Claire Molloy made the perfect comeback to the international stage with a Player of the Match performance in Ireland’s 21-7 victory over Italy at Energia Park.
The flanker hasn’t been involved in the Ireland setup since August 2019 after deciding to concentrate on her medical career, but marked her return to Adam Griggs’ side with a first-half score in Dublin.
It was the perfect way for the Wasps star to mark her 70th cap and, after so long without playing for Ireland, the 32-year-old couldn’t wait to get back into the action.
“It was a frantic start, I was just so excited to be back on the pitch, particularly at Energia Park, it’s probably one of my favourite places to play, I’ve had some really good experiences there,” Molloy said.
“The first 20 minutes we were rusty, the Italians took it to us and it was frantic, but then I thought we caught our breathe and got some shape.”
Things didn’t go entirely to plan on the flanker’s return to the lineup, as the visitors took an early through Melissa Bettoni’s score midway through the first half.
But two quick fire tries just before the half-time whistle completely turned the game on its head, with Lindsay Peat dotting down, before Molloy kept hold of an offload to give the hosts the advantage heading into the break.
A late penalty try secured the win for Griggs’ side, with the returning Molloy a constant threat throughout, gaining 66 metres in her ten carries of the ball, breaking four tackles in the process.
She was also part of a resolute defensive outfit who contained Italy for much of the game, making 23 tackles throughout the 80 minutes, as well as her try-scoring heroics.
“I think we had little phases but weren’t quite converting in the Italian 22, then we got the first try through grit and determination,” Molloy said.
“I think we were pushing and punching, but not with the finesse that we needed. Then Lindsay Peat is an incredibly strong ball carrier and the Italians couldn’t deal with her.
“She just left the ball up in the air, there was a bit of a juggle and a swivel and a dance but I got it down.”