Saturday 18 January 2020

Winning all that matters but Ireland have plenty to work on

Ciara Griffin, centre, of Ireland celebrates after scoring her sides second try during the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Australia at the UCD Bowl in Belfield, Dublin. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ciara Griffin, centre, of Ireland celebrates after scoring her sides second try during the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Ireland and Australia at the UCD Bowl in Belfield, Dublin. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Fiona Coghlan

A win is a win is a win!

In knockout rugby that's all that matters but that game could have gone either way.

Ireland scored three tries and closed it out really well in the end which is all that matters for a start, but it was a lot closer than I thought it would be.

At times Ireland were bullied off the ball and their line-speed was really poor. There didn't seem to be the hunger to get off the line to meet that tackle which made Australia look better.

They were good and had big ball-carriers but Ireland's lack of speed in defence really gave them too many opportunities and likewise at the breakdown.

The one thing Ireland have been doing all year is digging in in that last quarter and that's what they did again last night.

We saw that in the Scotland game and also against France. In the end it came down to work ethic and want and probably a fear too of losing in front of the home crowd and the forwards took control and played very simple rugby to close it out.

Impact Our substitutions also made more impact than theirs.

Both of our subs scored tries and for me Ciara Griffin was Player of the Match for her impact on the game. She's such an abrasive ball-carrier and went for everything with intent.

I know the official POM went to Maz Reilly who did so well in the lineouts but the number of carries that Ciara made, one phase after the other, she was outstanding and pivotal in driving the team forward in that final quarter when she literally brought the team with her. She also gave Claire Molloy some freedom at that stage as well.

Ireland definitely showed character to drive on again when Australia got it back to two points. They closed out the game cleverly and it was good game management at that stage.

But I was really surprised at our scrum. I thought it would be stronger. You can question Patu coming in at an angle but the referee didn't call it and we needed to adjust to that at this level and be able to sort things out.

There still seems to be a worrying lack of cohesiveness. There was very little linking, it was very much the forwards did their thing and the backs did their thing. That was something we saw in the Six Nations and it didn't improve.

Australia always looked the better team in loose play. They also really took it to Ireland in the physicality stakes and almost bullied them off the ball until Ireland showed, in the late stages, that they could match them.

What cost us at times was complete lack of concentration. Like Australia's first try: they switched off, quick lineout, two passes, out to the wing and score. We switched off in another scrum where we looked dominant in the attacking 22.

But the biggest problem was an apparent lack of eagerness to get off the defensive line. That let Australia into the game.

If you're slowing down their ball at ruck, if you've got what we call defensive integrity - that you won't let them cross that line, wherever it is on the pitch - then the space won't be there.

You've got to push them back at every opportunity.

Hamilton and Parry were unbelievable in the Australian back-row. Shannon Parry may be an Olympic gold medallist but she hasn't played an international 15s game since the last World Cup.

I don't think we underestimated them. They just looked after the ball better than us.

Variety We put them under great pressure in lineouts and used our maul well and the pick-and-go well, but against the top teams you're really going to need more variety to break them down.

We've Japan on Sunday and there's going to be a lot of very sore bodies because Australia really threw themselves at us but that's the challenge of tournament rugby.

It's up to them now to get the bodies ready and sit down and sort out the problems.

There was definitely a lot of pressure on Ireland, hosting the tournament and in their first game and actually what surprised me was how well they did in that first 20 minutes when I expected them to be more nervous.

The problem was that they let Australia into it around the 20th minute and then had to battle back but thankfully they did.

Irish Independent

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