Ireland finish in third

Dannah O'Brien's 73rd-minute penalty delivered Ireland's highest Six Nations finish in three years and World Cup qualification.

April 26th, 2024

8 minute read

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Ireland finish in third

Ireland had to come from behind twice, with tries from Katie Corrigan and replacement Clíodhna Moloney part of a strong second half performance that led to O'Brien's decisive kick to win the game 15-12.

The error count was high from both teams, but Scotland managed to drive hooker Elis Martin over in the seventh minute for a 5-0 lead.

The 18-year-old Corrigan scored within two minutes of the restart, and although the excellent Lisa Thomson crossed to make it 12-5, Ireland got the better of their Celtic rivals to repeat their tight win from 2022 at the same venue.

Bouncing back from last week's heavy Twickenham defeat, the Ireland Women (sponsored by Aon) dug deep for their second home win of the 2024 Guinness Women's Six Nations. The hard-fought result puts them third in the final table, a climb of three places from last year.

It also seals Ireland's qualification for the 2025 Rugby World Cup in England - their major goal on the back of winning the WXV3 title earlier this season - and they will now get to play the world's leading teams in WXV1 later this year.

Opposing centres Thomson and Eve Higgins were prominent in attack early on, with Thomson bulldozing past O'Brien before Higgins responded with a quick-witted run up to halfway.

As the rain began to fall heavily, Ireland leaked two sloppy penalties and Scotland made them pay. Their maul drew plaudits during the opening four rounds, and a well-executed drive on the right saw hooker Martin crash over to make it 5-0.

Following a long injury stoppage for the unfortunate Caity Mattinson, the slippery ball caused problems for both sides. Ireland were in a good position off a scrum, but centre Thomson intercepted a pass for the Scots.

Both lineouts struggled under pressure, but most of the territory was still with Ireland. O'Brien found grass for a fine kick to touch, but an Enya Breen knock-on spoilt some phases in and around the Scottish 22-metre line.

Scotland continued to gain defensive wins, including holding up player-of-the-match Brittany Hogan for turnover ball. Linda Djougang raised the decibel level amongst the home crowd with a charge-down, and a tackle-breaking carry soon after.

On the half hour mark, Ireland seized the momentum through successive penalties. They went to the corner twice but Monaghan was stopped just short, and hooker Jones was held up impressively by Thomson just past the try-line.

The Irish lineout let them down in the 36th minute when presented with another gilt-edged opportunity in the left corner. That meant Scotland's indiscipline was left unpunished, and Louise McMillan also stole a Jones throw just before the break.

Ireland's execution was much improved on the restart, though. Breen was first to the breaking ball after an O'Brien cross-field kick, and when play came back to the right side, Hogan charged through a gap and fed Corrigan to finish strongly for her third try of the Championship.

It remained level on the scoreboard with O'Brien missing the difficult conversion on the near side. Scotland duly made use of the drier conditions too, sharpening up their attack to force a second try in the 48th minute.

Pressing off a lineout inside the Irish 22, Francesca McGhie threatened on the left wing before Meryl Smith's well-timed short pass put Thomson raiding over to the right of the posts. Helen Nelson converted for a 12-5 scoreline.

Nonetheless, Ireland were back level by the end of the third quarter. Aoibheann Reilly drove Emma Wassell backwards in a tackle, Aoife Wafer ripped possession back at a maul, and although one lineout did not work, Moloney was deadly accurate at the next one.

The Irish forwards built up a head of steam, allowing the replacement hooker to power over and O'Brien slotted over the levelling conversion from the right. Scotland responded with two turnover penalties to break up some decent Irish momentum.

Parsons and Wafer were seeing more of the ball in the wide channels, but a maul chance was blown with less than 15 minutes remaining. Scotland were losing ground but managed to pinch possession back inside their own 22.

Wafer cleverly dummied through off clean lineout ball, tearing to within metres of the Scottish line with Moloney up in support. A tight call for a knock-on went Ireland's way, and a subsequent penalty, just inside the 22, was nailed by O'Brien from the left.

The hosts had learned from the opening half, producing a huge defensive stand to stop a Scottish maul in its track after they had turned down a shot at the posts. Their captain Rachel Malcolm was also stripped of possession by Breen.

Ranked sixth in the world, the Scots came hunting again after Parsons' 79th-minute sin-binning. A victory would have seen them finish third for the first time since 2005.

Monaghan applied pressure in the air, though, and livewire prop O'Dowd was first to the loose ball, allowing O'Brien to kick the ball dead just a couple of phases later.

IRELAND WOMEN: Méabh Deely (Blackrock College RFC/Connacht); Katie Corrigan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster), Enya Breen (Blackrock College/Munster), Béibhinn Parsons (Blackrock College/Connacht); Dannah O'Brien (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Aoibheann Reilly (Blackrock College/Connacht); Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury), Christy Haney Blackrock College/Leinster), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/Munster), Sam Monaghan (Gloucester-Hartpury/IQ Rugby) (co-capt), Aoife Wafer (Blackrock College/Leinster), Edel McMahon (Exeter Chiefs) (co-capt), Brittany Hogan (Old Belvedere/Ulster).

Replacements used: Niamh O'Dowd (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Haney (half-time), Clíodhna Moloney (Exeter Chiefs) for Jones (45 mins), Shannon Ikahihifo (Trailfinders Women/IQ Rugby) for McMahon (71). Not used: Sadhbh McGrath (Cooke/Ulster), Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere/Ulster), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Leinster), Aoife Dalton (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Katie Heffernan (Railway Union RFC/Leinster).

SCOTLAND WOMEN: Meryl Smith (Bristol Bears); Coreen Grant (Saracens), Emma Orr (Heriot's Blues), Lisa Thomson (Great Britain Sevens), Francesca McGhie (Leicester Tigers); Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning), Caity Mattinson (Gloucester-Hartpury); Leah Bartlett (Leicester Tigers), Elis Martin (Leicester Tigers), Christine Belisle (Loughborough Lightning), Emma Wassell (Loughborough Lightning), Louise McMillan (Saracens), Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning) (capt), Alex Stewart (Corstorphine Cougars), Evie Gallagher (Bristol Bears).

Replacements used: Mairi McDonald (Exeter Chiefs) for Mattinson (11 mins), Elliann Clarke (Bristol Bears) for Belisle (47), Eva Donaldson (Leicester Tigers) for McMillan, Rachel McLachlan (Sale Sharks) for Stewart (both 58), Molly Wright (Sale Sharks) for Martin, Lisa Cockburn (Leicester Tigers) for Bartlett (both 62). Not used: Cieron Bell (University of Edinburgh), Nicole Flynn (University of Edinburgh).

Referee: Natarsha Ganley (New Zealand)