Parisian nightmare as Ireland crash out of World Cup
Ireland 7 England 40
It was the tournament that promised so much but ultimately Ireland came up well short against a superior England side who march on to their fourth consecutive World Cup final.
One of the major concerns coming into the game had been surrounding the notion that Ireland had already peaked after their historic pool win over New Zealand, and that seemed to be the case as England moved through the gears with ease to brush aside the Irish challenge.
Ireland's defence had been rock-solid throughout the tournament, having only conceded four tries in their three pool games, but time and time again they uncharacteristically fell off tackles as England crossed for five tries in a ruthless display of efficiency.
Ireland's pack were on the back foot throughout as they struggled to get to grips with the power of their opponents. And when England won an early scrum against the head, that set the tone for the set-piece for the remainder of the game.
It was a bitter end to Ireland's campaign and even more so given the fact that their head coach Philip Doyle will leave his post after Sunday's 3rd/4th place play-off.
"It was a complete lack of performance from our side," bemoaned Doyle. "I think we could have applied ourselves an awful lot better in that game. I think we made England look good.
"We're going to have to go back and look at ourselves. England have been trying to win this for a number of years now.
"Obviously, they are very good - an exceptional side, but I thought we completely played within ourselves and we're bitterly disappointed.
"They have all this experience. They really turned it on and credit to them. I genuinely hope they go on and win it."
Doyle's side were outclassed in every aspect and they couldn't come up with the answers to England's ferocious intensity.
Ireland were beaten by seven points (17-10) in their Six Nations clash with England back in February, and having won in last year's competition, expectations were high going into yesterday's game at Stade Jean-Bouin.
Those expectations were quickly heightened when Ireland weathered an early English storm and brilliantly worked their way deep into English territory.
Camped on the line, Ireland stayed patient and worked their way through the phases. Some desperate English defence kept Ireland at bay but after they kicked a penalty to touch, hooker Gillian Bourke showed great awareness to pounce from close range for the game's opening try.
Niamh Briggs, who was earlier in the day shortlisted for the IRB's women's Player of the Year award, landed a superb conversion from out wide to put Ireland into an early 7-0 lead.
Ireland continued in the ascendency but failed to make their advantage count on the scoreboard - which proved costly as they would fail to score for the remainder of the game.
It took England nine minutes to hit back and once they did, they never looked back as they scored 40 unanswered points - 18 of which came before half-time. Despite Alison Miller's best efforts, the winger couldn't do anything when Rochelle Clark powered her way over.
The impressive Emily Scarratt soon added a penalty as England began the show the kind of intensity that had them installed as tournament favourites following New Zealand's exit.
Kat Merchant continued the English onslaught when her vicious hand-off got her over in the corner for a terrific individual try. Scarratt converted for an 18-7 lead half-time lead.
Ireland had shown plenty of character throughout the tournament but they couldn't find the inspiration to mount a second-half comeback.
"We pride ourselves on our defence and it just didn't work today. Our fringe defence was way too passive. They were trying to attack down our nine channel. We identified that they were trying to come down our nine channel and then take us out wide.
"Our fringe just wasn't closing down that space quick enough and we were way too passive in our line-speed," Doyle admitted.
"It's something that we're really going to have to look at because the Canadians and French are massive ball carriers. It's an area we're going to have to really, really train hard on."
Doyle introduced Siobhan Fleming and Jenny Murphy early in the second half but the writing was on the wall as England refused to ease their relentless attack.
Scarratt picked up where she left off with a penalty before a Kay Wilson try put the result beyond doubt.
Fly-half Katy McClean's perfectly timed off-load was collected by Wilson, who powered her way over the whitewash to ensure that England won their 21st game in 22 meetings with Ireland.
England coach Gary Street could afford to ring the changes with Sunday's final in mind and one of those substitutes made an immediate impact from the bench.
Wasps flanker Marlie Packer heaped further misery on Ireland with two late tries - both of which were converted by fellow replacement Ceri Large.
She first took advantage of more Irish missed tackles to dot down before she raced through to collect Rachael Burford's clever grubber kick.
England will now meet Canada in Sunday's final while Ireland will be looking to finish the tournament on a high against France in the play-off.
Ireland can take heart from the fact that their previous best World Cup finish was seventh, but this group of players only had eyes for the big prize.
Ireland: N Briggs; A Baxter, L Cantwell (H Casey 68), G Davitt (J Murphy 47), A Miller; N Stapleton, T Rosser (L Muldoon 65); F Coghlan ©, G Bourke, A Egan (S Lynch 65); S Spence (L Guest 73), ML Reilly; P Fitzpatrick, C Molloy, H O'Brien (S Fleming 47).
England: D Waterman; K Merchant, E Scarratt (C Allan 68), R Burford, K Wilson; K McClean © (C Large 68), LT Mason (N Hunt 58); R Clark (L Keates 63), V Fleetwood (E Croker 63), S Hemming (R Clark 68); T Taylor (R Essex 63), J McGilchrist; A Matthews, M Alphonsi (M Packer 63), S Hunter.
Referee: A Perrett (Australia).