by Tom Pritchard
WALES secured their first win over Ireland since 2011, as they recorded a 24-5 bonus-point success at Cardiff Arms Park.
Rowland Phillips’ side leapfrogged their Irish counterparts to finish fourth in the Women’s Six Nations.
Tries from Jess Kavanagh, skipper Carys Phillips, Bethan Lewis and the industrious Jasmine Joyce meant Wales ended their campaign with consecutive victories, after clinching a dramatic win against Scotland in the previous round.
— Principality Prem (@PrincipalityPRM) March 18, 2019
The visitors had started the better of the two sides, but Phillips’ team were able to force an impressive fightback.
Alisha Butcher was awarded player of the match, the blindside flanker was part of a Wales pack which had the upper hand up front for much of the contest.
Adam Griggs’ side began on the front foot, searching for an early score to hand them the initiative.
Wales were penalised after wing Eimear Considine broke down the right wing, passed back inside to centre Enya Breen, and from the ruck the hosts were pinged for killing the ball.
The visitors continued to pile on the early pressure, and Wales were penalised again minutes later for offside.
While Wales spent the opening 10 minutes camped inside their own 22, and under pressure, their superiority at the scrum was providing a lifeline; as they won two penalties to help relieve pressure.
Ireland, however, kept the intensity up and were rewarded with a try from Beibhinn Parsons, after an overlap on the left side allowed the left wing to sprint in for the opening score.
In what was Wales’ first real attack, they got right back into the contest.
Wing Kavanagh received the ball on the left side, and stood up opposite number Considine, racing home for an eye-catching score.
Wales were forced to play out the majority of the closing stages with 14 players, after number eight Siwan Lillicrap saw yellow just before the half hour mark for a high tackle in midfield.
Dominance at the set-piece was a common theme for the hosts in the first period, and they asserted it once more just before the interval.
After winning another scrum penalty, they kicked to the corner and set up a driving maul, which they powered over the line for a second try.
Captain Phillips, who put in a solid shift in the front row, was the beneficiary of a seemingly unstoppable rampage towards the whitewash.
Wales Women finish with a flourish against Ireland https://t.co/gfpbZxAbHY
— Argus sport (@argussport) March 18, 2019
Ireland tried their best to force their way back into the game during the opening 20 minutes of the second period, however impressive defence from Wales, coupled with their power up front meant they were able to keep the Irish at arms length.
Wales’ scrum provided them with a solid platform inside Ireland’s 22, and after going through a handful of phases, openside flanker Lewis powered over from close range to give Wales some breathing space heading into the final 10 minutes.
Joyce capped off an impressive afternoon with a magnificent solo effort in the closing stages.
The winger outdid Parsons for power and pace on the touchline, rounding Ireland’s try-scorer and sprinting home to secure a well-deserved try bonus point.
For Phillips’ side, this was a display which provides reasons to be hopeful, with a lot of exciting young talent showing that the future should be bright for this Wales team.
“Roedd y perfformiad yn wych heddi.”
Garfan Rowland Phillips yn gorffen y bencampwriaeth drwy ennill yn yr Alban, a gartref yn erbyn Iwerddon. 👏👏👏🏴
🏉 Cymru 24-5 Iwerddon
— Clwb Rygbi (@yclwbrygbi) March 17, 2019
Wales: 15. Lauren Smyth, 14. Jasmine Joyce, 13. Hannah Jones, 12. Lleucu George, 11. Jess Kavanagh, 10. Elinor Snowsill, 9. Keira Bevan; 1. Caryl Thomas, 2. Carys Phillips (c), 3. Amy Evans, 4. Gwen Crabb, 5. Mel Clay, 6. Alisha Butchers, 7. Bethan Lewis, 8. Siwan Lillicrap.
Replacements: 16. Kelsey Jones, 17. Cara Hope, 18. Cerys Hale, 19. Alex Callender, 20. Manon Jones, 21, Ffion Lewis, 22. Robyn Wilkins, 23. Lisa Neumann.
Ireland: 15. Lauren Delany, 14. Eimear Considine, 13. Enya Breen, 12, Sene Naoupu, 11. Beibhinn Parsons, 10. Nicole Fowley, 9. Kathryn Dane; 1. Lindsay Peat, 2. Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird, 3. Fiona Reidy, 4. Aofie McDermott, 5. Nichola Fryday, 6. Ciara Griffin, 7. Claire Molloy, 8. Claire McLaughlin
Replacements: 16. Emma Hooban, 17. Linda Djougang, 18. Laura Feely, 19. Edel McMahon, 20. Anna Caplice, 21. Nicole Cronin, 22. Ellen Murphy, 23. Laura Sheehan.
Star player: Jasmine Joyce (Wales)
14′ – TRY: Beibhann Parsons (Ireland); conversion missed
17′ – TRY: Jess Kavanagh (Wales); conversion missed
26′ – YELLOW CARD: Siwan Lillicrap (Wales)
36′ – TRY: Carys Phillips (Wales); conversion Lleucu George
67′ – TRY: Bethan Lewis (Wales); conversion Lleucu George
76′ – TRY: Jasmine Joyce (Wales); conversion missed
(Featured image: Jordan Jones)