Ireland and Italy came into tonight's match with a common tale to tell for their Six Nations campaign; neither side had yet put points on the board athough the Irish side's case was mitigated by having played one match less due to their abandoned opening match against the Welsh earlier in the campaign. The Italians were at the half way point of this season's campaign and badly needed a win to kickstart their season.
Irish head coach Philip Doyle has named an unchanged side to the one that narrowly lost to the French by a point a forthnight ago. In contrast the Italian management opted for a number of changes to the side that lost heavily to reigning champions England in their last match. Michela Sillari came in to play at outside centre in place of Maria Grazia Cioffi while Benetton Treviso out-half Michela Tondinelli claimed her 80th international appearance.
Action from the Ireland vs Italy Six Nations Match in Ashbourne
The trend for the match was set after only five minutes when after some strong attacking pressure Ireland opened up the scoring with a fine try from Marie Louise Reilly. Niamh Briggs duly converted to give the home side a 7 point lead. Italy did respond well with one piece of back play involving Michela Sillari, Veronica Schiavon, and Manela Furlan running out of space on the left wing. Ireland defended the resulting lineout near their try line and within minutes the ball was back up in Italian territory. Ireland's use of ball and quick recycling would contrast starkly with the unforced errors committed by Italy and none was this more evident when Irish Wing Niamh Kavanagh touched down for her team's second try after 14 minutes. Briggs, who had her shooting boots on for this encounter, punished the visiting side further with a quality conversion kick. Ireland were now 14-0 up and just 15 minutes had elapsed.
Even though the Italians were up against it on the scoreboard they did benefit from several periods of sustained possession and showed some incision past the Irish defensive line whenever their fast scrum half Sara Barattin was supplied with possession. Perhaps feeling that penalties were now of no use the Italians resisted the temptation to chip away at the lead gradually and instead aimed for the maximum score on several occasions during the first half. This tactic was perhaps naive against a largely solid and determined Irish defensive effort. Italy nearly achieved a try however when the Irish defense got sucked in allowing Furlan an acre of space on the far left away from the action; when ball was quickly distributed across Furlan could not get hold of the ball and the attack lost momentum allowing Ireland to redeploy their line. Throughout this period Italian No.8 Silvia Gaudino and out half Michela Tondinelli were the stand out players for the Italians.
However the pattern of the match would serve as an accurate portent of Ireland's third try. Following a large period defending against Italian possession, Ireland moved the ball up the field and after a defensive error an opportunistic Joy Neville seized the ball and jumped over the try line. The ever reliable Briggs dispatched the conversion and consolation scores were all that the Italians could hope for at this stage. Italy's positivity following these setbacks was admirable and things finally clicked upon the restart. With just a few minutes towards half time Italian Lock Cristina Molic found a gap in the Irish line and touched down to the delight of her team mates. Most of the credit for this try must lie at the hands of scrum half Barattin whose pace created the overlap that set Molic free.
Italy did attempt to capitalise on this score when the second half began but following a long period of grinding attacks they could find no avenue to break the resilient Irish defence. A Michela Tondinelli drop goal 15 minutes after the restart was the sole reward for all this pressure and a ruthless Irish backline would now capitalise on a tiring opposition. Tries from Amy Davis and Kavanagh on the wing followed and Ireland ran out comfortable winners in the end. The final score was Ireland 33 – Italy 10.