In giving their take on Ireland’s World Cup semi-final defeat, captain Fiona Coghlan and her front row colleague Gillian Bourke both suggested that the team played as individuals rather than a unit during the match.
The scrum was a facet of Ireland’s game where they struggled collectively as an eight, with England able to shove them off a number of their own put-ins.
Giving her reaction afterwards, Fiona Coghlan said: “We weren’t working together as a unit, and we were kind of individuals, and I think that was a theme throughout the game, that we lacked unity across the park. It was disappointing.
“It came good then a little bit in the second half, but it was probably a little too late then.”
The key battles were being won by England from the second quarter onwards as they built an 18-7 interval lead and the Irish error count increased.
Ireland were evidently lacking the precision they showed in both defence and attack against New Zealand, their mistakes on the ball and missed tackles allowing a clinical England team to stretch clear on the scoreboard.
The Ireland captain conceded: “We stood back and let them run at us too much. There were too many missed tackles. We said we couldn’t let that happen but we did. Credit to them they identified where we are sitting back and exploited it.”
Coghlan gave deserved praise to long-striding English centre Emily Scarratt, who was a dominant figure in their attack and chipped in with 11 points from the kicking tee.
“She’s a lethal player, world class. She took every chance that she got. I suppose as a pack we probably didn’t help our backs on the inside and probably gave her too much space on the outside to run.”
Head coach Philip Doyle was frustrated with Ireland’s ‘passive defence’ when speaking to the media afterwards, and hooker Gillian Bourke agreed that they should have been up in England’s faces more.
“Yeah, I think we helped them a little bit in that, didn’t we? We were very passive in defence. Towards the second half, we didn’t have line speed in their face,” Bourke told reporters afterwards.
“We were letting people twice the size of us ran at us and hit us. Instead of doing what we have done, and getting off the line and being in their faces. That’s something that ruled the day really.”
Scarratt and her team-mates took full advantage as they punctured the Irish defence and built the sort of pressure that led to England’s opening tries which were well finished by prop Rochelle Clark and winger Katherine Merchant.
“I think in the first half especially, any time they got the ball to the 13 channel, they were getting in behind us. As a team, you’re then travelling backwards, and it’s hard to put line speed on from that back foot,” added Bourke (pictured below with Ailis Egan).
In their attempts to thwart England’s increasingly influential attack, the Limerick woman felt that Ireland ended up operating as individuals too often.
“Our penalty count is something that’s let us down a little bit in this tournament. It let us down a bit today when we let them have a few free shots at the posts.
“We were wary of that throughout the match, so there were periods where we weren’t contesting for the ball (at rucks) and trying to fan out and put a bit of line speed on them. It just didn’t happen – we worked very individually today as opposed to as units.”
There were a few positives to take forward into the 3rd/4th place play-off against France. Again, the Irish maul proved to be a decent attacking weapon in teeing up Tania Rosser’s early try. But Bourke felt they should have got more reward from their driving play.
“We should have had a try off the first maul. And then, obviously, we built the phases and got the score.
“I think our problem was we left them straight back into it. We really needed to build a few more phases and keep possession. After the first 20 minutes when we started losing possession, we really were in a bit of a dog-fight.
“There’s not much you can do when people are trying their hardest, and the width of (England’s) passing and the speed of their passing just kept catching us out wide.
“They kept gaining ground off their back-line plays, and we were on the back foot for quite a lot of the game.”