Ireland got their World Cup qualification campaign back on track with a 15-7 win over Italy in their second European Qualification Tournament game.
Last weekend, Ireland were left shocked in their tournament opener when they fell 8-7 to Spain.
Facing off against Italy in Parma, Adam Griggs’ side had the lion share of the ball, but were unable to convert their possession into a more convincing scoreline.
On 24 minutes, Ireland’s Stacey Flood was given the chance to open the scoring with a shot at goal. However, the Leinster fly-half’s penalty attempt cannoned off the post, handing Italy a reprieve.
Ireland continued to grow into the game, keen to push the pace in what was a crucial qualification game for both sides.
And while Italy’s defence held firm, their walls were eventually breached when Flood fed winger Beibhinn Parsons a quick ball off the back of a rolling maul to dot down for Ireland’s first try of the afternoon.
Minutes later, Ireland’s Eve Higgins could have found herself in the sin bin following a knock-on in the midfield.
But the knock-on was not adjudged to have stopped a clear try-scoring opportunity, meaning Italy kicked to touch for their first real chance at points of the half.
Azzurre prop Lucia Gai came metres away from touching down for Italy but was held up just short.
From the resulting phases, Ireland managed to repel wave after wave of Italian pressure, clearing their lines thanks to an audacious show and go dummy from Flood.
And when referee Hollie Davidson blew for half-time, Ireland found themselves 5-0 up with 40 to play.
𝙏𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙬𝙞𝙣𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙛𝙚𝙚𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙜! 💚
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) September 19, 2021
After the break, Ireland were dealt a blow when full-back Eimear Considine was sent to the bin for a high shot on Michela Sillari.
And then five minutes later they had their try courtesy of centre Beatrice Rigoni. Scrum-half Sara Barattin, who was making her 100th Test appearance for Italy, collected the ball deep in her own half, running the ball back to midfield before feeding winger Manuela Furlan.
Searing into the Ireland half, Furlan gave the ball to Rigoni on the outside, who blazed her way through the opposition defence to dance her way to Italy’s first score – with Sillari’s conversion from out wide giving Italy a 7-5 lead.
However, Italy’s joy was short-lived when Rigoni was sent to the bin for a deliberate knock-on, just as Ireland were restored to 15.
Ireland then retook the lead on 57 minutes thanks to a penalty from Flood and with the player advantage, they extended that on the hour mark when Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe raced over for her side’s second try, which was converted by Flood to make it 15-7.
And while Griggs’ side stayed camped in Italy’s half for the majority of the final 20 minutes, they were unable to add any more points but did take their first win of the World Cup qualifiers.