The final act of the 2022 TikTok Women's Six Nations will be remembered for a long time as Enya Breen converted her own last-gasp try to give Ireland a gripping 15-14 win over Scotland at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday. By IrishRugby.ie
It may have been low on scores, but the Belfast crowd were treated to an edge-of-the-seat conclusion as Ireland battered away, eventually finding a chink of light when Linda Djougang released Breen for a powerful finish.
The Skibbereen youngster, who only turned 23 last Sunday, coolly struck home the conversion to the right of the posts, sealing Ireland's second home win and a fourth-place finish in the Championship.
Ballymena native Neve Jones produced an all-action player-of-the-match performance in the wet conditions, landing her second Six Nations try and having some key moments in defence and attack.
Scotland played with plenty of fire, determined to end their losing run. An early Evie Gallagher try had them in front before Hannah O'Connor's long range penalty, coupled with a late maul try from Jones, edged Ireland ahead.
The Scots erased that 8-5 half-time deficit, Helen Nelson stringing together three penalties to put them in control of the scoreboard. However, Ireland and Breen, in particular, had other ideas.
A moment's silence was held before kick-off to mark the sad passing of Clare Hoppe, a member of the first ever Ireland Women's team. She featured in the first international in 1993, played against Scotland at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh.
Returning lock Sam Monaghan and new cap Vicky Irwin quickly got their hands on the ball, but Scotland had the first scoring opportunity, Christine Belisle following up on Lisa Thomson's smart kick to win a penalty at the breakdown.
Although the resulting third-minute lineout maul was stopped just short, number 8 Gallagher was able to crash over a couple of phases later. Centre Nelson sent the conversion wide.
A brilliant break by Breen past halfway had the home fans roaring, but she could not connect with the supporting Nikki Caughey whose subsequent dinked kick was well covered by Chloe Rollie.
Ireland got off the mark in the 15th minute, number 8 O'Connor, a regular place-kicker for Blackrock at club level, splitting the posts with aplomb from the Scottish 10-metre line.
O'Connor soon pressurised the Scottish lineout, her slight knock-on meaning Ireland could not prosper from a promising break involving Kathryn Dane and Monaghan. A fine aerial take from Irwin got the hosts on the move again.
Handling errors increased for both sides given the greasy ball, and O'Connor pushed a penalty attempt wide as Ireland's forwards began to get on top at scrum time.
The home defence soaked up a spell of Scottish pressure, Monaghan and Jones combining terrifically in a double hit and Edel McMahon, last week's top tackler against England, again showing her ability to chop down players.
Closing in on the interval, the girls in green got on the front foot thanks to a scrum won against the head, Djougang's big ball-dislodging tackle on Rachel McLachlan, and then Jones swept up an overthrown Scottish lineout at the rear.
Most importantly, they managed to turn a penalty for crossing into a late try as a well-driven maul covered a dozen metres and landed Jones over the whitewash. Breen's missed conversion left the lead at three points.
Ireland defended stoutly on the restart, Breen ripping possession away in a tackle and it was a terrier-like Jones forced a turnover penalty after the Scots had pressed once more off a lineout drive.
Molly Scuffil-McCabe covered a cross-field kick, but Scotland had a penalty advantage and Nelson drew them level with a 52nd-minute strike to push an O'Connor offside.
Jones grabbed another penalty at the breakdown and went close to another, this time Caughey was the guilty party as she was slow to roll away. Another close range kick from Nelson nudged Scotland back in front - 11-8.
The penalties continued to cost Greg McWilliams' charges, this time Sene Naoupu playing the ball from an offside position and Nelson's low, driven effort from distance widened the margin to six points.
Ireland needed a chunk of territory and they got it when Breen, O'Connor and replacement Michelle Claffey countered with some nicely-angled running. A penalty put them back in the Scottish 22.
The crowd responded to the Irish efforts, raising the decibel level. They came within metres of the visitors' line with strong carrying from the forwards before Sarah Bonar won a relieving penalty.
Jones was the inspiration again as the clock ticked down, the tireless hooker charging down a kick from Nelson and forcing a five-metre scrum. Scotland responded with a penalty won by Caity Mattinson.
O'Connor was to the fore as Ireland launched a furious late search for that elusive second try, with winger Scuffil-McCabe crowded out near the left corner and Scotland's defence continuing to hold firm.
Nonetheless, a knock-on and then a high tackle kept Scotland pinned back, a well-worked Irish maul worming its way up close before Claffey, Monaghan and replacement Maeve Óg O'Leary punches holes during patient build-up play.
The chance finally came when replacement Ailsa Hughes and Djougang set up Breen to break a tackle from Rollie and touch down under a pile of defenders. The Cork woman's right boot provided the knockout blow, just moments later.
TIME LINE: 3 minutes - Scotland try: Evie Gallagher - 0-5; conversion: missed by Helen Nelson - 0-5; 15 mins - Ireland penalty: Hannah O'Connor - 3-5; 27 mins - Ireland penalty: missed by Hannah O'Connor - 3-5; 38 mins - Ireland try: Neve Jones - 8-5; conversion: missed by Enya Breen - 8-5; Half-time - Ireland 8 Scotland 5; 52 mins - Scotland penalty: Helen Nelson - 8-8; 59 mins - Scotland penalty: Helen Nelson - 8-11; 62 mins - Scotland penalty: Helen Nelson - 8-14; 80 mins - Ireland try: Enya Breen - 13-14; conversion: Enya Breen - 15-14; Full-time - Ireland 15 Scotland 14
IRELAND WOMEN: Vicky Irwin (Sale Sharks/Ulster); Aoife Doyle (Railway Union RFC/Munster), Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere RFC/Leinster), Enya Breen (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union RFC/Leinster); Nikki Caughey (Railway Union RFC/Leinster), Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere RFC/Ulster); Linda Djougang (ASM Romagnat Rugby/Leinster), Neve Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury/Ulster), Christy Haney (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Nichola Fryday (Exeter Chiefs/Connacht) (capt), Sam Monaghan (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC/Munster), Edel McMahon (Wasps/IQ Rugby), Hannah O'Connor (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster).
Replacements used: Katie O'Dwyer (Railway Union RFC/Leinster) for Haney, Michelle Claffey (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster) for Caughey (both 59 mins), Grace Moore (Railway Union RFC/IQ Rugby) for McMahon, Maeve Óg O'Leary (Blackrock College RFC/Munster) for Wall (both 65), Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union RFC/Leinster) for Dane (75). Not used: Emma Hooban (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster), Aoife McDermott (Railway Union RFC/Leinster).
SCOTLAND WOMEN: Chloe Rollie (Exeter Chiefs); Rhona Lloyd (Les Lioness du Stade Bordelaise), Lisa Thomson (Sale Sharks), Helen Nelson (Loughborough Lightning), Shona Campbell (Edinburgh University); Sarah Law (Sale Sharks), Caity Mattinson (Worcester Warriors); Molly Wright (Sale Sharks), Lana Skeldon (Worcester Warriors), Christine Belisle (Loughborough Lightning), Emma Wassell (Loughborough Lightning), Sarah Bonar (Harlequins), Rachel Malcolm (Loughborough Lightning) (capt), Rachel McLachlan (Sale Sharks), Evie Gallagher (Stirling County).
Replacements used: Emma Orr (Biggar) for Law, Megan Gaffney (Loughborough Lightning) for Campbell (both 57 mins), Louise McMillan (Hillhead Jordanhill) for McLachlan (62), Leah Bartlett (Loughborough Lightning) for Wright (64). Not used: Jodie Rettie (Saracens), Katie Dougan (Gloucester-Hartpury), Eva Donaldson (Edinburgh University), Mairi McDonald (Hillhead Jordanhill).
Referee: Maggie Cogger-Orr (New Zealand)
So well deserved. Fantastic Finnish to the game. Attended with my daughter tonight and found it a great advert for women’s rugby.— Stephen Crooks (@StephenCrooks2) May 1, 2022