Ireland Women’s World Cup campaign slipped from a disappointment to a disaster following their second successive defeat in the competition. The 36 – 24 loss in their rematch against Australia means that Ireland now face Wales in the 7th place play off, Australia go on to play Canada for 5th place.
Australia enjoyed over 60% of territory and possession and had the game secured before Ireland’s, now customary, fightback saw the girls in green add two late scores.. In truth, they had been comprehensively outplayed, the Wallaroos coaching team obviously learning from their previous encounter, the Ireland coaches not so much!
Australia started brightly and they were rewarded when a simple dummy from centre Sharni Williams wrong footed the Irish defence allowing her to cross unopposed out wide to give the Wallaroos a five point lead.
Ireland responded strongly and after three attempts their maul found it’s way to the line with Ailis Egan touching down. Nora Stapleton added the extras to give Ireland a 5 – 7 lead.
Minutes later a misskick by Jenny Murphy bounced into the hands of Alison Miller who didn’t need a second invitation to sprint clear and score. At 5 – 12 after 20 minutes Ireland looked well set to push on.
The Australians had other ideas and, despite missing key back row player Shannon Parry, they dominated the rest of the half.
Centre Sarah Riordan caused problems throughout and a well timed cut back saw her race trough Ireland’s defence for a try before the impressive Hilisha Samoa rumbled over for their third. Out half Ashleigh Hewson converted both to give Australia a 19 – 12 lead at the break.
Their dominance continued on the resumption with flanker Millie Boyle crossing from close range and, after Hewson added a penalty, Mahalia Murphy strolled through the midfield to score under the uprights. Hewson converted both tries and Australia had raced away to a 36 – 12 lead
With the game effectively over, Ireland were only playing for pride but the introduction of the substitutes did reinvigorate their efforts with Ulster duo Larissa Muldoon and Ilse van Staden particularly effective. Muldoon added a much needed sense of purpose at halfback and Van Staden’s destruction of the Australian scrum begs the question why she has been spending the tournament to date as a supporter in the stands.
The now destructive scrum, coupled with Muldoon’s variety of play, saw Ireland grab two late scores with Sophie Spence crossing for the first before Fitzpatrick barged over with the last play of the game. Hannah Tyrrell converted the last to give a final score of Australia 36 Ireland 24.
Ireland: Hannah Tyrrell, Louise Galvin, Jenny Murphy, Sene Naoupu, Alison Miller, Nora Stapleton, Nicole Cronin, Lindsay Peat, Cliodhna Moloney, Ailis Egan, Ciara Cooney, Marie Louise Reilly, Ciara Griffin, Claire Molloy, Paula Fitzpatrick. Replacements: Leah Lyons, Ilse Van Staden, Ciara O’Connor, Sophie Spence, Anna Caplice, Larissa Muldoon, Katie Fitzhenry, Claire McLaughlin.
On a personal level it was good to see Claire McLaughlin and Ilse van Staden finally get their first World Cup caps, warmest congratulations to both.