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Girls in green 
rise up again

HEARTS were broken for the second time in five days when France wing Elodie Guiglion's last-minute try ensured Ireland ended their Women's World Cup odyssey in fourth place.

When the dust has settled, this will be seen for what it is - a stunning arrival as a serious force in the international arena - although captain Fiona Coghlan was in no mood to celebrate straight after the 25-18 defeat to the hosts.

"We knew coming into it, we were good enough to be Top-4," she said.

"To get there and beat New Zealand on the way was absolutely amazing. But, this isn't how you want to finish. You get to the business end of the season and lose two games.

"It is particularly disappointing given how we played in the first-half.

"We paid them (France) too much respect in the second-half and coughed up too much ball. We let it slip."

Motivation

The French had the backing of a vocal and large local following at Stade Jean Bouin to relight their fire. The Irish had to rely on pure motivation to keep the faith.

The signs were solid from the start as centre Jenny Murphy, in for the concussed Lynne Cantwell, thundered onto the ball, for a front-foot gain that was quickly built on by number eight Paula Fitzpatrick and lock Sophie Spence.

The French defenders were sucked into the fringes and scrum-half Tania Rosser released Niamh Briggs to burst through Guiglion and lock Assa Koita for the opening try in the sixth minute.

There was even the booster of a conversion from the right. This set the bar for the Irish. Their challenge was to keep their game-plan going, not fade away as they did against England in the semi-final.

France didn't waste any time in reminding their guests of the physicality they possessed with number eight Safi N'Diaye leading the charge of the heavy brigade.

The maul had been their best weapon in the four previous matches and a giant heave concluded with N'Diaye finding the whitewash for 
fly-half Sandrine Agricole to level it up.

Spence was hot onto the ball to draw a penalty from flanker Laetitia Grand who got isolated and pinged by referee Sherry Trumbull for playing the ball on the floor. The 40-metre carry to the posts was just out of range of Briggs.

Centre Murphy followed Spence into the trenches to pick the pocket of full-back Jessy Tremouliere for another penalty to give Ireland the territory Briggs eventually turned into a three-point lead in the 27th minute.

Once Ireland had to defend a 5-metre scrum the writing was on the wall. France blew an overlap before coming back again for Tremouliere to put the finishing touches out wide.

The home side had hit the front for the first time (12-10). Ireland had to respond.

Brilliance

It took a piece of individual brilliance from centre Grace Davitt to break open France, chipping over the top and regathering in traffic to just evade the closing Christelle Leduff to recover a 
15-12 lead for the Irish at the interval.

Les Bleus turned up the heat, N'Diaye's short ball putting her fellow back rower Grand through a hole.

A maul was formed out of broken play and space created to the left for wing Guiglion to resist the tackle from Ashleigh Baxter to make it 17-15 in the 46th minute.

Slowly, the greens started to get their hands on the ball and patient retention tempted hooker Gaelle Mignot into holding on in the tackle.

Briggs split the posts for Ireland to hold a one point edge going into the last quarter.

The French assembled another menacing maul which looked destined for reward until an Irish counter surge forced a turnover. But, the Irish scrum was turned inside out for a penalty, dispatched by Tremouliere.

Briggs was handed an immediate shot at redemption. She chose to go for the corner instead of the posts. The lineout was lost forward by Fleming.

The good news was that Ireland were mostly in command of the ball.

They just couldn't turn it into points and France supplied the sucker punch with Guiglion's beautifully created try.

 

The superb try was the centrepiece of a super-physical shift.

It all came down to the last play when French sleight of hand was exploited by Elodie Guiglion.


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