Donegal’s rugby queens - Muldoon, Stapleton and Norris - on Six Nations win

Alan Foley at the Br


Alan Foley at the Br

Donegal’s rugby queens - Muldoon, Stapleton and Norris - on Six Nations win
Although the scene couldn’t really have been much different, the gleaming smiles meant it was pretty much the same.

Although the scene couldn’t really have been much different, the gleaming smiles meant it was pretty much the same.

Two years ago, Ireland clinched a first ever RBS Women’s Six Nations championship following a dour 6-3 struggle against Italy at a mudbath at the Venegoni Stadium in Parabiago, Milan.

On Sunday, the trophy was reclaimed in emphatic fashion as the side now coached by Tom Tierney hammered Scotland in the Cumbernauld sunshine on the 4G artificial surface at the Broadwood Stadium.

While in 2013 victory was achieved courtesy of the Grand Slam, defeat last month against France, 10-5 amid floodlight failures at Ashbourne, meant Sunday’s goal was the championship.

“Once the game is over you just put it to the back of your mind - just put it to rest and focus on the next game,” said Fahan native Nora Stapleton, Ireland’s out-half, on the approach after the French defeat.

Larissa Muldoon, Ireland’s scrum-half from Cappry, scored the vital try in an 11-8 victory over world champions England back at Ashboure. The floodlights, like Ireland’s dreams, refused the flicker that night.

Then, on the penultimate weekend, France went down 17-12 in Italy and Ireland waltzed past Wales in Swansea, 20-0.

France’s 21-15 win over England at Twickenham on Saturday meant Les Blues had two points more at the table’s top than Ireland with a point differential that was superior by 26.

“We were all watching the game in the hotel in Glasgow and were watching it very closely,” Muldoon added. “We knew we had to do a job regardless of the score.”

Scotland had shipped 154 points in four matches and only scored six. Maintenance of those averages would be enough. Essentially, with a 27-point winning margin the requirement, the only team who could beat Ireland was Ireland themselves.

“We were just calm and controlled,” Stapleton said.

Captain Niamh Briggs, winning her 50th cap, touched down in the fourth minute. It set the tone.

“We scored an early try and that’s always extremely positive but we said we must come back and regroup and go at it again,” Stapleton added.

Claire Molloy added a second try after Stapleon’s imaginative dink and Heather O’Brien’s try and Briggs’ conversion made it 20-3.

Ailis Egan scored the try of the half with a mazy run and Alison Miller also got in.

By half-time, Ireland, with the snappy Muldoon and Stapleton pressing the buttons in the control room, had reached and passed their target of 27.

They were 37-3 up and had nine fingers on the trophy, despite an awkward wind and the plastic pitch, which was in fact more a help than a hindrance.

“It’s just great to get the chance to play on a good surface,” Muldoon said. “It suits the way we try to play.”

Stapleton added: “Even when we got to 27 points the decision we made was to keep going and going. Why drop your game?”

Ireland continued unadulterated in their approach; running in six more tries - Miller, Paula Fitzpatrick and Sophie Spence scored the first three of those. There was still time for replacement Tania Rosser to score, Miller to claim her hat-trick and Jenny Murphy to add an 11th try of the day.

Katie Norris from Moville replaced Fitzpatrick on 75 minutes in what was Ireland’s biggest ever win - 73-3.

“It’s a privilege to be honest and I was delighted to get out there and to be wearing this winners’ medal on only my third cap,” Norris said.

Stapleton added: “We know how we can play and how good we are and today we showed our ruthlessness. We showed what winners can do and put the points on the board very well. We were composed and that’s why we came away with the championship.”

The delighted trio gave a cheerful rendition of ‘da-da-da-da-da-Donegal.’

“Hats off to the clubs at home,” Stapleon added. “Inishowen have been sending us tweets over the whole championship and it’s the same with Finn Valley, Donegal Town, Ballyshannon, Letterkenny. Everyone in Donegal has been behind us and it’s fantastic.

“On a larger scale, what this will do around the country is increase the playing numbers and that’s what we want to see.”

Around about 10 o’clock on Sunday night, the second Irish team that day arrived home from Scotland with silverware to show for their endeavours.

With the Irish men coming through arguably the most exciting day in the history of the Six Nations on Saturday, the ladies followed it up to deliver a first ever double. It was a memorable weekend.

“To have the Donegal flag around me, the Irish crest on me, my family and the Six Nations Cup here, well, words can’t describe it,” Muldoon said that night. “To see rugby getting so much exposure, especially at home in Donegal, is just great. We’re on cloud nine.”