Ireland Women’s head coach Tom Tierney admitted his side were far from their best against Japan at the UCD Bowl last night, but was still proud of the resilience shown in a hard-fought 24-14 victory for WRWC 2017 hosts.
Thanks to tries from Alison Miller and Paula Fitzpatrick (2), and a 100% kicking return from Nora Stapleton, Ireland recovered from a shock 14-0 half-time deficit in their second Pool C encounter, and Tom Tierney was relieved to come away with a win in the end.
“We didn’t play well, and we won. It’s as simple as that. We’re not making any excuses about the performance, especially in that first half. Great resilience then by the girls in that second half to score 24 points, with a lot of pressure on and to be able to handle that,” said the Limerick man.
“Albeit with still a number of little mistakes and turnovers and penalties that kind of stopped the flow of the game going our way. Mightily relieved obviously. A win is a win, but we’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re to be competitive against the French on Thursday night.”
Like Ciara Griffin and Sophie Spence against Australia four days earlier, Fitzpatrick (pictured above with Jeamie Deacon) made a crucial try-scoring contribution from the bench yesterday. After starting in the second row for the Australian game, Fitzpatrick posed a series of problems for the Japanese from the back row in the second-half, and Tierney is delighted to have a player of her calibre that can fill a number of positions.
“Paula obviously is a very experienced player. One of our leaders in the squad, and the utility and the versatility of her is hugely important for us. She came on and she did a really, really good job. Along with the rest of the players that had to come on with backs to the wall, and there’s great credit due.
“It’s a tough old station when you’re 14-0 down in a World Cup pool match, and to be able to dig it out and get the 24 points, albeit with the last play of the game. We’re very, very pleased that we won, and we have to take into account then the areas that we have to work on, but all the girls that came off the bench today put in a good shift.”
While a lot of focus from the second round match will be on the errors that Ireland made, particularly during the opening 40 minutes, it was a significantly improved Japanese performance following on from their 72-14 midweek hammering by pool leaders France.
Tierney believes the pacy Asian champions deserve huge credit for the way they frustrated Ireland, and the former Ireland scrum half was impressed with the way they held onto possession in the first half.
“You have to give great credit to the Japanese. When they hold onto the ball with the quick recycle, and the quick ruck contact area, they’re well able to play. Great credit due to them, and they did put us under a lot of pressure. The key is they didn’t make mistakes. They held onto the ball, and they moved and used the full width of the field.
“They had a lot of possession in that first half. I think it was 61% possession at half-time for the Japanese. That’s very, very hard from a defensive perspective then to actually create line-speed, because you’re in multiple phases of defence, but we’ll be looking to rectify that, especially against the French.”
From a position where they were firm favourites to overcome Australia and Japan, Ireland are set to go into Thursday’s Pool C decider with France as underdogs – after les Bleues secured two commanding wins in the past week, scoring 20 tries and 120 points in the process.
Tierney acknowledged that not having the favourites’ tag might make it easier for his side to prepare for such a crunch clash, and he also made reference to their 2017 Six Nations meeting where Ireland enjoyed a memorable 13-10 success at Donnybrook.
“We went into the match against the French in the Six Nations as complete underdogs. We pulled a performance out of the bag there. I think that’s well within our capabilities for Thursday. Favourites or underdogs, or anything like that, it’s not really about that over the next few days. It’s just about really having a mindset that we have to just really look after our jobs, and really look after the basics.
“The basics is the key. You look at any of the core skills. If you do them right, you look a very, very good team. If you don’t do them right, or if you turn over the ball, suddenly then it becomes a stop-start type game, and you’re giving the initiative and you’re giving the flow of pressure back to the opposition,” he added.
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.