The Wallaroos have narrowly lost their opening match of the 2017 Women’s Rugby World in Dublin, falling to host nation Ireland 19-17 at the University College Dublin Bowl on Thursday morning.
Both sides crossed for three tries each, with conversions proving to be the difference with the Irish flyhalf Nora Stapleton slotting two-from-three attempts.
The Australian Sevens contingent had a strong influence on the match with Captain Shannon Parry and Mahalia Murphy both crossing the try line.
The narrow loss of just two points means that Australia has earned a losing bonus point, placing them in their position in Pool C on one point, trailing Ireland (four points) and France (five points).
Australia will now prepare for its second match of the tournament against France on Monday 14 August at 4.45am AEST.
Wallaroos head coach Paul Verrell said: “I’m proud of the way the team performed tonight, they put in a big effort and overall it was a great improvement from our tour of New Zealand.
“The team matched it with the Irish and for the majority of the match and matched them in physically and put in a solid defensive display.
“The Irish controlled possession for a large portion of the second half and kept the ball inside our own half and that prevented us from creating any real opportunities.
“We could see the content we’ve been going over in training being put into practice, but we need to continue to build as we turn our focus to France.”
The score remained nil-all until the 21st minute when Irish scrum-half Larissa Muldoon darted through the line to score the opening try of the match. Stapleton converted the try, giving the home side a 7-nil lead.
Mahalia Murphy crossed first for the Wallaroos in the 29th minute, with some early lead-up work from the forwards creating space for the Australian Sevens star out-wide. Samantha Treherne missed the conversion, leaving Australia trailing by two-points, 7-5.
The score remained 7-5 through to the half-time break, and it wasn’t until the 56th minute that Australian captain Shannon Parry broke the deadlock, diving over after a series of pick-and-drives to put her side in the lead 10-7. Treherne missed the conversion, leaving Australia ahead by three points.
The Irish answered straight back through reserve flanker Ciara Griffin who scored under the posts in the 61st minute to put her side back in the lead 12-10. Stapleton slotted the conversion putting the home-side in the lead 14-10.
A try through lock Sophie Spence put Ireland further ahead 19-10, before tighthead prop Hilisha Samoa dove over the line in the 73rd minute, after a series of forwarding runs, edging the Wallaroos within an upset. Ash Hewson slotted the conversion to narrow the score to 19-17, becoming the Wallaroos all-time leading point scorer in the process.
Ireland held onto possession for the remainder of the match, and eventually kicked the ball into touch to end the match and claim their first win of the tournament.
Irish lock Marie Louise Reilly was awarded ‘Woman of the match’.
The Wallaroos will now turn their focus to their next pool match against France on Monday.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
21min: Larissa Mulhoon try, Nora Stapleton con, AUS 0-7 IRE
29min: Mahalia Murphy try, Samantha Treherne missed con AUS 5-7 IRE
56min: Shannon Parry try, Samantha Treherne missed con AUS 10-7 IRE
62min: Ciara Griffin try, Nora Stapleton con AUS 10-14 IRE
69min: Sophie Spence try, Nora Stapleton missed con AUS 10-19 IRE
73min: Hilisha Samoa try, Ashleigh Hewson con AUS 17-19 IRE
Ireland 19 (Larissa Mulhoon, Ciara Griffin, Sophie Spence tries; Nora Stapleton 2 cons)
defeated Australia 17 (Mahalia Murphy, Shannon Parry, Hilisha Samoa tries; Ash Hewson con)