England knock out Ireland to book place in #WRWC2014 Final
irb.com 14 Aug 2014 Getty Images
With a place in their first WRWC final at stake, Ireland had started brightly and were rewarded for their decision to turn down a kickable penalty and go for the corner, a driving maul resulting in a 16th minute try after consultation with the TMO.
Nine minutes later England got their first score when Rochelle Clark picked up and dived over the line after Sarah Hunter had been stopped just short. There was some confusion over whether it was a try or a penalty to Ireland, but it was the Red Roses left celebrating.
Emily Scarratt pulled the conversion wide, ending her run of 10 successful kicks in a row. A huge push by the England scrum then drove Ireland backwards and gave Scarratt the chance to kick into an 8-7 lead in the 32nd minute, a chance she was not going to waste from a better angle.
That lead quickly grew as England capitalised when Ireland put the ball over the dead ball line from the kick-off, from the resultant scrum Scarratt broke through the defence on the left with the ball quickly recycled for wing Kat Merchant to score on the other after Miller missed the tackle.
England’s tails were up and Ireland were struggling to hold their rivals, making uncharacteristic mistakes with IRB Women’s Player of the Year nominee Niamh Briggs missing touch deep in their opponent’s half from a penalty. The Red Roses made them pay with another Scarratt penalty to lead 18-7 at half-time.
The second half was barely five minutes old when Rachael Burford waltzed through the centre of the Ireland defence to ultimately give Scarratt another kick at goal to increase England’s lead to 14 points, the girls in green simply unable to halt the Red Roses’ momentum.
With England’s greater experience in World Cup semi-finals – having never failed to reach the last four – starting to tell as their confidence grew by the minute, the Red Roses began to run the ball from everywhere with Kay Wilson next to get on the scoreboard. The TMO ruling she had got the ball down before being forced into touch to extend England’s lead to 26-7.
Ireland simply couldn’t get their hands on the ball and England had the luxury of replacing captain Katy Mclean, Scarratt and Alphonsi with 15 minutes to go. That didn't stop the England juggernaut as Marlie Packer came off the bench for Alphonsi and quickly staked her claim for a starting spot in the final with two tries in four minutes, her second double of the tournament.
While the Irish will be disappointed by the manner of the defeat, they can still hold their heads high after an impressive tournament which included the historic victory over four-time defending champions New Zealand, their first WRWC loss since 1991.
“We’re delighted with the performance, I think that the scoreline reflects the fact that we really did turn up on the day and we performed really well. I’m so proud of all of the girls – the forwards and the backs all delivered and we have a huge opportunity on Sunday. We can’t wait,” said Mclean.
Coach Gary Street added: “We knew that this was going to be a huge game, there’s been a lot of build up and there was a fair amount of pressure on us, but we really did deliver and I’m massively proud of them all.”
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