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Ireland secure seismic bonus-point victory over Wales

Cork , Ireland - 13 April 2024; Eve Higgins of Ireland, centre, celebrates with teammates after scoring their side's second try during the Women's Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Ireland and Wales at Virgin Media Park in Cork. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ireland secured their first Women’s Six Nations win in eight matches with a seismic 36-5 victory over Wales at Cork’s Virgin Media Park.

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The bonus-point result propels Ireland from fifth in the Women’s Six Nations table to third with six points while Wales remain in sixth with only one point after three rounds.

First-half tries from Aoife Wafer, Eve Higgins, and Neve Jones sent Ireland into the break 21-0 up, with Dannah O’Brien’s conversions contributing six points.

Ireland went on to score another two tries in the second half as Katie Corrigan scored her second international try before Beibhinn Parsons rounded off the scoring.

Gwennan Hopkins scored the only points for Wales on her debut from the bench as she broke through the Irish defence in the 65th minute.

Fixture
Womens Six Nations
Ireland Women's
36 - 5
Full-time
Wales Women's
All Stats and Data

A rampaging run from Aoife Wafer gave Ireland the first try of the match, her red scrum cap powering through three defenders as the home side worked their way out wide for the opening score of the match. Wafer was a shining star in Ireland’s victory with countless ferocious carries and a stunning performance around the park earning herself player of the match.

Their lead was extended to seven points through the boot of O’Brien after a positive opening quarter for Scott Bemand’s side.

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Co-captain Edel McMahon stole a Welsh lineout to set up a fantastic break from Aoibheann Reilly which saw her dart down the middle of the pitch, but the scrum-half was taken down within five metres of scoring. The break did however set up Ireland’s second try, as Higgins soon took them over the line with a strong solo carry from the breakdown.

Five metres later, they were on the board again, firmly stamping their authority within the first half as hooker Neve Jones dotted down from the maul for their third try, followed by a third successive conversion from O’Brien.

Wafer drew Ireland close to a fourth try with a winding run, demolishing the Welsh defence until she was caught within five metres. A knock-on from Hannah Jones gave Ireland another chance to attack from the scrum, from which Wafer once again powered through the red shirts. Ireland pushed the Welsh defence through multiple phases, but Alex Callender won the turnover penalty to deny Ireland the first-half bonus point and provide a moment of relief for her team-mates.

Ireland’s defence was then called into action as Lleucu George broke into Irish territory, but the home side piled on the pressure as the clock ticked down to force the knock-on from Sisilia Tuipulotu.

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A positive first quarter transformed into a positive first half for the girls in green as they rounded off the 40 minutes with a successful defensive effort to send them into the break with a 21-point lead.

Within seconds of the whistle being blown after half-time, Ireland had secured the bonus point. Jenny Hesketh called for the mark but her kick stayed firmly on the pitch and sailed into Irish hands before Corrigan charged down a subsequent kick from George to run in the fourth try under the posts.

O’Brien continued her perfect record from the tee as she converted Corrigan’s try before extending Ireland’s lead with a penalty to make the scoreline 31-0 after 49 minutes.

Clíodhna Moloney made her richly deserved and long-awaited return for Ireland in the 51st minute to earn her 32nd cap, two years since her last.

Parsons was set free down the wing by Wafer for Ireland’s fifth try of the match with a clinical finish to exploit the Welsh defence, calling her sevens skills into play as she palmed off lone defender Hesketh and sped away to score. Although O’Brien was unable to convert, Ireland had the 36-0 lead.

Wales’s first points came in the 65th minute as Carys Cox made a fantastic break down the middle of the pitch before Hopkins muscled her way over the line to score on her international debut. Referee Sara Cox initially thought the try to be held up by O’Brien, the TMO ruled that the ball had touched the ground and the five points were awarded.

Wales ramped up the attack but had a second try disallowed due to a forward pass and Ireland saw out the match to take the well-earned victory, one that has been a long time coming.

Next week will see Ireland travel to Twickenham Stadium to face England, who after their win against Scotland earlier in the day are three from three in their 2024 Six Nations campaign.Wales will regroup before facing last year’s runners-up France in round four.

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Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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