Hosts Ireland had to dig deep to beat Australia on the opening day of Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 which also saw wins for defending champions England, New Zealand, the USA, France and Canada. Read on for a full round-up courtesy of World Rugby.
Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 got off to a flying start with 63 tries scored across the six matches in Dublin on Wednesday. Defending champions England kicked off the tournament with a 56-5 defeat of Spain at the UCD Bowl, but their fellow title contenders Canada, New Zealand and France were equally impressive in overcoming newcomers Hong Kong (98-0), Wales (44-12) and Japan (72-14) respectively over at Billings Park.
The USA battled past an Italian side making their first World Cup appearance for 15 years, 24-12 was the final scoreline, while hosts Ireland were involved in the closest match of the day as they sneaked past Australia 19-17 to the delight of the home supporters packed into the Bowl.
The action continues on Sunday with New Zealand and Hong Kong kicking off proceedings at 12pm at Billings Park, followed by England v Italy in Pool B and the remaining Pool A match between Canada and Wales. The USA and Spain get play underway at 2.45 at the UCD Bowl with the Pool C clashes, Ireland v Japan and France v Australia, closing out the day.
2017 WOMEN’S RUGBY WORLD CUP – MATCH DAY 1: Wednesday, August 9
POOL A: NEW ZEALAND 44 WALES 12, Billings Park
Scorers: New Zealand: Tries: Selica Winiata 3, Renee Wickliffe 2, Eloise Blackwell, Portia Woodman, Stacey Waaka; Cons: Kendra Cocksedge 2
Wales: Tries: Sioned Harries, Melissa Clay; Con: Elinor Snowsill
HT: New Zealand 20 Wales 0
New Zealand took time to click into gear against a passionate Welsh side but when they did, it was their back-three of Renee Wickliffe, Selica Winiata and Portia Woodman that did the damage with their pace and running lines.
Wales, beaten 63-7 when the teams last met at WRWC 2014, started positively and frustrated the Black Ferns in the early exchanges until the breakthrough came in the eighth minute. Keira Bevan failed to find touch with her clearance kick and the New Zealand back-three pounced, Sevens star Woodman taking on three defenders before slipping full-back Winiata in for the opening try.
Elen Evans thwarted another attack minutes later by diving on a kick through and the Welsh continued to play with passion and determination despite having very little of the ball and being stuck in their own half. The New Zealand lineout was not functioning well with captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili whistled up repeatedly for crooked throw-ins, making it difficult for the four-time champions to get their game going.
It was their line-speed on defence that set up their second try, a great tackle from Wickliffe giving her side the opportunity to seize turnover ball and spread it quickly along the line for centre Stacey Waaka to go over in the corner in the 22nd minute. That score sparked a period of Welsh pressure and they spent five minutes camped in the Black Ferns’ 22 but could not find a way over the line.
That failure was compounded when New Zealand scored two tries in quick succession through winger Wickliffe to lead 20-0 at half-time. Fa’amausili broke from a maul and Waaka straightened through a hole in the defence with quick hands releasing the winger. Wickliffe then read a Welsh pass perfectly to intercept and sprint 70 metres to score despite a desperate chase from Jasmine Joyce.
The score remained that way until a piece of magic from WRWC 2010 winner Kelly Brazier, the centre pouncing when a Welsh pass went astray to kick through and then nudge it on so it bounced up perfectly into her arms before she had the composure to loop the ball to Woodman for the winger to race in for try number five in the 51st minute.
Second row Eloise Blackwell soon decided it was time for the New Zealand forwards to get on the scoreboard with an effort from close range, but Wales then gave their fans in the crowd something to cheer about when number 9 Sioned Harries gathered lineout possession and finished off the move.
A great solo try from Winiata followed before New Zealand lost scrum half Kendra Cocksedge to the sin-bin, Wales taking advantage immediately with second row Melissa Clay going over from the resulting lineout. Winiata then completed her hat-trick with seven minutes to go and the Black Ferns looked to have a ninth try at the death but replacement prop Katie Mata’u lost the ball over the line.
New Zealand captain Fa’amausili admitted afterwards: “We are pretty pleased but we had a slow start. Coming to Ireland we had huge expectations but we started really slowly. Credit to Wales, they really gave it to us in that first 20 minutes, but I’m really pleased with how we pushed through that. We have to go back and look at what went wrong (with the set piece). Practice makes perfect and we have a few more games to keep pushing on.”
Wales skipper Carys Phillips commented: “The score was definitely no reflection on the match. We put our hearts on the field today and most of their tries came from our mistakes. I think we need to be more accurate with our play.
“I’m proud of every single one of the girls for how they played and there is a lot we can take away from this game and be really proud of. We definitely need to improve our accuracy and be more clinical when we’ve got the ball, but our set piece is phenomenal and I think we can score against any team with that.”
POOL A: CANADA 98 HONG KONG 0, Billings Park
Scorers: Canada: Tries: Kelly Russell 3, Brittany Waters, Andrea Burk 2, Magali Harvey 5, Elissa Alarie 2, Amanda Thornborough 2, Alex Tessier; Cons: Magali Harvey 8, Brianna Miller
Hong Kong: –
HT: Canada 46 Hong Kong 0
Canada signalled their intentions to go one better than three years ago with a record 16-try defeat of Women’s Rugby World Cup first-timers Hong Kong at Billings Park, surpassing their previous highest score of 79 against Scotland in 2006.
Hong Kong battled bravely from start to finish against a team ranked 20 places above them in the World Rugby Women’s Rankings, but had no answer to the power and pace of the Canadians, who scored a number of their tries from inside their own half.
Canada winger Magali Harvey, one of the stars of WRWC 2014, put her name firmly at the top of the points and try-scoring charts with five tries – three of them in the first half – amid a 41-point haul, showcasing both her electric pace and sublime footwork in a performance that saw her named the Aon player-of-the-match.
Centre Andrea Burk opened the scoring in the fifth minute and Canada had the bonus point in the bag by the time the clock reached 21 minutes after Elissa Alarie, Harvey and captain Kelly Russell had dotted down. Harvey then completed her hat-trick either side of second tries for Russell and Burk to give Canada a 46-0 lead at half-time.
Notably, prop DaLeaka Menin had a barnstorming first half, carrying for more than 110 metres, before she was replaced early in the second. By that time, Francois Ratier’s charges had added two further tries through Alarie and replacement Amanda Thornborough. Centre Alex Tessier then added another before each side lost a player to the sin-bin in winger Chong Ka-yan and Canada replacement Olivia DeMerchant.
Harvey, replacement Brittany Waters, Kelly Russell, completing the number 8’s own hat-trick, and Thornborough crossed to inch closer to a century of points. Harvey fittingly scored Canada’s 16th and final try of the afternoon, but Brianna Miller could not add the conversion from out wide with the final act of the game.
Canada’s three-try skipper Russell said after the landslide victory: “Keeping the continuity is something we’ve really been focusing on and it was a great job by the girls to keep that going. Credit to Hong Kong, they were really good in the ruck and gave it to us a couple of times in there and that is something we’re going to have to clean up.
“It is important to get all the girls out there on the pitch, we want them to come on and bring it when they step on and I’m really proud of the team and the effort they put in. Across the board anyone of the girls could be in the starting line-up, it’s just starters and finishers.”
Giving her post-match reaction, Hong Kong’s gallant captain Chow Mei-nam said: “It was a very exciting game and the first time here (in a World Cup), it is very good to be here. I told my team-mates to play with their hearts, play tough and enjoy the first match. We are enjoying it, everyone loved this game. We will study up and try to improve for next time.”
POOL B: ENGLAND 56 SPAIN 5, UCD Bowl
Scorers: England: Tries: Emily Scarratt, Kay Wilson 4, Harriet Millar-Mills, Alex Matthews, Lydia Thompson, Amy Cokayne, Megan Jones; Cons: Katy Mclean 2, Emily Scarratt
Spain: Try: Diana Gasso
HT: England 24 Spain 5
England got the defence of their title off to an impressive start at the UCD Bowl with a convincing 10-try triumph over Spain. The favourites to top Pool B had the bonus point secured before the interval thanks in the main to a hat-trick of tries by left winger Kay Wilson, which followed an early touchdown by centre Megan Jones as the Red Roses poured forward with out-half Katy Mclean cleverly orchestrating the attacks.
However, the scoreboard probably flattered England, particularly in the first half as Spain performed superbly in defence with stand-out displays from flanker Paula Medin and second row Maria Ribera, while full-back Barbara Pla, who unfortunately had to be replaced due to a head injury, and winger Iera Echebarria also caught the eye with some strong tackling.
The tenacious Leonas had their reward with a breakaway try in the 36th minute finished off by flanker Diana Gasso, but in the end England, for whom prop Rochelle Clark and centre Emily Scarratt made their 125th and 70th appearances respectively, simply had too much power and organisation.
Going into the second half with a 24-5 lead, the Red Roses were in dominant form as Scarratt, the charging second row Harriet Millar-Mills, replacements Alex Matthews and Amy Cokayne and winger Lydia Thompson all crossed the whitewash, while speedster Wilson added her fourth of the match.
Reflecting on her side’s performance, England captain Sarah Hunter said: “It was nice to get 10 tries along the way, but we’ll certainly be looking at areas where we can improve. The score probably doesn’t reflect how physical and how tough it was out there. Spain were very competitive right from the beginning and they played right until the end. It was certainly a contest regardless of what the score might show.”
Spain out-half Patricia Garcia, who worked tirelessly in defence and led a frantic kick chase in the build-up to Gasso’s try, commented: “We fought the whole way against the current world champions and one of the favourites to win the title again. In defence, we worked really hard and we know we have to improve in some areas, but this performance certainly gives us some confidence for the remaining matches.”
POOL B: USA 24 ITALY 12, UCD Bowl
Scorers: USA: Tries: Kimber Rozier, Kristen Thomas 2, Abby Gustaitis; Cons: Kimber Rozier, Alev Kelter
Italy: Tries: Elisa Giordano, Lucia Cammarano; Con: Veronica Schiavon
HT: USA 12 Italy 7
A physical USA powered to a 24-12 success against Italy at the UCD Bowl on Wednesday, picking up a bonus point on the way. The winners of the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup in 1991 were fastest out of the blocks when a sweeping attack from inside their own half was finished off in style by winger Kristen Thomas within two minutes.
Out-half Kimber Rozier added the extras and the Italians were on the back foot again as flying winger Naya Tapper, as well as the powerful forward duo of number e8 Jordan Gray and Aon player-of-the-match Sara Parsons, made regular inroads.
It was not a surprise when the US Eagles’ pressure paved the way for a second try, the impressive Rozier slicing through the cover defence for a well-taken score which she failed to convert. But the Italians, playing in their first World Cup since 2002, had threatened with some classy play from centre Maria Grazia Cioffi and full-back Manuel Furlan, and when at last they engineered field position, they made it count.
A surging forward drive saw hooker Lucia Cammarano get the touchdown and veteran number 10 Veronica Schiavon landed an excellent conversion to reduce the deficit to 12-7 at the break. Unfortunately, Cammarano’s celebrations were short-lived as she suffered a fractured leg and, after lengthy treatment, was replaced by Lucia Gai.
The USA dominated possession in the second half and the victory was sealed with a second try from Thomas after strong approach work by replacement centre Alev Kelter, before another of the reserves, Abby Gustaitis, stormed over to secure the bonus point. A persistent Italy had the final say with a try in the closing minutes from back rower Elisa Giordano.
Giving her assessment of the game, USA full-back Cheta Emba said: “That’s a first step for us and of course there are a few things we need to do better. Everybody’s hungry in this tournament and we respect Italy, so we’ll take some confidence from this.”
Italy head coach Andrea di Giandomenico remarked: “We’re a little bit disappointed with the result, but overall it was a good performance. Our backs need quick ball and we struggled to get that because the USA dominated the breakdown with their physicality.”
POOL C: IRELAND 19 AUSTRALIA 17, UCD Bowl
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Larissa Muldoon, Ciara Griffin, Sophie Spence; Cons: Nora Stapleton 2
Australia: Tries: Mahalia Murphy, Shannon Parry, Hilisha Samoa; Con: Ashleigh Hewson
HT: Ireland 7 Australia 5
A great occasion, a great match, heroic performances by both teams, and in the end a packed UCD Bowl saw Ireland edge out Australia in what was a titanic Pool C confrontation.
There were three tries apiece as a dramatic contest swayed back and forth. At one point, the defiant Wallaroos looked like they would triumph, but at the death, it was the Irish who showed their tenacity and resilience to pull off a tight victory.
A tension-packed first half saw Australia edge the territorial battle and the Irish defence had to be at its best to stave off the twin threat of centre Sharni Williams and winger Nareta Marsters. Once Ireland settled, the forwards began to take charge and after a soaring Marie Louise Reilly lineout take, and a series of punishing drives, scrum half Larissa Muldoon plunged over from close range.
Nora Stapleton tapped over the conversion, but the lead was short-lived. Once again it was Williams and Masters who threatened, and following a quickly taken lineout, winger Mahalia Murphy scorched over on the left to reduce the deficit to 7-5.
If anything, the temperature rose after the interval as lively replacements Sophie Spence and Ciara Griffin scored crucial tries for Ireland, while captain Shannon Parry and Hilisha Samoa replied for Australia who had to be content with a losing bonus point despite a late rally.
Ireland head coach Tom Tierney admitted afterwards: “We’re very, very pleased that we got the result. We have to recover now ahead of Japan on Sunday. It was a bruising encounter, the Aussies are massively physical. They put us under pressure at the ruck area and we’ve definitely got to work on that.”
Australia’s try-scoring skipper Shannon Parry said: “That was a very tight, physical encounter played in an incredible atmosphere. We left those two points out there but we can build from that. It basically came down to execution, being able to take those crucial chances and we fell a little bit short this time.”
POOL A: FRANCE 72 JAPAN 14, Billings Park
Scorers: France: Tries: Caroline Ladagnous 3, Marjorie Mayans, Elodie Guiglion 2, Caroline Boujard, Monserrat Amedee, Romane Menager 2, Annaelle Deshaye 2; Cons: Monserrat Amedee 4, Caroline Drouin 2
Japan: Tries: Mateitoga Bogidraumainadave, Yumeno Noda; Cons: Mayu Shimizu 2
HT: France 29 Japan 0
France took themselves to the top of Pool C with a 12-try defeat of Japan in the day’s final match at Billings Park. The 2014 bronze medallists had the bonus point wrapped up inside 16 minutes against the Sakura 15.
Young flanker Romane Menager scored a great solo try in the opening minute before winger Elodie Guiglion dotted down and prop Annaelle Deshayes was driven over by her fellow forwards as the clock reached just 13 minutes.
A piece of brilliance from Caroline Ladagnous saw the outside centre burst through the defence to give France a 22-0 lead, but their charge was temporarily halted when they lost second row Celine Ferrer to the sin-bin. In her absence, Japan did something they had never done before, scored a try in what is their third meeting with France.
Number 8 Mateitoga Bogidraumainadave had been a headache for France throughout the first half and her powerful running was rewarded when she came off the back of a scrum and beat three players to go over under the posts to the delight of her team-mates.
France, though, had one more try in them before the break with lock Lenaig Corson making a bulldozing break, shrugging off a couple of tackles and sending winger Caroline Boujard over to make it 29-0 at half-time. Bogidraumainadave was forced off within minutes of the restart and Japan never really recovered from the blow as Guiglion quickly grabbed her second try.
Les Bleues kept the pressure on Japan and the tries continued to flow with regularity, Aon player-of-the-match Ladagnous completing her hat-trick amid scores for prop Deshayes and full-back Montserrat Amedee, the latter marking her debut with a try on the hour mark.
France lost their replacement scrum half Audrey Abadie to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-down shortly afterwards, but Japan quickly lost their numerical advantage when centre Makiko Tomita was sent off by referee Graham Cooper with 13 minutes to go.
A great solo burst from Menager was rewarded with a try and replacement Marjorie Mayans took France through the 70-point barrier before the depleted Asian champions finished strongly, scoring a second converted try through replacement Yumeno Noda.
France captain Gaelle Mignot remarked after the match: “We are, of course, happy to start the competition like this and now we must focus on Australia. From the beginning to the end we were very together and we’re happy to have a complete game like this. We are really happy but we have things to work on.”
Seina Saito, who captained the Japanese side from the front row, conceded: “This is our first World Cup match (since 2002) and despite all our preparation work we couldn’t do well for this match. However, we can take confidence from scoring these two tries against France because it shows we can score tries against good teams.”
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.