Two first half tries from wing Jess Kavanagh-Williams was not enough for Wales to overcome Ireland, as the "Girls in Green" won 27-19 in the Six Nations warm-up at Ystrad Mynach.
Ireland captain Ciara Griffin (Photo: Ashley Crowden/Camerasport/www.Inpho.ie)
[Report from IRFU and WRU]. Wales were forced to make a late change on the bench, as Nia Elen Davies was ruled out and replaced by Katie Jenkins, who is a member of the development team for this year's Six Nations.
Uncapped Ireland winger Megan Williams, who has been a regular on the Sevens World Series circuit, Claire McLaughlin, Alison Miller, Leah Lyons and Sene Naoupu were the try scorers as the "Girls in Green" deservedly came out on top. A Jess Kavanagh-Williams brace had Wales 19-17 in front at half-time, but Ireland held them scoreless for the remainder.
Megan Williams provided a poacher's finish in the right corner to get Ireland off the mark after just five minutes. The wet weather made it difficult for former skipper Niamh Briggs who was unable to convert on her welcome return from a long spell out with injury. Briggs moved from full-back to out-half, replacing the retired Nora Stapleton in the play-making role.
Just five minutes later, wonderful link-up on the left between winger Miller, scrum half Ailsa Hughesand full-back Kim Flood paved the way for Ulster centre McLaughlin to put more points on the board for Ireland. Briggs converted this time and Ireland led 12-0.
Wales, who had struggled up to this point, scored from their first attack of the half with a tap and go from captain Carys Phillips. Robyn Wilkins was unable to convert. Looking for a quick response, the visitors passed well and played with pace, and neat interplay between Hughes and flanker Anna Caplice almost saw them create another try.
Shortly afterwards, Briggs produced a wonderful cross-field kick for Miller to finish smartly for Ireland's third try of the half. The extras again went wide. However, the heavy rain became more of an issue and Wales edged ahead and Rowland Phillips' side went in at the interval with a two-point lead, after a try from captain Carys Phillips and a Kavanagh-Williams.
Miller produced a lovely run down the flank and was almost free from the covering Welsh shirts, but the red defence managed to get back. Adam Griggs' charges finally got the try they had been looking for as a team effort helped replacement hooker Lyons get the ball over the line following a huge power surge.
Just a few minutes before the final whistle, Ireland, who are away to France in their Championship opener, sealed the result as Naoupu, who had impressed after moving from centre to out-half for the second period, dived over from close range. Lyons hit the post with the conversion.
Scorers: Wales: Carys Phillips, Jess Kavanagh-Williams 2; Cons: Robyn Wilkins 2
Ireland: Tries: Megan Williams, Claire McLaughlin, Alison Miller, Leah Lyons, Sene Naoupu; Con: Niamh Briggs
HT: Wales 19 Ireland 17
WALES: Lisa Neumann; Hannah Bluck, Kerin Lake, Rebecca de Filippo, Jess Kavanagh-Williams; Robyn Wilkins, Jade Knight; Caryl Thomas, Carys Phillips (capt), Amy Evans, Natalia John, Mel Clay, Alisha Butchers, Bethan Lewis, Siwan Lillicrap
Replacements used: Kelsey Jones for Butchers (half-time), Lleucu George for Wilkins, Gwenllian Pyrs for Thomas, Cerys Hale for Evans (all 60 mins), Angharad de Smet for Bluck, Jodie Evans for Kavanagh-Williams, Nia Elen Davies for Lewis (all 66), Amu Thomas for John (68), Ffion Lewis for Knight, Awen Prysor for Phillips (both 71), India Berbillion for de Filippo (75).
IRELAND: Kim Flood (Railway Union/Leinster); Megan Williams (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Claire McLaughlin (Cooke/Ulster), Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht); Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union/Leinster); Laura Feely (Galwegians/Connacht), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians/Munster), Elaine Anthony (Highfield/Munster), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary's/Leinster), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemians/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt).
Replacements used: Michelle Claffey (Blackrock/Leinster) for Briggs, Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians/Munster) for Hughes (both half-time), Susan Vaughan (Railway Union/Leinster) for Flood, Aoife McDermott (Railway Union/Leinster) for Feely (both 45), Annette Tomas (Abbey Ladies/IQ Rugby) for Williams, Nichola Fryday (Tullamore/Connacht) for Anthony (both 55), Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster) for Moloney, Ciara O'Connor (Galwegians/Connacht) for Reidy (both 65), Ilse van Staden (Cooke/Ulster) for Feely,, Edel McMahon (Galwegians/Connacht) for Fitzsimons.