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Ireland beat Scotland to qualify for World Cup



Ireland qualified for the World Cup with their Guinness Women’s Six Nations victory over Scotland enough to secure third place and passage to next year’s tournament in England.

Getting the win over Scotland was the only goal for today, but the team will revel in the achievement after missing out on the last edition.

Victory in Belfast came after a rollercoaster contest in which Ireland, beaten 88-10 last week by England, only led for the final six minutes and held out against a late Scottish onslaught.

It was desperately poor fare at times but Scott Bemand’s side dug deep to stay in the game and Katie Corrigan struck for Ireland’s first try just after the break.

Scotland retook the lead but Clíodhna Moloney added another try and Dannah O’Brien kicked the conversion and a late penalty to edge Ireland over the line much to the delight of a record crowd at Ravenhill.

The rain held off until a few minutes after kick-off and when it came it fell heavy on the 3G pitch. It didn’t bother Scotland in the least.

They opened the scoring in the eighth minute, winning two penalties in the Irish half off the back of a poor missed touch kick by O’Brien and a knock-on from Méabh Deely.

Helen Nelson kicked the visitors into the corner and captain Rachel Malcolm claimed the throw. The pack set quickly and hooker Elis Martin, added to the starting XV yesterday, was in place to touch down.

The game was then delayed for over five minutes with Scotland scrum-half Caity Mattinson needing lengthy treatment before leaving on a stretcher.

Ireland had more territory when play resumed but they were unable to take advantage of it with a number of knock-ons halting any momentum.

They were poor out of touch, too, losing two lineouts and allowing Nelson to use her big boot to clear Scottish lines.

Linda Djougang (below) was game and carried hard but the hosts were unable to string more than a couple of phases together before losing possession.

But on the half-hour mark the lineout warmed up and Ireland almost got their score.

After turning down a kickable shot at goal, they took three successive throws in the Scots’ 22 and Neve Jones got over but was held up as Ireland laboured for hard yards.

A fourth lineout in quick succession went astray and Scotland eventually worked a penalty to clear their lines.

Given the poor lineout return, it was a situation that called for a tap penalty move but, for whatever reason, none materialised.

After a crooked lineout throw, Ireland had one last chance to get on the board before the half and declined an even more straightforward three-point show to go to the corner.

A Scottish hand intercepted Jones’ throw and that was that.

All of Ireland’s toil eventually yielded a score just after the break.

Djougang carried before O’Brien dabbed a ball in behind and the bounce caused chaos in the opposition defence.

Enya Breen grabbed the ball and Ireland stayed patient before player of the match Brittany Hogan offloaded to Corrigan who beat three defenders to the line for her third try in four games. O’Brien’s conversion attempt dropped just short.

Scotland, who started the day in third place, two points ahead of Ireland, hit back straight away.

Ireland conceded two penalties and centre Lisa Thompson broke the line putting the hosts on the back foot.

They recycled quickly and full-back Meryl Smith, in for the suspended Chloe Rollie, popped a short pass to Thompson, who had a straight run-in.

Nelson converted to give Scotland a seven-point lead.

A superb Aoibheann Reilly tackle on lock Emma Wassell and an Aoife Wafer steal earned Ireland a penalty but this time replacement Moloney’s throw didn’t find its intended target and Scotland cleared.

But that was a temporary reprieve with Moloney finding Edel McMahon from a close-range lineout and the Galway woman was on hand to touchdown moments later.

O’Brien struck her conversion superbly and the game was tied with 20 minutes to play.

Béibhinn Parsons made 40 yards on a counter and Moloney stole a lineout ball at the back but poor discipline at the breakdown let Scotland off.

When Nelson was penalised for a neck roll on Wafer, Ireland had another chance but after making 15 yards on a maul inside the 22, lost possession.

Wafer, Ireland’s player of the tournament, sold a dummy and made 20 yards but Scotland scambled and held out.

Then came the winning play. Bryan Easson’s side went offside and this time O’Brien took the shot on from the subsequent penalty and split the posts.

The drama wasn’t over and Scotland won a scrum penalty before going through a number of phases inside the Irish 22.

Shannon Ikahihifo, Niamh O’Dowd and Hogan all put in huge tackles before Parsons went in the bin for a knock down as the visitors threatened.

But Sam Monaghan rose to disrupt the lineout and O’Dowd pounced on the loose ball to secure victory and qualification for next year’s World Cup in England and elevation to tier one of the WXV.

Ireland: Méabh Deely; Katie Corrigan, Eve Higgins, Enya Breen, Béibhinn Parsons; Dannah O’Brien, Aoibheann Reilly; Linda Djougang, Neve Jones, Christy Haney; Dorothy Wall, Sam Monaghan (co-capt); Aoife Wafer, Edel McMahon (co-capt), Brittany Hogan.

Replacements: Clíodhna Moloney, Niamh O’Dowd, Sadhbh McGrath, Fiona Tuite, Shannon Ikahihifo, Molly Scuffil-McCabe, Aoife Dalton, Katie Heffernan.

Scotland: Meryl Smith; Coreen Grant, Emma Orr, Lisa Thomson, Francesca McGhie; Helen Nelson, Caity Mattinson; Leah Bartlett, Elis Martin, Christine Belisle; Emma Wassell, Louise McMillan; Rachel Malcolm (capt), Alex Stewart, Evie Gallagher.

Replacements: Molly Wright, Lisa Cockburn, Elliann Clarke, Eva Donaldson, Rachel McLachlan, Mairi McDonald, Cieron Bell, Nicole Flynn.

Referee: Natarsha Ganley (NZR)

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