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Women in green fell France to stay on track for Slam


Lynne Cantwell is tackled by Sandrine Agricole

Lynne Cantwell is tackled by Sandrine Agricole

Lynne Cantwell is tackled by Sandrine Agricole

Ireland's dreams of a first ever Grand Slam remain alive after their second-ever win over France by an edgy 15-10 in the Women's Six Nations at a foggy Ashbourne RFC last night.

The French came with legitimate ambition to win the Championship and they started well, out-half Sandrine Agricole landing a penalty from the left to settle the visitors' nerves in the ninth minute.

It was a physical arm wrestle until Allison Miller outflanked the French down the left and the ball was swung right for full-back Niamh Briggs to sweep in for an excellent Irish try.

The French went to their maul to recover their confidence. It worked. Hooker Gaelle Mignot led a powerful surge for a try, converted by Agricole from the right touchline for a 10-5 lead in the 23rd minute.

They were also content to get their big forwards moving onto the ball, while Ireland wanted to bring their back three of Briggs, Ashleigh Baxter and the always dangerous Miller into the game.

The Irish had to turn the tide after the interval and did so in the third quarter, moving in front from Briggs' conversion of a try by tight-head prop Ailis Egan.

They couldn't sit on a two-point lead, fly-half Nora Stapleton going close and scrum-half Larissa Muldoon twice spilling the pill to release the pressure valve when France were stretched.

The visitors preferred to trigger their one-out runners, showing little imagination in their play for fly-half Agricole to lash wildly at a misdirected drop goal in the 71st minute.

This was a warning sign Ireland heeded.

They went to Briggs' big boot for distance and their close-in driving to frustrate France. It was effective enough to draw an injury-time penalty for Briggs.

Ireland's last opponents will be Italy – they looked to upset England at Esher RFC this afternoon – in Milan on St Patrick's Day.