again. I think we have only lost one game here since we started."

Briggs' conversion pushed Ireland into a 14-3 lead and the victory was made safe four minutes from time when Griffin was on the end of another powerful scrum.

Briggs again added the extras, but just as Ireland looked like they would push for the crucial bonus point, they went to sleep and allowed Italy over for a late consolation try through Eleonora Ricci. It was a disappointing end to a day that saw Ireland get back to winning ways. Wales are next up in a fortnight and the squad's strength in depth will be tested further with the latest injury problems.

"We always wanted to win, that's why we go out there," Griffin said.

"It's great to get a win at home, especially at Donnybrook in front of such a good crowd.

"Those tries were team tries, one to 15 built those tries. I was just the lucky person at the end so I wouldn't even count them as my tries. They're team tries."

Ireland women: K Flood; M Williams, F Kitzhenry, S Naoupu (M Claffey 17-25), A Miller (C McLaughlin 4); N Briggs (M Claffey 77), A Hughes (N Cronin 50); L Peat (L Feely 79), C Moloney (C O'Connor 610, F Reidy (L Lyons 50); P Fitzpatrick, N Fryday; A Caplice (E McMahon 79), C Molloy, C Griffin (capt).

Italy women: M Furlan; S Stefan, M Sillari, B Rigoni; J Busato (A Muzzo 67), S Barattin (capt); E Ricci, M Bettoni, L Gai; V Ruzza (G Franco 25), G Duca; B Veronese, I Locatelli, I Arrighetti.

Referee: T Baker (Hong Kong)

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