10 Aug 2017
Ireland secured a dramatic 19-17 victory over Australia on Wednesday and got their World Cup campaign underway with a vital victory.
Due to the way qualification works in this tournament, with only the pool winners and the best second placed team out of all pools advancing to the semi-finals, it was essentially knock out rugby from the very first game for Ireland and Australia. This, in addition to being the home nation, meant there was a lot of pressure on the Irish and it showed early doors.
The Wallaroos started the match strongly and dominated the opening quarter in both possession and territory, launching attack after attack on the Irish but the home side defended strongly, with a number of big hits being made in a well drilled defensive effort.
Australia were made to pay for failing to capitalise on their early dominance when Larrissa Muldoon sniped in from the base of the ruck a meter out in the 20th minute after some sustained pressure and in the process scored Ireland’s first try of the match and the tournament. UCD graduate Nora Stapleton added the conversion to extend the score to 7 – 0.
The Wallaroos hit back following a quick lineout that caught Ireland off guard, Mahalia Murphy providing a fine finish after the ball was spread wide. Fullback Samantha Treherne missed the conversion which left Ireland with a narrow 7-5 lead. The scores would remain this way until half time.
Despite leading at the break, the pressure was still very much on the hosts and it showed in the opening quarter of the second half with a number of unforced errors from Ireland. These we compounded on the hour mark when Australian openside Shannon Parry went over from close range to edge the visitors into the lead. Again the conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the Wallaroos with a three point advantage with 20 minutes to play.
The partisan crowd inside the UCD Bowl barely had time to comprehend the idea of defeat however, with Ireland striking back within five minutes. Australia again struggled to defend the hosts strong pick and drives and this time Ciara Griffin was the one to bundle her way over, with Stapelton again providing the extras off the tee.
Ireland thought they were home and dry 10 minutes later when substitute Sophie Spence showed great determination to score in the corner. This time however, Stapleton was unsuccessful with the conversion meaning the score remained 19 – 10 to the hosts with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Australia were far from defeated however, and secured a turnover in a dangerous position after Ireland had tried to play their way out of their own 22. A few phases later and the poweful Hilisha Samoa beat three defenders to score. This time substitute Ashleigh Hewson added the extras meaning that Ireland only had a two point lead. The Irish weren’t to be denied on home turf, however, and showed good game management to see out the rest of the match and secure a vital, opening pool victory.
Ireland will next be in action on Sunday evening and will be hoping for a slightly easier assignment against a Japanese outfit who were comprehensively swept aside by France in their opening fixture.