The Wallaroos have claimed their second win of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland, defeating the host nation 36-24 at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, securing their spot in the fifth-place play-off.
Australia outscored Ireland five tries to four, with Sharni Williams, Sarah Riordan, Hilisha Samoa, Millie Boyle and Mahalia Murphy all crossing the line. Flyhalf Ashleigh Hewson recorded a personal points tally of 11, converting four tries and slotting a penalty.
Williams was the first to score in the eighth minute, barging her way through the defensive line to cross for Australia. Hewson missed the conversion leaving the score at 5-nil.
Ailis Egan scored Ireland’s first in the 14th minute, and a successful conversion from flyhalf Nora Stapleton saw the home-side take a 7-5 lead.
Winger Alison Miller scored a runaway try off a cross-field kick for Ireland’s second, further increasing their lead to 12-5.
Australia was held up over the line in the 27th minute, but a crash ball to Riordan off the back of the ensuing scrum saw the Australian Defence Force center dive over underneath the posts. The conversion from Hewson leveled the score at 12-all.
Tight-head prop Samoa was next to score for the Wallaroos through a pick-and-drive effort. Hewson converted the try to give Australia a 19-12 lead as the two sides headed into half-time.
In her first game at blindside flanker, Boyle crossed for her first Test try in the 50th minute. Hewson made no mistake with the boot, extending the Wallaroos lead to 26-12.
Hewson added a further three points through a penalty in the 58th minute, before converting Murphy’s try to extend the Wallaroos lead to 36-12, with 15 minutes left to play.
Two late tries for the Irish through Sophie Spence and Paula Fitzpatrick narrowed the margin, but Australia held on to record a 36-24 win.
Head Coach Paul Verrell said: “I’m really proud of the way the girls played tonight. They executed the game plan we laid out for them and kept the pressure on the Irish throughout the match.
“That win secures us a place in 2021 World Cup which was our goal today. It was also great to reverse the score from our first encounter against the Irish in Dublin.
“We knew as a team that we could produce a better performance and today we did in front of a vocal home crowd who were behind their team.”
Hilisha Samoa was named the AON Player of the Match and Verrell was full of praise for the tight-head prop.
“Hilisha has come back from having a baby to be ready for this World Cup and her application and dedication to the program have resulted in a brilliant streak of form for her. She’s a credit to the jersey,” he said.
Australia will next face either Canada or Wales, depending on the outcome of their match, in the fifth-place final on Saturday at Queen’s University in Belfast.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
8MIN: Sharni Williams TRY, Ashleigh Hewson MISSED CONV; AUS 5-0 IRE
14MIN: Ailis Egan TRY, Nora Stapleton CONV; AUS 5-7 IRE
18MIN: Alison Miller TRY, Nora Stapleton MISSED CONV; AUS 5-12IRE
29MIN: Sarah Riordan TRY, Ashleigh Hewson CONV; AUS 12-12 IRE
34MIN: Hilisha Samoa TRY, Ashleigh Hewson CONV; AUS 19-12 IRE
50MIN: Millie Boyle TRY, Ashleigh Hewson CONV, AUS 26-12 IRE
58MIN: Ashleigh Hewson PEN; AUS 29-12 IRE
64MIN: Mahalia Murphy TRY, Ashleigh Hewson CONV; AUS 36-12 IRE
74MIN: Sophie Spence TRY, Hannah Tyrrell MISS CONV; AUS 36-17 IRE
79MIN: Millie Boyle YELLOW CARD
80MIN: Paula Fitzpatrick TRY, Hannah Tyrrell CONV: AUS 36-24 IRE