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Ireland's dream crushed despite bright first quarter

Ruthless England show our girls no mercy

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.

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.

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 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."

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 landed a superb conversion from out wide to put Ireland into an early 7-0 lead.

Ireland continued in the ascendancy but failed to make their advantage count on the scoreboard.

It took England nine minutes to hit back and once they did, they never looked back as they scored 40 unanswered points. 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.

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.

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.

Wasps flanker Marlie Packer heaped further misery on Ireland with two late tries.

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 hosts 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 and will be disappointed at the manner of the exit.

Belfast Telegraph

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