By Hannah Blackwell
Sisilia Tuipulotu was hailed as being on her way to becoming one of the best prop forwards in the world after her try capped an emphatic victory for Wales over Ireland in the TikTok Women’s Six Nations.
Tuipulotu scored the last of Wales’ five tries as they hammered under-strength Ireland 31-5 at Cardiff Arms Park in the opening round fixture.
In front of a record home crowd of 4,962, the 19-year-old from Newport powered over in her first Test start in the front row – after switching from lock – to cap an impressive display and earn a glowing accolade from head coach Ioan Cunningham.
“I genuinely believe that Sisilia [Tuipulotu] could be one of the best props in the world,” said Cunningham.
“Today she showed what she can do.
“I’m delighted for the players. They put in so much hard work. Up front, we put up a great platform, and we managed to go after that as well, and I was pleased with that.
“I’m delighted with the crowd as well, it gives us such a boost here, and I’m just chuffed with the game-plan and that we stuck at it.
“Scotland will be a tough challenge next week away from home, but we’ve started with a win so we’ll enjoy that, reflect on it, and move on.
Gloucester-Hartpury teenager Tuipulotu said: “There’s no words that can explain how I’m feeling right now.
“I’m just grateful for the team I have, and for my family and friends for always supporting me on and off the field. I’m grateful.
“It’s always a tough process transitioning position [from lock to tight-head], but with the supporters and coaches I have, I’m enjoying it more and more.”
The first half saw four unanswered tries from Wales, with Alex Callender, Keira Bevan and Sioned Harries powering over before captain Hannah Jones secured the bonus point on the 33rd minute to give Wales a 26-0 half-time lead.
After Ireland’s Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird was sent to the sin-bin on the 48th minute, Tuipulotu added another try for Wales in an impressive player-of-the-match performance in her first Test start at prop.
With the game wrapped up for Wales, Ireland fought back and after their first sustained period of pressure, crossed the whitewash through captain Nichola Fryday on the 67th minute to bring the score to 31-5.
However, they could not continue their fightback as Wales wrapped up an impressive victory against the team they lost 45-0 to only two years ago.
In stark contrast to the close contest between these two sides in 2022 in which Wales scored two tries in the final seven minutes to secure a 27-19 win, Ireland could not come close to their opposition.
The Irish were without several of their leading players who were selected instead for the Ireland Sevens squad, who are trying to qualify for next year’s Paris Olympic Games.
Ireland captain Nichola Fryday said: “There’s a lot of positives, but you can’t give 40 minutes of not performing to your best against a team like Wales, though there was real fight from the girls and I’m proud of that.
“It was our errors, giving away silly avoidable penalties. When you give Wales momentum like that, they’ll kick to touch and build themselves up the pitch through their kicking game.
“Wales have good cohesiveness from the World Cup and they’ve really built on what they’ve done in the last year.”
The atmosphere was electric in Cardiff as Wales put their best foot forward and just three minutes in Callender took advantage, powering over off the back of the maul.
The opening quarter only got better for the home side as they fought hard off the back of a scrum penalty to allow Bevan to scoot over from the back of the ruck, Williams-Morris adding the extras to make it 12-0.
Wales’ pack continued to dominate and once again it paid off as on the 22nd minute, off the back of another huge rolling maul, Harries scored a try from short range.
Their superiority was then confirmed on the 33rd minute as skipper Jones finished off a Kerin Lake run to secure the bonus point, Bevan adding the extras to make it 26-0 at the break.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first for Wales as, after Bhaird was sent to the sin-bin for a cynical knock-on, Tuipulotu barrelled over on the 48th minute for a well-deserved try in her first start at prop at international level.
Ireland then finally had their chance to attack and made it count on the 67th minute as, after mounting the pressure, captain Fryday forced her way over the whitewash to get her side on the scoreboard.
However, the visitors could not build on their try and the game finished with a roar from the Cardiff crowd as Wales confirmed their emphatic victory.