DONEGAL’S Nora Stapleton played a key role as Ireland’s women rugby team beat the All Blacks 17-14 in the Rugby World Cup in France – almost certainly guaranteeing them a place in the semi-finals.
Tries in each half from Heather O’Brien and Alison Miller saw the girls in green achieve an historic win over the four-time World Cup winners, with Ireland men’s head coach Joe Schmidt and out-half Jonathan Sexton both in attendance in Marcoussis.
The Black Ferns, who boasted a 20-match unbeaten World Cup run since the 1991 semi-finals, led 8-7 at half-time thanks to a Selica Winiata try against the run of play.
Kelly Brazier’s second penalty of the evening extended their advantage to 11-7, but Philip Doyle’s charges defended doggedly in a tight third quarter and Niamh Briggs countered brilliantly to create Miller’s lung-busting score on the hour mark.
Briggs followed up with a stunning conversion from the touchline and although Brazier managed to bring New Zealand level at 14-all, a final penalty from Briggs with 10 minutes left was enough to seal a stunning victory.
Their second successive triumph in Pool B means Ireland are on course to reach the semi-finals for the first time. They will aim to book that place in the last-four when they play Kazakhstan on Saturday afternoon.
It’s an incredible journey for Fahan woman Nora – and of course former Mac Cumhaills gaelic footballer Larissa Muldoon on the replacements bench.
And it may just have some way to go!
IRELAND WOMEN v New Zealand: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians/Munster); Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Lynne Cantwell (Richmond/Exile), Grace Davitt (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Portlaoise/Connacht); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Tania Rosser (Blackrock/Leinster); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians/Leinster) (capt), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians/Munster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster).Replacements: Sharon Lynch (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians/Munster), Laura Guest (Highfield/Munster), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee/Munster), Larissa Muldoon (Bristol/Exile), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Vikki McGinn (Blackrock/Leinster).