IRELAND suffered the third straight defeat of their TikTok Women's Six Nations campaign as they came up short against Italy at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams had lost their opening two ties in the championship, so the loser knew they would be heading towards wooden spoon territory if they were to depart Parma with a third loss on the trot.
The Azzure dominated territory in the early exchanges, with them twice getting within a few metres of the Irish try-line, but the Irish defence held firm and it was noticeable that Ireland were winning the ruck battle up front early doors.
Ireland then had a superb scoring opportunity of their own from an attacking lineout 5m from the Italian line in the 16th minute but the lineout throw went straight to Italian hands and the chance was frustratingly lost.
In what was an extremely error-strewn first half we finally got a moment of real quality when Italy ran the ball left from within their own half in the 29th minute with the electric winger Alyssa D'Inca starting the move before feeding Giada Franco, who put right-wing Aura Muzzo away down the left touchline.
She was tackled but managed to pop to centre Beatrice Rigoni, who was halted just short but had the wherewithal to offload to the supporting scrum half and captain Sofia Stefan to dot down. Outside centre Michela Sillari added the extras from a difficult angle to put the hosts 7-0 up.
Ireland responded with their best attack of the game so far, with strong carries from the likes of Aoife Doyle, Natasja Behan and Ailsa Hughes, which forced a penalty. However, Ireland turned down the chance to kick for the posts and they were not able to get over the whitewash from the resultant scrum, with them coughing up possession from a Grace Moore knock-on as they went into the changing rooms trailing 7-0 at half time.
Another botched Ireland line-out at the start of the second half proved to be the genesis of Italy’s second try, with another brilliant sweeping move ending with D'Inca sauntering in under the posts in the 42nd minute.
Ireland continued to carry the fight to their hosts but were unable to hurt them where it counted, on the scoreboard, and Sillari pushed the lead out to 17-0 with a well-struck 63rd-minute penalty.
Ireland did finally get themselves on the scoresheet when they were awarded a penalty try in the 68th minute, which was a reward for Ireland’s superior scrum, who forced their counterparts to collapse under considerable pressure with a try looking likely.
However, D'Inca put the icing on the cake for Italy as she ran onto a beautifully judged chip from Beatrice Rigoni to glide over to seal the win late on.
The defeat means that Ireland have now lost their first three matches of a Women's Six Nations for the first time since 2007, and with a dominant England next up at Musgrave Park, it is unlikely to get any better anytime soon for Greg McWilliams struggling side.