Ireland head coach Tom Tierney was delighted to make a winning start at the Women’s Rugby World Cup, after his side came through a tense battle against Australia at the UCD Bowl with just two points to spare (19-17).
Nora Stapleton’s conversion of Larissa Muldoon’s 20th-minute try had Ireland leading 7-5 at half-time, and even though Shannon Parry and Hilisha Samoa touched down for the Wallaroos in the second half, tries from replacements Ciara Griffin and Sophie Spence provided the tournament hosts with a crucial edge.
With so much pressure on the team in front of a vocal home support, Tom Tierney felt there was a lot of tension surrounding the game, but he is pleased that they can now focus on the challenges ahead – starting with Japan at the same venue on Sunday (kick-off 5.15pm).
“We won, which is absolutely brilliant. There was a lot of pressure on the girls. A lot of tension before the game and during the game, as you can see from the key areas that let ourselves down at critical times. To get the win, that’s all that matters,” said Tierney.
“To be honest, personally myself, in pool stages, I don’t care how we win as long as we do win. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t as clinical as we wanted it to be, but we’ve got the Australia game out of the way now, and it’s on to Japan. It’s going to be all focus for that. Key areas to work on, but we’re up and running thankfully.”
The impact made by Spence and Griffin was considerable during the decisive final quarter of this Pool C encounter, while Katie Fitzhenry and Ciara O’Connor also made their presence felt from the bench.
Tierney was understandably thrilled with their contributions, but had always expected them to step up to the mark in such a significant match for the Ireland Women.
“We were very, very pleased (with our bench). We had a starting fifteen that we felt was going to do a really good job, especially up until half-time, maybe five, ten minutes into the second half. But then when we do call players on, we’re expecting a big impact, and we got that,” he commented, following the thrilling six-try tussle.
“Which was critical at the time, because it just got us into a nice lead at 19-10. Very, very pleased with the girls, but they’re expected to come off the bench and do their job.”
In the absence of injured captain Niamh Briggs, who supported her team-mates from the stand, Hannah Tyrrell was selected at full-back, with Munster’s Eimear Considine getting the nod on the right wing. The pressure applied by Australia ensured that they had limited attacking opportunities, yet Tierney believes the pair played their part in a committed team performance.
“They did very, very well. Limited opportunities with the type of game. We were under pressure from the Australian line speed, so we just had to go through the middle against them on a lot of occasions. No, very, very pleased with everyone. We’ll look back at that, and we’ll have a look, and we’ll see what key areas the individuals have to work on.
“Then, obviously from a team perspective, we’ll move it into a preview for the Japanese game. All the girls seem to have come through that. A lot of sore bodies, but Australians were very, very tough. It was the ideal set-up for us. First game to put the bit of pressure on us, but thankfully we got through it.”
Of the six teams that were victorious on day one of the Women’s World Cup, Ireland had the smallest winning margin. Indeed, they were also the only one of those sides not to come away with a try-scoring bonus point. However, Tierney reckons that winning ugly is a good omen for what comes in the latter stages of tournaments.
“Looking back at it, any tournament within any sport, it’s the team that wins ugly in the pool stages that usually kinda come good in the end. It’s kinda the opposite for the teams that are brilliant in the pool stages. The minute it comes to the second part of the competition, they come unstuck.
“Hopefully that will be the case, but we don’t expect it to be as erratic, and there was a lot of mistakes there tonight that we will hopefully tidy up on against the Japanese on Sunday afternoon,” added the former international scrum half.
For more on the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup, visit the tournament website – www.rwcwomens.com. Buy your match tickets for the #WRWC2017 finals stages now on www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wrwc2017 and www.ticketmaster.ie/wrwc2017.