Wallaroos turn tables on World Cup hosts

Womens Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallaroos will play off for fifth place in the World Cup, after turning the tables on host nation Ireland with a 36-24 win on Tuesday.

It was a 14-point turnaround from the agonising two-point defeat Ireland inflicted on the Wallaroos in their tournament opener, showing their improvement in the sides’ second clash in as many weeks, taking control from the opening stages in Belfast

The Wallaroos were fearless in attack early, not afraid to test the Irish defence, setting the tone for what was ultimately a dominant performance.

Australia’s weight of possession paid off when captain Sharni WIlliams showed some of her elusive Sevens skills, slipping through some Irish defence to finish off some patient work from the Wallaroos’ forward pack.

Ireland fought hard but the Wallaroos were dominant. Photo: ARU MediaThree powerful mauls from Ireland ultimately led to a reply for the hosts, with the Wallaroos battling to keep them off the line.

Ireland winger Alison Miller added another for Ireland, gathering a down-field kick from centre Jenny Murphy and taking off to score down the left edge.

Australia had set piece reward of its own, with Sarah Riordan scoring off the back of a scrum, crashing her way through the Ireland defensive line.

Backrower Grace Hamilton had another influential game in the pack, adding to her breakout tournament, with the Wallaroos’ ability to make it over the gain line putting them back on top, while prop Hilisha Samoa was powerful in the front row.

It didn’t take long for Australia to glean more benefit from that attacking pressure, with Samoa the scorer, barging over the line in the 34th minute for their second in five minutes.

Young forward Millie Boyle added Australia’s fourth after half-time, putting it down under a pack and stretching the lead to 14 points.

As their confidence grew, so did their finishing, with winger Mahalia Murphy finishing off another scrum set play to twist the knife in against Ireland.

Ash Hewson’s boot proved crucial as well, with the returned playmaker slotting four from five through the clash.Tighthead Hilisha Samoa was impressive. Photo: ARU MediaIreland had two late consolation tries, with replacement back Sophie Spence and no. 8 Paula Fitzpatrick cutting the margin to 12 points.

Ireland had injury worries, losing captain Claire Molloy and outside centre Murphy in the first half hour.

Williams said the win, and the automatic 2021 World Cup qualification  that came with it, was a huge boon for the XVs game in Australia.

"It's a massive effort for the girls. Our preparation was the best going into a World Cup," she said.

"That shows, us qualifying, that rugby's on the up in Australia and it's going to be amazing to get the young girls playing not just sevens, but XVs, because we are role models for them in the XVs game.

"The crowd got behind Ireland in the last few minutes and it really helped Ireland score a couple of tries. 

"I'm just ecstatic for the girls, not being professionals but coming out with that professional attitude."

Stand-in Ireland captain Paula Fitzpatrick gave credit to their opponents after the clash.

"We just weren't good enough, basic errors, tackle height," she said.

"We didn't do what we spoke about doing and the scoreboard showed."

"They were really physical and that's what got them over the gain line.

"Our tackles were too high and they slipped through them."

Australia will take on the winner of the Canada vs Wales playoff on Saturday night, kicking off at 11:30pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.


Ireland 36

Tries: Egan, Miller, Spence

Cons: Stapleton

Australia 36

Tries: Williams, Riordan, Samoa, Boyle, Murphy

Cons: Hewson 4

Pens: Hewson

Yellow card: Boyle (78')