The tournament moved to Belfast this week after a successful opening week in Dublin. The games today were well supported considering the inclement conditions. It was a day where Ireland’s tournament hit rock bottom with a comprehensive thumping from Australia, England and New Zealand advancing to the final with two contrasting encounters. Hawkeye Sidekick reviews the action.
Australia adjustments decisive as Ireland are thumped
It may have ended 36-24 to Australia but let us face the reality from an Ireland rugby fan perspective that the host nation were well and truly put to the sword today. Hats off to Australia, their management and players made the necessary adjustments today to win with ease. Improved clear out work at the breakdown setting up excellent ruck ball was evident from the first whistle but the decision to target the Ireland outside channels also caught the eye with devastating effect.
The Ireland video analysis session tomorrow will be a horror show; indecisive defensive reads from the three quarters, increased miss tackle count. Williams, Murphy benefited from the latter tactic and was just reward for Australia who dominated the territorial battle throughout. Ireland’s game management was ponderous at best and poor decision making resulted in Australia further imposing their will on the game.
Ireland could not be faulted for work rate but the weak points were gaping. Set piece was inconsistent. The scrum fared better today but was required in earlier rounds. The line-out, an area of great potential struggled to create the platform for Ireland to attack. However, Ireland’s attack was blunt at best. One out runners, little invention from the half backs. The three quarter attacking threat was unfortunately non-existent and Alison Miller was the only standout. Her try today was the high point of the tournament for Ireland. Invention at least from Murphy to spot space out wide, kick was executed to perfection but Miller had plenty to do but the winger beat several Australian players to score an inspirational score.
Australia were comfortable today. They have progressed well as a group, their management have made the adjustments. A team who will qualify for the next WRWC tournament. Canada may be a step too far for Australia but it has being a tournament of positives for Australia.
For Ireland, it has being a soul destroying experience. The host nation advantage suddenly turned into a disadvantage as the team’s limitations were exposed. The team struggled for cohesion throughout the side. Briggs was a loss but let us face facts, the team would have struggled even with the full back in the team. The issues on the pitch reflected badly on management as the team lacked any identity. The side looked under pressure from the first whistle; siege mentality in full view.
Ireland need to reflect and identify players for the future who can provide invention, creativity and rugby skill set ability to get the side to the next level. Ireland have regressed since the last World Cup, the ranking of potentially seventh is an accurate assessment. I am being disingenuous to the Welsh as the game right now is 50/50 call given Ireland’s inconsistent displays. Ireland need to refocus and perhaps new voices in management is required to hone in on the forward and back line deficiencies seen in this tournament. Tom Tierney has tried his utmost but the lack of direction on the pitch from Ireland has being a talking point. Reflect and move on for all parties.
England and New Zealand advance to the final showpiece
The two form teams of the tournament are now in the final. Saturday should be a superb occasion and hopefully mother nature can smile down and provide a dry day to highlight and showcase these two team’s vast skill set. Their semi-final fixtures were contrasting. England safely negotiated the threat of a France side who have caught the eye with some sublime performances. 20-3 does not start to do this game justice. Abrasive, physical, no quarter given. England had to survive a massive France opening half effort and used their experience in the second half to hemp France deep in their own half to create the scoring opportunities to win the contest. Bern was superb for England. Her set piece was on point, ball carrying was immense and her try was a game changer. McLean and Scarratt were pivotal figures for England providing the game management and creativity to keep France on point. England got the game they required; they are now battle hardened and England management have seen the team cope admirably to the French pressure. France left everything on the pitch but they lacked cohesion at vital times; thinking of the lineout on England’s line. France’s lineout malfunctioned massively tonight, credit to England but there was also mistakes from France in this. Crucial mistakes and let England off the hook.
Portia Woodman. A try scoring machine. Just the thirteen tries for the mercurial winger. USA were put to the sword early today as they were overrun in the pack in the opening period. The scoreboard did not reflect the dominance but USA’s tackle count was evident in the second half when Woodman scored on several occasions. New Zealand can point to a competitive opening period but in all honesty, forty minutes of intensity is not the preparation for New Zealand as they face England on Saturday. USA tried hard but as in their previous pool encounter against England, they are some way behind the top two teams in this tournament. Defensive weak points were ruthlessly exposed in the final quarter, lessons will be learned and USA’s progression in the competition can only be a good thing for the sport. New Zealand look ominously placed. Two titans will battle it out on Saturday and I cannot wait!
One Sided Results continue
The one disappointing aspect to this tournament has being the one sided results. Today was no exception. Look at the results today in the playoff spots. Hong Kong, Wales, Ireland, Japan, USA all fell to heavy losses. There should be competitive final game encounters but the pool phases apart from Pool C were boringly predictable. Does the WRWC need to cull teams for the sake of the tournament? No-one wants to see Hong Kong humiliated game in, game out. The tournament has being well managed and run by Ireland. Supporters have shown up in good numbers but the competitiveness of the majority of the games has massively disappointed. England and New Zealand are the top teams. France are chasing them. Canada and USA then follow but after that there is a big chasm that has opened up with the rest of the competition. WRWC powers that be have food for thought once the tournament reaches its climax at the weekend.