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Coghlan: A Huge Result But It’s Only ‘Step Two’

Coghlan: A Huge Result But It’s Only ‘Step Two’

Inspirational captain Fiona Coghlan has now led the Ireland Women’s team to Grand Slam glory and a priceless Test win over New Zealand – and she is not finished yet.

The UL Bohemians and Leinster prop is targeting a semi-final spot and a shot at the Women’s Rugby World Cup title, having dubbed this evening’s historic 17-14 defeat of New Zealand as ‘only step two of the process’.

The supremely focused Fiona Coghlan said in her post-match interview: “It’s huge (for us to beat New Zealand). As a team we respect them, we’ve watched them and we’ve probably learned a lot from them over the years.

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“They’re the top of the world and that’s where we said we wanted to be. We’re not there yet – this is only step two of the process but we’re on the right track.”

Coghlan singled out the squad’s unbreakable self-belief and confidence that they could triumph in their first ever meeting with the Black Ferns and do what no Irish international men’s or women’s 15s team had done before.

“We knew coming into this game, playing against the world champions, that it was a huge game for us. But the girls were confident, we knew we had the ability in the team and it was just (about) being consistent for the 80 minutes and we were.”

The girls in green, coached by Philip Doyle (head coach), Peter Bracken (forwards) and Greg McWilliams (backs), did not have it all their own way though. They were held scoreless during a first quarter they had the better of before a Selica Winiata try moved New Zealand 8-0 in front.

However, Ireland responded with a Heather O’Brien converted effort from a spell of strong carrying from the forwards to make it 8-7 for half-time.

Two Kelly Brazier penalties sandwiched a superb breakaway try from winger Alison Miller, who showed off her pace and finisher skills by leaving Emma Jensen in her wake before crashing over in the left corner past the despairing Brazier.

Niamh Briggs, the creator of the try, then raised the roof with a pinpoint conversion from the touchline. New Zealand were far from finished as Brazier’s third successful penalty brought it back to 14 points apiece.

Crucially, Ireland had more in reserve as they emptied the tank in both defence and attack to set up Briggs’ decisive 70th-minute penalty and control possession in the dying minutes.

Coghlan added: “It was a bit frantic at times but we took control of the game there in the last 20 minutes. We knew they were going to come back strong but we settled things down and kept control of the ball. The last four minutes there was (all) control again and we were all on the same page.

“Our heads never dropped…even when they went ahead (at 11-7), it was very controlled – we knew were going to go back up there and score and take control of the game.

“All the credit should go to the coaches, the analysis and the game-plan they gave us. It’s absolutely wonderful to win against the world champions and tonight we’ll go out and enjoy a beer and tomorrow start getting ready again for Kazakhstan.”

A final result on Saturday against Kazakhstan, who have lost to both New Zealand (79-5) and the USA (47-7), would see Ireland reach the Women’s Rugby World Cup semi-finals for the first time.