18/05/02.Ireland lost their second match at the women’s World Cup in Barcelona last night, battered into submission by the Samoans, who won 22-0 at Sant Boi.
The girls in green battled bravely but succumbed to the sheer power of their opponents, who bullied their way over the Irish line four times, three of them in the first half.
It was another disappointing result for Ireland, who had lost Monday’s opener 57-0 to fourth seeds Canada and must now win both their last two games to finish 13th in line with their seeding.
They now face Germany on Monday and, although that should be a straightforward victory in light of their 75-0 walloping by Wales last night, Ireland coach Donal O’Leary has arranged an extra training session today instead of allowing his squad to attend a quarter-final double-header.
Referees are obviously following guidelines to be ruthless in brandishing cards in this tournament, but it was a pity that Fiona Steed’s 50th cap should be tarnished by a ridiculously harsh sinbinning before the interval for a minor technical infringement.
Three incredible tackles in the space of a couple of minutes on either side of the pitch in the final quarter summed up just why the Shannon star with the huge heart and great engine has achieved so much more than anyone else in the history of Irish women’s rugby.
She led by magnificent example throughout and, there is no doubt, if Ireland were able to field 15 players like her, they would not be also-rans in this tournament.
Steed wasn’t alone, however, in the Irish bravery stakes and fellow flanker Bridget Montgomery had an excellent game before going off early in the second half after getting kicked in the head.
Shannon loosehead Jean Lonergan always took the ball back at the Samoans with relish, proving a point after her surprise omission from the Canadian game, while young UL Bohs captain Patrique Kelly was again bravery personified in the centre and fullback Sarahjane Belton also tackled fearlessly.
The south sea islanders, mainly through their enormous props, who scored three tries between them, and hugely imposing No 10, who got the other, repeatedly punched holes up the middle, but Irish courage and their own lack of clinical efficiency prevented them taking full advantage.
It was 15-0 at the break, the big outhalf, known as The Ox’ back home, ploughing over straight after Steed’s sinbinning to take the game out of reach of an Irish team which had their moments in the opening 40 minutes but have now gone seven internationals without a try.
An early Samoan penalty hit the post after Lonergan had taken out the outhalf chasing her chip ahead, but when Belton missed touch with a relieving penalty and prop Edel Coen went off her feet at a ruck, the Samoans ran the penalty.
The tighthead probed first and finally the loosehead crashed over but, following the sinbinning of the Samoan right-winger for a dangerous neck-high tackle on the rampaging Steed, Ireland enjoyed a good period of pressure late in the first quarter.
A clean two-handed catch by Montgomery five metres out set Ireland up and Samoa just about repelled them before giving away the penalty but, unfortunately, Belton sent her kick the wrong side of the corner flag.
On 24 minutes, Ireland pivot Eagleson was caught at the back of a scrum five metres from her own line and, when the greens were penalised, Samoa moved it right and the stand-off crashed through both Steed and Belton in the corner after a surge from the loosehead.
Belton never really got hold of a long-range penalty attempt on the half hour and then, in the 40th minute, Ireland were hit with the double whammy of Steed’s sinbinning and Samoa’s third try.
The yellow card was brandished at almost exactly the same moment as the one given to Belton against Canada and, again, there was an immediate price to pay for the numerical disadvantage and, ironically, the loss of the second star player in as many matches.
It was the loosehead who got over again, but the equally enormous No 3 did get in on the act seven minutes into the second half, with the outhalf landing her only conversion of the evening to make it 22-0.
Ulster skipper Rachel Reid replaced the groggy Montgomery and, early in the final quarter, O’Leary reshuffled his backline, moving Nicky Milne to outhalf and Rachel Boyd to centre and bringing on rookie winger Lynn Cantwell for her UL Bohs clubmate Rochelle Howell.
Rachel Tucker, the teenage three-quarter and daughter of 1980 Lion Colm, was thrown on for her World Cup debut and that hat-trick of wonderful tackles by Steed and another from Belton helped ensure that Ireland gave away no more scores.
Ireland. SJ Belton; R Boyd, P Kelly, N Milne, S Fleming (capt); R Howell, K Eagleson; J Lonergan, M Coulter, E Coen, A-M McAllister, M Quirke, B Montgomery, M O’Loughlin, F Steed. Replacements: R Reid for Montgomery, R Tucker for Boyd, L Cantwell for Howell.