PORTLAOISE’S Alison Miller was the hero for the Ireland Women’s Rugby team as they recorded an historic 25-0 win over reigning Grand Slam Champions England in Ashbourne last Saturday.
The flying winger got in for a hat-trick of tries as Ireland put 17 previous defeats at the hands of England behind them to record an emphatic win that puts them in a very strong position in this year’s Six Nations Championship.
After their opening win over Wales, Ireland faced a much tougher task last Saturday against one of the strongest Women’s teams in the world but on the day Ireland, and Miller in particular, were unstoppable.
The victory here puts Philip Doyle’s charges in poll position to claim both a first ever Triple Crown and Grand Slam, as they now lead the table with two wins from two games, and away trip against bottom-of-the-table Scotland in two weeks time.
Miller struck early for Ireland, as she touched down in the corner after just seven minutes to give Ireland an ideal start. Thirty minutes later she had crossed the English line once again, this time in the other corner as the Irish team began to really stretch England, and with their tails up Miller completed her hat-trick before half time to give Ireland a 20-0 lead at the break.
Full-back Niamh Briggs completed the scoring early in the second half, and despite a spirited finish to the game, some big hits by the Irish defence made sure that England failed to score for the first time in a game since 2004. England had only been confirmed as the number one ranked side in the world on the Thursday before the game, to make the victory all the sweeter for Ireland.
The Portlaoise player was obviously delighted speaking after the game and she put the win down to an all round team performance.
“It was a great team performance. We really played well and I just finished off what the other girls had done. To win with such a margin and for them not to score is a massive thing.”
Alison added that belief was the key.
“We knew we could win. We brought that confidence in with us and just brought it home. We had great support here in Ashbourne, we always do, so it’s like a fortress for us.
“Everyone involved put so much hard work into it. The strength and conditioning coach, the management, the analysists, everyone. It’s everyone’s day here.”
Speaking after the game, Irish manager Philip Doyle described the victory as “the best ever”, before urging his players to kick on after this success. “We’ve got to move on from here, there’s bigger fish to fry in this championship.”
After Scotland in two weeks time, Ireland will play France in Ashbourne on March 8, before rounding off their Six Nations campaign in Milan, against Italy, who are the only other side to have won their first two games. That game against Milan is on St Patrick’s Day, which could yet be a day of double celebration for Irish supporters if Ireland can kick on from here and claim the title.
Ireland’s victory over England also means they are now in pole position to qualify for the 2014 Women’s World Cup in France. Both England and France are already assured of a place in the final, with two more teams from the Six Nations to join them. If Ireland can win one more game in this year’s six nations, it should secure their place in the 2014 finals.