The 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup started with a bit of a whimper with disappointing crowds at UCD Bowl and Billings Park playing fields for the opening matches.
Considering that England, the No. 1 team in Women’s Rugby, were playing at the Bowl, and that New Zealand, the No. 2 team in Women’s Rugby, were playing a Billings it’s something of a surprise that people struggled to get there! .
England won their match against Spain with a degree of comfort, running in two early scores in the first five minutes to take a 14 point lead. Spain did battle back from the worst possible start, scoring a try just before half time but by that stage England had scored four tries in total, winger Kay Wilson bagging a hat trick, as the teams turned round with the defending champions leading 24 – 5.
Six further tries confirmed England’s dominance in a game where they enjoyed 78% possession and 88% territory as they made 900 meters with the ball compared to 247 meters made by Spain. With a final score of England 56 Spain 5 the English players have shown they are the real deal, Spain on the other hand were well below the standard expected.
The second match between New Zealand and Wales was much more competitive despite a convincing 44 – 12 win for New Zealand. Wales enjoyed 54% possession and 52% territory but they were largely the authors of their own misfortune as they coughed up the ball too easily and had a touch of white line fever when in good scoring positions.
Wales weren’t helped by the referee bottling a deliberate knock on by Portia Woodman when Wales looked all set to score but the New Zealand star went unpunished and the All Blacks banged in two quick uncovered tries to double their first half count and take the score to 20 – 0 at the break.
The New Zealand pack looked comparatively unfit and ponderous and may be exposed later in the tournament. As it was, Wales did manage two, thoroughly deserved, second half tries through forwards Sioned Harries and Melissa Clay.
However, New Zealand remained deadly in the counter attack, scoring four of their own through their talented back line, with full back Selica Winiata completing a hat trick. A comfortable win for the All Blacks in the end but definitely something for Wales to build on.
Match 3 was one of the highlights of Day 1 as the USA took on Italy. The Americans started with all guns blazing and scored a try after 2 minutes from sevens star Kris Thomas. We said that the USA would improve throughout the tournament but they looked pretty crisp from the off as Kimber Rozier crossed on the 20 minute mark to give them a 12 point lead.
Italy battled back, encouraged by USA errors, and hooker Lucia Cammarano crossed to bring the game to 12 – 7 at the break, the USA leaving more than a few scores on the pitch.
FRU Favourite Alev Kelter swung the game the Americans way in the second half, setting up Thomas for her second before Abby Gustaitis made the game safe. Elisa Giordano grabbed a late consolation try for Italy to give a final score of USA 24 Italy 12.
With England up next, Italy are really only going to be playing for bragging rights against Spain in their last group match, but the USA have set down a strong statement of intent.
Match 4 between Canada and Hong Kong was a one way street as Canada ran in 16 tries in their 98 – 0 win against the Asian qualifiers. 2014 World Player of the Year Magali Harvey ran in five in this one sided romp.
In fairness to Hong Kong, they battled to the end but they just had no answer for the clinical Canadians who gave the best handling display of the day.
Canada looked the most complete team during Day 1 and are now the team to beat.
Thankfully the UCD Bowl filled up for the Ireland v Australia match as the hosts needed all the support they could get as they struggled to a 19 – 17 win against Australia.
Marie Louise Reilly kept Ireland in the hunt with four line out steals in a match full of drama but low on skills.
Larissa Muldoon got the ball rolling for Ireland before Australia hit back through FRU Favourite Mahali Murphy to take the score to 7 – 5 at the break.
Despite Ireland having 59% of territory and possession Australia always looked the more dangerous and took a 7 – 10 lead early in the second half. However, the Irish pack eventually got on top with, second half replacements, Ciara Grifffin and Sophie Spence saving the day in a thrilling comeback.
Australia will rue their poor goal kicking in this one and Ireland will need to get something from the back-line if they are going to progress.
In the final game of the day France beat Japan 72 – 14 in another one sided match. The wonderful Caroline Ladagnous stole the show with a hat trick of tries as France piled on 43 second half points to add to the 29 they scored in the first half.
Japan had near parity in territory and possession and battled hard to get a score in each half with Mateitoga Bogidraumainadave crossing in the first and substitute Yumeno Noda in the second.
However France had just too much in every department running in 12 tries in total, setting down a big marker for Ireland who they meet in the final game in Pool C.
WRWC2017 Pools after Day 1.