Adam Griggs admitted the overriding feeling was one of relief as Ireland got their Six Nations campaign off to an 18-14 victory over Scotland at Energia Park.
After a blistering opening 20 minutes that saw Cliodhna Moloney and Sene Naoupu go over for tries, Ireland seemed to stagnate as Scotland scored a try bang on the half-time whistle to spark them into life.
Scotland carried their momentum into the second half and had the better of the exchanges but Ireland’s defence held firm and they got over the line thanks to Béibhinn Parsons’ intercept try in the final 10 minutes.
Following what’s been a tough couple of seasons for this side, Griggs admitted his side needed the win. Whether it was ugly or not didn’t matter.
“There’s some smiles. I’d say it’s probably more relief at the moment,” said Griggs
“We needed the win, we said we’d take it, if it was ugly. It was definitely ugly at times, but we’ll take the result and hopefully, we can move forward. As I say, put more of a complete performance in next week in front of the brilliant crowd that we have. Hopefully, that’s rewarded with another victory.”
Reflecting on Ireland’s electric opening, Griggs felt that everything they had practised in the build-up went according to plan early on, however, Ireland’s head coach admitted that their discipline let them down at times.
“The first 20, 25 minutes we were really sharp. We got the rub of the green. Everything that we’d practised was starting to come off. That’s the potential that the group have.
“We looked really good and then we gave away a lot of penalties. Our discipline really hurt us and certainly, in the first half, it gave them the piggyback to work up the field and score a try before half-time.”
Griggs continued by admitting that there’s plenty to work on for Ireland, particularly in how they manage the game when it is going against them.
“It definitely woke us up, but at the same time, you don’t want to be giving away points to be woken up. That’s a huge work on for us.
“Again, I think some of the calls are pretty harsh on us at times. But at the same time, we’ve just got to be better at managing the game that way. We played a lot of good rugby and positive signs there, but when you’re not getting the rub of the green you’d got to be clever about how you go about the game.”
It must be said that Scotland deserved more for their efforts with Griggs praising their physicality and how they put Ireland under pressure.
“I think so. I think with the way the Scottish team play, they’re driven on their physicality and once they got a bit of a sniff on us there, they really started to hammer home. They put us under a lot of pressure. They’re a good side and I’m sure they’ll take some scalps this year as well.”
However, he was also delighted with the character shown by his side in the face of that Scottish pressure.
“I was really pleased the way we bounced back. We could have had a deja vu moment of November with the last scrum and then also having a penalty, but for us to make sure our D held firm, force the turnover and get rid of it. It shows the character.
“Talking to some of the players even, they were saying ‘we know it shouldn’t have been that close’, but at the same time, sometimes getting out of a situation like that is actually even better for you. To make sure you move forward.”
What stood out most in Energia Park on Sunday was the blend of youth and experience evident throughout this Irish side. Lindsay Peat and Sene Naoupu were dominant throughout while the 18-year-old Parsons showed why she’s one of the brightest talents in the country when it mattered most.
On Parsons’ try, Griggs joked that he was breathing heavier than the 18-year-old following her run.
“Look, if anyone was going to get that intercept and go the length of the field, it was Beibhinn. I was actually saying there, I was probably breathing heavier than she was after running the field. She was really good today and I thought Aoife Doyle was really good as well. The way we tried to box them in a little bit with our D, which was really good.”
While on the evergreen Naoupu and Peat, Griggs claimed they have been rejuvenated by the influx of fresh talent to this Irish squad.
“She’s phenomenal (Naoupu). You look at her and you look at someone like Lindsay Peat, in their 30s. They’re key to this group and I’d say they’re rejuvenated by the younger girls coming through.
“Again, if we could play the style of rugby that we did for the first 20 minutes for 50, 60, 70 minutes, you’d see the benefit that those girls would get as well.
“I think that hugely excites them. The group is moving forward and we said, we’ve just got to be consistent and a little bit more disciplined. Sticking to some structures and not going off on our own. Keep doing what works for you. I think we get a little bit excited at times and we forget what got us there in the first place. We’ve just got to make sure we can build on that for the next couple of weeks.”