England 17 Ireland 7
Irelandâ00s superb defensive performance will give them much hope and optimism at the end of a solid campaign while England, the worldâ00s on-form team, will recognise how hard they had to fight to ensure their fifth win in a row in the tournament.
The home team got off to a flying start and scored through centre Claire Allan within a minute after Ireland dropped the ball from the kick off and handed easy possession to their opponents. Allan skipped through the middle to score under the posts and it looked like it would be another long 80 minutes for Ireland against a team who have wracked up some massive scores this season.
Going into the last game England had already celebrated a 55-0 win over Wales, a 76-6 triumph against Italy, a record away 31-0 victory against France and a 5-34 defeat of Scotland and when Allan scored for her sixth try of the tournament the large crowd senses another big win, but Ireland thought otherwise.
Katy McLean kicked a penalty for England minutes later but Irelandâ00s defence was rock solid for the rest of the half as England led 10-0 at the break.
Englandâ00s excellent scrum threatened to be a real problem for Ireland but number 8 Joy Neville did brilliantly at the base to clean up and secure possession and Irelandâ00s solid line-out gave them some good possession.
Some tough tackles from Grace Davitt frustrated England out wide, and Ireland had their best scoring chance before the whistle when captain Sarahjane Belton and Lynne Cantwell linked up to make some good ground but they were kept out and England held their advantage.
After the restart Ireland continued to keep England at bay with some fierce defending. Aggressive at the breakdown through some strong hits from the likes of Fiona Coghlan and Geri Healy, they stopped England from getting their consistency going while the home side made the win hard work for themselves too.
On 70 minutes substitute Sarah Beale broke the deadlock after England drove forward with a massive surge from a scrum in Irelandâ00s 22 and with some impossible to stop forward momentum Beale broke off the back and scored. This time Richardson added the conversion to hand England the 17-0 lead.
Ireland refused to give up though and their gritty determination in the dying minutes of the game paid off when they were handed a line-out five metres out from Englandâ00s line. They executed the line-out well and drove over with replacement Yvonne Nolan claiming the spoils. Grace Davitt converted to make the final score 17-7.
Though ultimately disappointed, Ireland will have much positive to reflect on. They gave England the best test they have had this season and demonstrated a heartening neve-say-die attitude which will sever them well going forward.
Earlier in the day, former Ireland players Nicki Milne and Eryka Wessell were part of the Nomads team who beat England A in the warm-up game to the full international.
Ireland: Sarahjane Belton (capt); Lynne Cantwell, Patrique Kelly, Shannon Houston, Grace Davitt; Joanne O'Sullivan, Tania Rosser; Fiona Coghlan, Jess Limbert, Marie Barrett, Caroline Mahon, Germaine Healy, Eimear O'Sullivan, Orla Brennan, Joy Neville.
Replacements: Gillian Bourke, Yvonne Nolan, Sinead Ryan, Louise Austin, Louise Beamish, Niamh Briggs, Amy Davis.
Replacements: Gillian Bourke (for Limbert 58), Lousie Austin (for Brennan 58), Yvonne Nolan (for Barrett 68),
England : Rochelle Clark, Amy Garnett, Katy Storie, Tamara Taylor, Joanna McGilchrist, Sarah Hunter, Margaret , Catherine Spencer (C), Amy Turner, Katy McLean, Danielle Waterman, Rachael Burford, Claire Allan, Michaela Staniford, Charlotte Barras Replacements:
Sarah Beale (for J McGilchrist 56), A Richardson (for K McLean 53), K Merchant (for D Waterman 48) E Layland (for A Garnett 65), S Hemming (for R Clarke 68), Karen Jones (for S Hunter 68), V Massarella (for C Barras 53)
Scorers England: Tries: Allan, Beale, Conversions: McLean, Richardson, Penalities: McLean
Scorers Ireland: Tries: Nolan, Conversions Davitt.
Referee: Andrew Healy (SRU)