Never before have I witnessed such an emotionally charged rendition of Ireland’s Call as the one given by the Irish Women’s side for their opening World Cup match against hosts England. Pride, passion and tears were in abundance as the Irish girls readied themselves for their biggest challenge under the glare of the TV cameras in front of a partisan home crowd.
Not that the Irish girls were without support and it was pleasing to see the green shirts and flags throughout the day but the script had been written and the broadcasters, organisers and home crowd got the result they wanted as the English girls overpowered the determined Irish to run out winners by 27 – 0 at the end of a long day of rugby.
My day started with the second half of the opening fixture, Scotland v Canada. Scotland matched the Canadians try for try in the second half but unfortunately they had taken a bit of a pounding in the first and lost the game 37 – 10. Canada looked sleek and powerful and played some lovely rugby a good outside bet in my book.
Next I caught up with Ireland’s other pool opponents USA and Kazakhstan with the USA eventually dominating this match as much as their highly vocal, and scantly clad, supporters dominated the touchlines, winning 51 – 0. It was hard not to feel a degree of sympathy for the Kazakhstan team as they had the USA rattled in the first half and were unfortunate to go in at half time 13 – 0 down. The USA found the gaps as their opponents tired and ran in a feast of tries in the closing quarter.
Along came France and Sweden with a highly entertaining and close fought contest. France were just as temperamental, and pouty, as the men’s side can be and they did not enjoy facing a tenacious Swede side who kicked their penalties and hung in there. Sweden came close to stealing it at the end but France kept them out to win 15 – 9. The fancied French will need to improve if they are to progress.
In other matches tournament favourites, New Zealand, hammered a young South African side 55 – 3 and Wales, despite a second half comeback, went down to Australia 12 – 26 as the day built towards the main event.
The clock eventually ticked round to 6:30 (unfortunately getting a bit dark for my Kodak Instamatic so not many match photos) and Sky were let loose to orchestrate the ceremonies and crank up the tension. The England side came out looking relaxed and the Irish girls looked determined and it was hard not to be moved by their rendition of Ireland’s Call as they let the build up of emotion flow.
Thankfully the match lived up to the hype with neither side prepared to back down in the opening exchanges but as the game went on the powerful English pack dominated possession with flanker Maggie Alphonsi and skipper Catherine Spencer outstanding.
England disserved their win but Ireland disserved more out of the game and this would be the key concern as they prepare for their game against USA on Tuesday afternoon.