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A strong defensive effort and two tries, including a fantastic second, helped Ireland in their push for a Rugby World Cup 2021 spot after a 15-7 win over Italy.
Ireland looked a much-improved side compared to their match against Spain last Monday and came away with a much-improved result to complement that.
Tries from Beibhinn Parsons and Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe put Adam Griggs’ side in the driver’s seat in the game and gives them a fighting chance next Saturday in the final round of games.
Parsons scored the first points of the game after 28 minutes when she got her side’s first try of the day after a maul was stopped short of the Italian line.
An Italian sin-bin gave Ireland a numerical advantage but Parsons made it seem as if there was a far bigger advantage on the hour mark when she danced through the defence, with her carry leading to a second try courtesy of Murphy Crowe.
Italy did have moments throughout the match where they threatened the Irish defence but it held up under pressure.
Ireland captain Ciara Griffin produced a superb last-ditch tackle to deny the hosts a try five minutes from the end of the first half.
Italy struggled mostly, however, failing to mount a sustained period of pressure consistently when the ball was in their hands.
Their one score of the match – a converted try – came when Irish full-back Eimear Considine sat in the bin following a poor tackle.
Beatrice Rigoni crossed the line for her side before seeing yellow for a deliberate knock-on while Michela Sillari added the extra points from the tee.
However, Ireland’s place-kicking on the day proved to be enough as Stacey Flood slotted a penalty over to restore the Irish lead following her earlier misses and put her second conversion between the posts to seal an important win for the girls in green.
Ireland will face Scotland in their final game of the qualifiers with a big score needed to qualify automatically if Italy beat Spain.
Ireland: Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians/Munster); Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe (Railway Union/Munster), Eve Higgins (Railway Union/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Blackrock College/Connacht); Stacey Flood (Railway Union/Leinster), Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere/Ulster); Laura Feely (Blackrock College/Connacht), Cliodhna Moloney (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Nichola Fryday (Blackrock College/Connacht), Sam Monaghan (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College/Munster), Edel McMahon (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians/Munster) (capt).
Replacements: Neve Jones (Malone/Ulster), Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Leah Lyons (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby), Brittany Hogan (DCU/Old Belvedere/Ulster), Claire Molloy (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Emily Lane (Blackrock College/Munster), Enya Breen (UL Bohemians/Munster), Lauren Delany (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby).
Italy: Vittoria Ostuni Minuzzi (Valsugana Rugby Padova); Manuela Furlan (Arredissima Villorba) (capt), Michela Sillari (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Beatrice Rigoni (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Maria Magatti (CUS Milano); Veronica Madia (Rugby Colorno), Sara Barattin (Arredissima Villorba); Gaia Maris (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Melissa Bettoni (Stade Rennais), Lucia Gai (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Valeria Fedrighi (Stade Toulousain), Giordana Duca (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Ilaria Arrighetti (Stade Rennais), Francesca Sgorbini (ASM Romagnat), Elisa Giordano (Valsugana Rugby Padova).
Replacements: Vittoria Vecchini (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Michela Merlo (Rugby Colorno), Sara Seye (Rugby Calvisano), Isabella Locatelli (Rugby Monza 1949), Giada Franco (Rugby Colorno), Sofia Stefan (Valsugana Rugby Padova), Alyssa D’Incá (Arredissima Villorba), Aura Muzzo (Arredissima Villorba).