PARIS, France – A dominant lineout performance by the Irish and a near-perfect kicking outing from Niamh Briggs saw Ireland claim the opening pool play match of the IRB Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014, 23-17. Despite having momentum for most of the contest, penalties thwarted numerous opportunities for the Women’s Eagles.
“Ireland has the best maul in the world, and it really showed today,” said Eagles Head Coach Pete Steinberg. “Penalties really hurt us throughout the match and that is something that we will need to change.”
The Irish capitalized numerous times on Eagle penalties, whether it was through territory or points. Briggs slotted three penalty kicks on the day in addition to a perfect 2-for-2 in conversion kicks.
The fullback was also able to dot down a try, as did prop Ailis Egan.
“Briggs had an excellent game today and that allowed them to play more for territory,” commented Steinberg.
With a 20-10 advantage at halftime, the Irish relied heavily on the boot in the second frame to keep the Eagles out of scoring distance.
Tries from Lynelle Kugler and Carmen Famer seemed to put the Eagles in control of the match, especially after Kimber Rozier was able to convert on the kick, but nothing would come of it. A penalty kick by Rozier in the first half was the only other scoring for the Eagles.
“We were able to play some good attacking rugby, but we just weren’t consistent enough,” said Steinberg of his team’s performance. “Where we come from here is we start the recovery and we go again.”
The loss drops the Eagles to 0-1 in pool play, third in the group standings. The Eagles were able to gain a bonus point in the match by keeping the deficit within seven points, which puts them above Kazakhstan, the team’s next opponent.
The win puts Ireland in second place in Pool B behind New Zealand. The Black Ferns defeated Kazakhstan 79-5 earlier in the day.
The Irish win marks only the third time in team history that it has allowed more than 13 points in a match and remained victorious.
Ireland also claimed its second win over the Eagles in series history – the first coming during the 2010 World Cup pool play match (22-12).
Next up for the Eagles is Kazakhstan. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 A.M. ET Tuesday, Aug. 5.
The Eagles were also paired with Kazakhstan during the 2010 World Cup and left victorious, 51-0. The test is the only previous meeting between the teams.
Blocked kicks, penalties, and strong Irish lineout mauls gave way to a 20-10 Ireland advantage at halftime. Despite driving efforts and a territorial advantage for most of the period, the Eagles saw miscues and penalties give the upper hand to the Irish from the early goings.
Briggs pushed Ireland in the opening period, connecting on two penalty goals, two conversions, all the while notching a try of her own.
Pinning the Eagles deep from the opening kick, a quick clearance kick handed the ball to Ireland in the attacking half. A frenetic pace resulted in Briggs slotting a penalty kick from 22 meters from the posts.
The Eagles answered right back to seemingly turn the tables on Ireland and take the lead.
Forcing a penalty meters out, the Eagles opted for a five-meter lineout. Breaking away from the maul, Kugler dotted down to give the Eagles an early lead. Converted by Rozier, the Eagles held a 7-3 advantage.
Immediately back in Eagles territory, however, Ireland was able to capitalize on another penalty. Briggs slotted the kick to bring the Irish closer at 7-6.
Despite being on the back foot for a majority of the half, successive penalties and strong lineout mauls pushed Ireland down the field again.
As a result of the dominant lineout drives, Sarah Walsh was sin-binned for the Eagles following multiple infractions of bringing down the maul.
Keeping Ireland’s momentum going, Egan finished the drive with a try that was converted by Briggs.
At 13-7, the Eagles drove into Irish territory for the final stages of the half. With Claire Malloy being sin-binned for multiple breakdown infractions, Rozier lessened the deficit with a penalty kick, 13-10.
Briggs, however, had one last answer for Ireland. The fullback converted on her own try to bring the halftime score to 20-10 in Ireland’s favor.
The Eagles fired out in the second half, though, seeing Carmen Farmer cross the try line in the opening moments. Rozier was able to close the deficit on the conversion kick, making the score 20-17.
With pressure coming again from the Eagles, Ireland went to a kicking game to regain territory. A strong Irish lineout and repeat infractions from Shaina Turley resulted in another penalty goal by Briggs and a yellow card for the reserve flanker.
With a player advantage and a small lead, Ireland slowed the game down. Methodical picks from breakdowns assured ball retention, all the while taking time off of the clock.
Slowly driving the Eagles back, Briggs attempted a drop goal that sailed just wide with minutes remaining.
Again penalties by the Eagles allowed the Irish to continue its safe play. A penalty allowed Briggs a shot at goal with only one minute remaining.
Sailing wide left, the Eagles had one last restart before the final whistle. However, a miscue on the ensuing 22-meter drop gave Ireland the lineout.
Winning the lineout, Ireland kicked the ball into touch to seal the victory, 23-17.
Universal Sports will broadcast the Eagles’ match against Kazakhstan Aug. 5. Coverage for the event begins at 6:30 A.M. ET.
Women's Eagles | v Ireland
1. Hope Rogers (Wilson @ 72')
2. Kathryn Augustyn (Wagner @ 58')
3. Jamie Burke (Chobot @ 53')
4. Carmen Farmer
5. Sarah Walsh (Blaney @ 56')
6. Jillion Potter
7. Lynelle Kugler (Turley @ 53')
8. Kate Daley (C)
9. Jocelyn Tseng (Owsiany @ 68')
10. Kimberly Rozier
11. Sadie Anderson
12. Emilie Bydwell
13. Akalaini "Bui" Baravilala
14. Vanesha McGee
15. Meya Bizer
Ireland | Starting XV
1. Fiona Coghlan (C)
2. Gillian Bourke
3. Ailis Egan
4. Sophie Spence (Guest @ 74')
5. Marie Louise Reilly
6. Siobhan Fleming (Fitzpatrick @ 56)
7. Claire Molloy
8. Heather O'Brien
9. Tania Rosser (Muldoon @ 74')
10. Nora Stapleton
11. Alison Miller
12. Grace Davitt (Murphy @ 57')
13. Lynne Cantwell
14. Ashleigh Baxter
15. Niamh Briggs
Ireland | Reserves
16. Sharon Lynch
17. Fiona Hayes
18. Laura Guest
19. Paula Fitzpatrick
20. Larissa Muldoon
21. Jenny Murphy
22. Jackie Shiels
Women's Eagles | 17
Tries: Kugler, Farmer
Conversions: Rozier (2)
Discipline: Walsh (Yellow), Turley (Yellow)
Ireland | 23
Tries: Egan, Briggs
Conversions: Briggs (2)
Penalties: Briggs (3)
Discipline: Molloy (Yellow)
Women's Eagles | IRB Women's Rugby World Cup 2014
v Kazakhstan - Tuesday, August 5 - 7:00 A.M. ET
v New Zealand - Saturday, August 9 - 12:00 A.M. ET