Following Ireland’s 21-5 loss to France on the final night of the WRWC 2017 pool stages, captain Claire Molloy admitted that it was ‘immensely frustrating’ that they were not able to apply more pressure on the French in the second half of the winner-takes-all Pool C clash.
With 21 points separating the sides at the break, Ireland were faced with a gargantuan task as they tried to work their way back into contention against their Six Nations rivals. Despite forcing France onto the back foot for long spells, the scores just would not come.
Time and again, promising Irish attacks deep in the French 22 were thwarted by les Bleues’ dogged defence or individual mistakes from the home side, however Claire Molloy was proud to see their persistence pay off in the form of an 81st minute try from replacement Cliodhna Moloney.
“It’s immensely frustrating. We worked really hard to get into their 22, and then simple handling errors let us down. But then I’m proud what the girls brought in the last five minutes, and they got over the line,” said the tireless flanker at the post-match press conference.
“That kind of relentless work-rate, that we saw in the first two matches against Australia and Japan, which got us the victories, was there again. If we could play all our games as a second half, I think we’d be a lot happier today.”
Since their 13-10 Six Nations defeat to Ireland at Donnybrook back in February, France have transformed into genuine contenders for the World Cup crown – all in Samuel Cherouk’s first year as head coach. Molloy believes they deserve huge credit for the way they forced errors from the hosts, and for how well they honed in on the Irish game-plan.
“Obviously France would have looked at our previous games, knowing that we have a strong, tight pack, a carry sequence and they worked on it. They defended that well, and they put us under huge pressure, and forced the errors out of us. Credit to them, they forced it out of us.”
France certainly seem to be peaking at just the right time, following a series of training camps and no international warm-up matches during the summer. In contrast, Pool C runners-up Ireland have struggled to hit top form so far in the tournament, but Molloy stressed that their WRWC preparations were faultless – they just happened to come up against a formidable French outfit.
“No, I don’t think it’s anything to do with our preparations. I think we met a very good French side. They came at us with everything. They executed well. We made simple errors, our discipline let us down. We gave away possession (in the first half). We didn’t have the ball, you can’t play without the ball, and they got 21 points out of it.
“Credit to the French side, they didn’t let us play. We could look back at our discipline and say, ‘yeah, we gave away silly penalties and our handling errors’, and look at that and fix that. But without the ball, you can’t play rugby,” added the Galway woman.