The Wallaroos have their first 2017 World Cup win and are still in the hunt for fifth spot, after a 29-15 win over Japan.
Things were never easy for the Wallaroos though they had long patches of dominance, using their forward grunt against a dynamic Japanese side.
Leading by as many as 19 points, the Aussies had their advantage whittled away by a tenacious Japanese side, that finished with 196 tackles, left to cling on to the narrow margin.
In a frenetic start, it was Japan who had the first real chance in attack, but the Wallaroos’ desperation cut off their attempts to slip through gaps.
Australia began to take take control in the set piece and tried to use their forward grunt to force some advantage, but handling errors close to the line and Japanese pressure meant the Aussies couldn’t draw blood.
Samantha Treherne finally gave the Aussies some joy for their mountain of possession, with the fullback capitalising on an overlap to score her first of two for the match.
A Nareta Marsters knock on in the in-goal robbed the Wallaroos of a second five-pointer, as Australia asked more questions of Japan’s defence.
Backrower Grace Hamilton handed the Wallaroos plenty of go forward and she earned a reward in the 30th minute with a try.
Though it had been their grunt that put them on top, Sevens speedster Mahalia Murphy turned on the afterburners for Australia’s third, collecting a Sharni Williams offload and sprinting 90 metres to stretch the Wallaroos lead to 19 just shy of half-time.
A mammoth 25-phase push from Japan ticking well past half-time gave the Japanese their first score, through loosehead Makoto Ebuchi, and the momentum going into the break.
Japan centre Riho Kurogi put pressure back on the Aussies with Japan’s second, making the most of a breakdown turnover, and their third through no. 8 Maki Takano made the margin just four points.
Skipper Sharni Williams helped the Wallaroos off the hook, with a superb offload putting Marsters over to secure a handy bonus point and some breathing space, before Treherne’s second sealed the win for Australia.
The Wallaroos win is their first since the 2014 World Cup, having played just five Tests between tournaments, against New Zealand, England and Canada.
Australia will meet tournament hosts Ireland again in their fifth-place semi-final, kicking off on Tuesday night morning at 11pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS.
Tries: Treherne 2, Hamilton, Murphy, Marsters
Cons: Treherne 2
Tries: Ebuchi, Kurogi, Takano