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Dramatic win for Irish should help pack out Kingspan

 

Comment: Jonathan Bradley

For months now posters have been popping up all over the island of Ireland instructing rugby fans to bring their voice when the Women's World Cup lands on these shores and, as things kicked off yesterday, they did just that.

Pound for pound, or indeed euro for euro, the ticket for what was a full day's action in Dublin's UCD certainly provided value for money, especially after the hosts and Australia served up a final course of nail-biting tension.

It was just what the tournament needed after games that, while entertaining, had hardly been in the balance.

Against an under-powered Spain side to begin things, England didn't show all their cards but still had the winning hand as they ran in 10 tries on course to a 56-5 win.

The favourites and defending champions have more to show, but the combination of Katy McLean, Rachael Burford, and Megan Jones certainly put other hopefuls on notice.

At the same time, a brave Wales fightback was not enough to contain the Black Ferns, while Canada laid down a marker of their own with a commanding dismantling of an over-matched Hong Kong.

It was only the start of the day, but fans had already seen the likes of Emily Scarrett, Portia Woodman and Magali Harvey close up.

And while injury deprived the crowd of their own homegrown star, Niamh Briggs having been ruled out with an Achilles injury, the girls in green naturally still proved the day's biggest draw with the likes of Joe Schmidt, Michael D Higgins and Sean O'Brien in the crowd.

Hours before kick-off, while USA were still putting the finishing touches to a win over Italy, the UCD Bowl edged towards capacity, and by the time the last note of what we'll politely say was a new interpretation of 'Ireland's Call' had sounded there was a tremendous noise in the stadium.

Early hits from centre Jenny Murphy and a huge turnover at a vital scrum ensured the decibel level was maintained, but it was Australia who started the better.

If the most recent men's tournament seemed to refute the notion that you need a successful host for a successful tournament, there was still worry that, after a warm Irish welcome, the home side could find their last four hopes hanging by a thread with the party only seven hours old.

It proved not to be, the Wallaroos' effort undermined by poor kicking and a line-out ruined by Mary-Louise O'Reilly's constant pilfering.

And at the end of an edge-of-your-seat 80 minutes, Tom Tierney's side were left thankful for the impact made by their bench.

For those still debating whether to attend when the tournament comes to Belfast and the Kingspan Stadium for the last four and final though, yesterday's drama will have provided some compelling evidence that they should lend their voice to the Ravenhill roar.

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