Ireland’s women followed the example of the men 24 hours earlier to capture the RBS Women’s 6 Nations title on points difference after a record 73-3 win over Scotland at the Broadwood Stadium on Sunday.
At the outset Ireland needed to beat the bottom-of-the-table Scots by 27 points or more to deny France a second consecutive crown, and they never looked back once the target had been passed three minutes before half-time.
Tom Tierney’s side racked up 11 tries in total to record their biggest score in an international and a 10th straight win over the Scots.
Winger Alison Miller ran in a hat-trick of tries and full-back Niamh Briggs (pictured lifting trophy) celebrated reaching her 50th cap with a 23-point haul through a try, six conversions and two penalties.
The rest of Ireland’s tries came from Claire Molloy, Heather O’Brien, Gill Bourke, Paula Fitzpatrick, Sophie Spence, Tania Rosser and Jenny Murphy.
While Ireland captain Briggs was undoubtedly one of the stars of their title-winning campaign, finishing as the tournament’s top points scorer with 49 points, the 30-year-old stressed it was a collective effort.
“A lot of people outside of our bubble wrote us off with so many changes coming in but our belief never really waivered,” Briggs said. “I’m absolutely delighted that all the hard work the girls put in has paid off. It has been an outstanding squad effort for the whole of the Six Nations.”
FRANCE EDGE ENGLAND
France set Ireland their 27-point target after chalking up a 21-15 win over England at Twickenham.
Jessy Tremoulière finished second to Briggs as the tournament’s top points scorer after scoring a try and kicking 11 points against England to boost her overall tally to 43. France’s other try was scored by captain and hooker Gaëlle Mignot.
New-look England will take heart from the way they fought back from 13-3 down at half-time, second-half tries from Hannah Gallagher and Harriet Millar-Mills ensuring they finished an otherwise disappointing campaign on a high note.
“It is disappointing to finish fourth but we started the campaign with the aim of blooding several new players and developing them as we build towards the next World Cup in 2017,” said acting England Women’s head coach Nicky Ponsford. “We have done that and all the players have progressed game by game. They have got more and more competitive and we finished the championship pushing France to the end.”
ITALY MAKE HISTORY
Italy, meanwhile, finished a best ever season in third place after an impressive 22-5 win over Wales at the Stadio Plebiscito in Padua.
Full of confidence after beating title-chasing France the week before and cheered on by a 3,500-strong crowd, the Italians scored three tries through Flavia Severin, Sara Barattin and replacement Paola Zangirolami while Veronica Schiavon added seven points from the kicking tee.
Their three victories in this campaign put Italy in pole position for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 qualification with the best two teams outside of England, Ireland and France across the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Six Nations booking their ticket to the showpiece event in the women’s game.
For Wales, defeat caps an inconsistent campaign that saw them claim impressive wins over England and Scotland in the first two rounds before falling to three consecutive losses, although they did score a try through Shona Powell-Hughes in Italy.
Photo credit: SNS GROUP / SRU