Ireland took much heart as, after shipping two early tries, they battled valiantly in a 24-11 defeat to the USA at the IRB Women's World Cup.
2006 IRB WOMEN'S RUGBY WORLD CUP: Monday, September 4
IRELAND 11 USA 24, Ellerslie Rugby Park, Edmonton
Scorers: Ireland: Try: Gillian McAllister; Pens: Grace Davitt 2
USA: Tries: Phaidra Knight 2, Erin Carter, Kristin Baja; Cons: Baja 2
A terrible start from the Irish saw them concede two quick fire tries to the Americans, and they could never recover from the 14-0 lead that their opponents took within 14 minutes - flanker Phaidra Knight and lock Erin Carter touched down twice with out-half Kristin Baja converting both efforts.
However the Irish did claw their way back into contention with a penalty from centre Grace Davitt before the break and while their set-piece was again hit and miss, their overall play was hugely improved from last Thursday's heavy loss at the hands of France.
Baja put the USA further out in front when she skipped over on the resumption but prop Gillian McAllister put Ireland right back in the hunt with a try on 53 minutes. Following sustained pressure on the American line, the Ulster prop crashed over from a close range lineout.
Davitt then knocked over her second penalty to reduce the deficit to 19-11 and suddenly with less than ten minutes to go, Ireland were searching for a score that would give them a bonus point and their first point of the 2006 tournament.
They almost clinched it with less than a minute to go, but the Americans turned over possession from a lost lineout and Knight, who had been sin-binned for a ruck offence just moments before McAllister's try, had a clear run to the line to make it 24-11.
...The American players and supporters before kick-off...
Speaking in the aftermath, Irish coach Philip Doyle conceded: "The Americans started very well and that was hard to come back from. They are one of the world's strongest teams but we are disappointed as they were there for the taking.
"We're going into the South African game though with huge confidence because the girls did stand up tonight and the time will come when we are knocking the big nations in this sport."
Ireland take on South Africa on Friday (St. Albert RFC, kick-off 7pm Irish time) in their last pool game after which teams are seeded and paired to determine final placings. The Irish squad and management are to travel to the Rockies tomorrow (Tuesday) for a leisure day.
IRELAND: Joanne O'Sullivan; Jeanette Feighery, Lynne Cantwell, Grace Davitt, Amanda Greensmith; Sarahjane Belton (capt), Tania Rosser; Fiona Coghlan, Yvonne Nolan, Gillian McAllister, Caroline Mahon, Geramine Healy, Orla Brennan, Rachel Boyd, Joy Neville.
Replacements used: Jean Lonergan for Nolan (48 mins), Marie Barrett for McAllister (58), Eimear O'Sullivan for Brennan (63), Nuala Ni Chadhain for Belton (77), Rosie Foley for Healy (79). Not used: Louise Beamish, Shannon Houston.
USA: Ashley English; Ellie Karvoski, Patty Jervey, Hedwig Aerts, Pat Neder; Kristin Baja, Lee Knight; Annie Collier, Danielle Miller, Meredith Ottens, Erin Carter, Jen Crouse (capt), Kelly McMahon, Phaidra Knight, Kate Cox.
Replacements used: Jamie Burke for Ottens (half-time), Kate Pope for Carter (54), Laura Cabrera for English (60), Tina Nesberg for McMahon (66), Mari Wallace for Collier (69), Heather Hale for Neder (77). Not used: Claudia Braymer.
Referee: Christine Hanizet (France)
Touch Judges: Rachel Boyland (Switzerland), Debbie Innes (England)