Women's Six Nations 2015: Wales 0-20 Ireland
|Wales women (0) 0|
|Ireland women (7) 20|
|Tries: Fitzpatrick, Miller Con: Briggs 2 Pen: Briggs 2|
Ireland set up a potential Women's Six Nations title win as they destroyed Wales' Triple Crown hopes in a pulsating encounter at St Helen's.
Italy's shock 17-12 win over France on Saturday left the 2015 tournament wide open.
Flanker Paula Fitzpatrick's first-half try and outstanding captain Niamh Briggs' 10 points were topped off by Alison Miller's late breakaway,
The hosts battled to the end for a breakthrough but it did not come.
But 2013 title winners Ireland had ambitions of their own and the guile and nous to keep their 2015 hopes alive.
Ferocious defence was a strong point of both teams. But the visitors had one knack the hosts could not muster: the ability to score when chances arose.
The tension created by the knowledge of what was at stake was evident from the start. Rachel Taylor's Wales side took the early initiative in attack but were unable to break through.
After soaking up the early pressure with staunch defence, Ireland largely dominated the rest of the opening period. But it took them until the 21st minute to break the deadlock.
Up until that point, Taylor and her team-mates had followed the men's example at Millennium Stadium the previous day by thwarting wave after wave of attacks.
But there was no stopping Fitzpatrick as she ended a frenetic sequence to go over.
Skipper Briggs converted and then cut down wing Lawrie Harries as Wales threatened an immediate response.
Fly-half Elinor Snowsill's grubber kick put Briggs under pressure on her own line. But Ireland's defence held firm to ensure they led 7-0 at the break.
Briggs increased her side's lead with a penalty early in the second period and added a second to leave Wales playing catch-up.
That they failed was no shame against a side with their own share of defensive courage and organisation.
Wales skipper Taylor's 30-metre charge through the Ireland defence epitomised the home effort, but it came to nothing.
And when wing Miller gathered a Welsh tap-down, she had the pace and strength to go clear and reach the line unhindered. Briggs converted and, for Wales, there was no way back.
Wales: Dyddgu Hywel (Pontyclun/Scarlets); Elen Evans (Waterloo/Scarlets), Adi Taviner (Skewen/Ospreys), Gemma Rowland (Wasps/Dragons), Laurie Harries (Llandaff North/Blues); Elinor Snowsill (Dragons), Amy Day (Llandaff North/Dragons); Jenny Davies (Caernarfon/Blues), Carys Phillips (Bath Ladies/Scarlets), Catrin Edwards (Llandaff North/Scarlets), Jenny Hawkins (Llandaff North/Blues), Rachel Taylor (Bristol Ladies/Dragons, capt), Sian Williams (Worcester/Dragons), Sioned Harries (Whitland/Scarlets), Shona Powell Hughes (Skewen/Ospreys).
Replacements: Amy Lawrence (Skewen/Ospreys), Caryl Thomas (Bath Ladies/Scarlets), Amy Evans (Skewen/Ospreys), Rebecca Rowe (London Welsh/Dragons), Melissa Clay (Pencoed/Ospreys), Keira Bevan (Skewen/Ospreys), Kerin Lake (Skewen/Ospreys), Hannah Jones (Penybanc/Scarlets).
Ireland: Niamh Briggs; Hannah Tyrrell, Jenny Murphy, Jackie Shiels, Alison Miller; Nora Stapleton, Larissa Muldoon; Ruth O'Reilly, Gillian Bourke, Ailis Egan, Sophie Spence, Marie Louise Reilly, Paula Fitzpatrick, Claire Molloy, Heather O'Brien.
Replacements: Sarah Mimnagh, Fiona Hayes, Fiona O'Brien, Orla Fitzsimons, Katie Norris, Tania Rosser, Sene Naoupu, Aoife Doyle.
Referee: Claire Hodnett (England).
Assistant referees: Richard Brace (Wales), Jamie Morgan (Wales)