Ireland struggle to keep up with clinical Wales

·4-min read

Five-star Wales made a statement in the first game of the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations.

What looked set to be an even contest against Ireland proved to be a convincing win for Wales, who clinched the bonus point after just 32 minutes.

Professional contracts were first dished to Wales players on the eve of the 2022 Championship and judging by their performance in Round 1 this year, they may be starting to reap the rewards.

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After a landmark day, which saw a new face stamp her mark on the Championship, here are five things we learned from Cardiff Arms Park.

Welsh pack mean business

The saying goes that forwards win matches and backs determine by how much and this was certainly true in Cardiff.

Wales simply refused to allow Ireland to settle, knocking them off their stride at the set piece and in the loose.

Whether it was the pinpoint throwing of Kelsey Jones, the tireless work rate of Georgia Evans or the unstoppable carries from Sisilia Tuipulotu, Ireland had no answer.

Even when the odd scrum failed to go to plan in the first half, the front row gathered for a quick meeting to discuss what had gone wrong, underlining the standards Ioan Cunningham is beginning to set.

A tally of three tries directly from lineouts reflects the dominance of the Welsh pack on a day where they sent a message to their future opponents.

Captain fantastic

Handed the captaincy at the World Cup, centre Hannah Jones is a leader in every sense for Wales.

It’s easy to see why Cunningham elected Jones as his skipper, with the Gloucester-Hartpury star having been a fixture in the side since her debut in 2015.

Her experience is evident on both sides of the ball and Ireland struggled to disrupt her influence on the game.

She made 65 metres from six carries – a team high – and looked solid in defence too, weighing in with four tackles.

Jones capped a brilliant individual performance with a score and the way her teammates swarmed in to congratulate her touch down tells you just how popular she is.

Cobwebs for Ireland to dust off

This was Ireland’s first fixture since August and only their third since last year’s Championship and that lack of Test practice perhaps showed in the end.

On paper, Ireland looked set up to go toe-to-toe with Wales, with a handful of their squad having tuned up in the inaugural Celtic Challenge which the Combined Provinces XV completed unbeaten.

But the pace of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations has never been greater and Ireland were caught cold by a relentless Welsh side.

By the time Wales prop Tuipulotu bundled her way over for the hosts’ fifth shortly after half time, the game was beyond them.

They did however, roll their sleeves up in the closing stages, with Nichola Fryday crossing late on – just deserts for their resilience in a second half which could have easily got away from them.

Cardiff cauldron awaits for England

Wales’ previous record home crowd had stood for 20 years but was smashed at Arms Park on an auspicious day for women’s rugby in Wales.

Some 4962 fans descended on the capital to watch the Championship curtain-raiser, eclipsing Wales’ existing record which was set against Spain in 2003.

They have just one more fixture to play at home and while England will arrive as heavy favourites in Round 3, Wales are sure to prove tricky customers.

Fans flooded onto the pitch at full time to congratulate their stars in a rare but heart-warming sight and one which suggests there is something special brewing on the Welsh side of the border.

Big future for Tuipulotu

What better way to mark your first appearance in the Championship than a try and a Player of the Match performance.

Big things have been expected of Sisilia Tuipulotu for some time and she finally got her chance with Donna Rose sidelined.

Wales fans will be desperate for more now after her first competitive outing on home soil.

Speaking post-match, boss Ioan Cunningham said he believes the 19-year-old has the potential to become one of the best props in the world.

She is most certainly one to watch in the coming weeks.

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