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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 1 November, 2014

Ireland’s World Cup dream comes crashing down under English control

Fiona Coghlan’s side were well beaten in the semi-final at Stade Jean-Bouin, Paris.

Niamh Briggs and Nora Stapleton applaud the Irish fans who made the trip to Paris.
Niamh Briggs and Nora Stapleton applaud the Irish fans who made the trip to Paris.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland Women 7

England Women 40

IRELAND WOMEN’S WORLD Cup dream came crashing to an end at the Stade Jean-Bouin in Paris, as an impressive England controlled the semi-final and deservedly won on a 40-7 scoreline.

Inspired by rangy outside centre Emily Scarratt, Gary Street’s English side oozed composure and utterly dominated the possession and territory stakes. While Ireland did threaten on occasion with ball in hand, those instances were disappointingly limited.

Ireland will still achieve their best-ever finish in a World Cup when they take on the loser of the Canada v France semi-final in Sunday’s 3rd/4th place play-off, but this defeat will be difficult to come to terms with.

Having weathered England’s opening attacking storm in the Parisian venue – notably with a Ashleigh Baxter tackle on the already-threatening Scarratt – Ireland looked for width from their set-piece attack, repeatedly shifting the ball into Niamh Briggs’ hands.

Two early steals of English throws at the line-out boded well, although it was tit-for-tat at the breakdown inside the opening 10 minutes.

A scything Lynne Cantwell half-break on the 12-minute mark allowed Ireland to batter the English tryline, and when a series of pick and gos yielded a kickable penalty, Philip Doyle’s side bravely opted for the corner.

The well-organised Irish maul surged over unstoppably from five metres out, but referee Amy Perrett consulted her TMO before awarding the try to scrum-half Tania Rosser. Briggs’ sweeping conversion topped off a clinical five-minute spell for Ireland and meant a 7-0 lead.

Ireland drive over for the opening try

Ireland's maul yields the opening try of the game.

England swept back, as we knew they would, surging up the left through Kay Wilson, before threatening on the right via Katherine Merchant’s pace.

Ireland did turn the ball over, but Baxter’s clearing kick was panicked and from a five-metre line-out, England showed their own power to batter over through loosehead prop Rochelle Clark in the 26th minute.

Scarrett’s conversion attempt was wide, and at the first water break a 7-5 scoreline in Ireland’s favour just about reflected the balance of play. England were in the lead soon after, however, as their overwhelming dominance of the scrum began to tell.

Gary Street’s forwards shunted the Irish pack three metres backwards on their own put-in, and Scarratt slotted the penalty from straight in front of the uprights.

The Lichfield centre then created England’s second try, making a scorching outside break on Nora Stapleton’s right shoulder off a midfield scrum. England recycled and spun the ball wide to the right, where Merchant swatted off Alison Miller’s tackle to dot down.

Alison Miller tackled by Danielle Waterman

Alison Miller threatened with ball in hand, but Katherine Merchant swept past the Portlaoise wing for her try.

Scarratt’s touchline conversion put England out to 15-7 with 37 minutes on the clock. A miscued line kick from Briggs after Ireland earned a breakdown penalty gave up her side’s last opportunity at a meaningful first-half attack.

The Munster fullback was then pinged for not releasing after the tackle and Scarratt kicked England into a well-earned 18-7 half-time lead after a superb second quarter.

Street’s side picked up where they left off immediately after the interval, as centre Rachael Burford stepped inside Stapleton’s tackle for a clean bust of the Irish line. The scrambling defence infringed and Scarratt extended the lead by three points from the tee.

Jenny Murphy arrived onto the pitch in the 47th minute to make a thunderously violent hit on Danielle Waterman, but possession and territory continued to be dominated by the Katy McLean-directed English.

In the 56th minute, Clark and her front-row compatriots again drove impressively from a scrum inside the Ireland 22, providing the platform for Wilson to beat Baxter down the left-hand touchline and score. Scarratt missed the conversion, but the 26-7 lead was an accurate measure of England’s utter control.

Lynne Cantwell tackled by Victoria Fleetwood

Outside centre Lynne Cantwell battles against the English control.

Finally, Ireland looked to regain momentum after a bruisingly direct Murphy carry in midfield won a penalty and Briggs kicked to the corner. But having been turned over, Doyle’s side gave up 90 metres as Wilson and Waterman surged away downfield.

An inevitable fourth England try came in the 70th minute, when replacement flanker Mollie Packer sniped over from close-range, fellow sub Ceri Large converting the try. A clever grubber behind Ireland’s defence led to try number five, again through Packer, with Large adding the extras.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: T Rosser

Conversions: N Briggs

England scorers:

Tries: R Clark, K Merchant, K Wilson, M Packer [2]

Conversions: E Scarratt, C Large [2]

Penalties: E Scarratt [3]

Ireland: Niamh Briggs; Ashleigh Baxter, Lynne Cantwell (Hannah Casey ’68), Grace Davitt (Jenny Murphy ’47), Alison Miller; Nora Stapleton, Tania Rosser (Larissa Muldoon ’66); Fiona Coghlan (capt.), Gillian Bourke, Ailis Egan (Sharon Lynch ’66); Sophie Spence (Laura Guest ’73), Marie Louise Reilly; Paula Fitzpatrick, Claire Molloy, Heather O’Brien (Siobhan Fleming ’47).

Replacement not used: Fiona Hayes.

England: Danielle Waterman; Katherine Merchant, Emily Scarratt (Claire Allan ’68), Rachael Burford, Kay Wilson; Katy Mclean (capt.) (Ceri Large ’68), LaToya Mason (Natasha Hunt ’58); Rochelle Clark (Laura Keates ’63), Victoria Fleetwood (Emma Croker ’63), Sophie Hemming; Tamara Taylor (Rebecca Essex ’63), Jo McGilchrist; Alex Matthews, Margaret Alphonsi (Marlie Packer ’63), Sarah Hunter.

Referee: Amy Perrett (Australia).

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