It was the final day of pool play for the Women’s Rugby World Cup (WRWC2017) in Dublin today. The final round of games played on WRWC2017 Day Three may have failed to live up to expectations though, with two key contests only reinforcing leading teams favouritism.
Canada failed to impress, as they were outsmarted and outplayed by New Zealand. Not that the Canadians did not try, but with Aldora Itunu ‘the toast of the Kiwi side’ with three tries, the Black Ferns were too tough.
On the while the world champion English team held firm. In their key match-up with the United States, Alex Matthews was outstanding as the game played to out. Although, while predictive, it was a great contest as both sides now progress to the semis.
Meanwhile, there was some great news for the Hong Kong side. In a positive move for the minor nation, they scored their first ever World Cup points (a try) against hosts Ireland, before crashing out of Cup contention.
Plenty to ponder as we head to Belfast for the playoffs. Canada was the shocker of the tournament, Australia well they live to fight another day. Asian sides scored points today with Spain pulling out the surprise of the Day.
Canada Fails to Impress, Missing Semifinals in Ireland
They came to the Emerald Isles with a clear goal, but it wasn’t to be. The girls were in disarray against the Kiwis, a side that will capitalize on your weaknesses. They were like a minnow side, vulnerable and undecided, and were punished accordingly.
Canada must now fight for fifth spot with Wales, Ireland and Australia. Spain can finish as high as ninth, but the Italians and Japanese will be out to get them.
Up at the head of the pack, the Black Ferns will take on the US Eagles in the first Cup semifinal. Then, the impressive French tackle the English. All four will rest up before ‘laying everything on the line’.
However, lets take at how the day unfolded in Dublin.
WRWC2017 Day Three Results
Match 1: Canada 5 New Zealand 48
It was a disappointing game to watch, as the Canadians literally looked lost and handed the game to the Black Ferns. It was the Pool decider in the end, and fans turned up expecting a cracker–but it wasn’t to be.
The Kiwis; even with two players sent to the bin, still pulled through. Hat trick hero Aldora Itunu was the toast of the Kiwis with her strong carries resulting in a handful of tries. In an all round game, Itunu was hardworking defensively too beside her fellow tight forwards.
Captain Fiao Fa’amausili who earned her 50th cap a first for a Kiwi player, was also rewarded with a try in the second half. Selica Winiata, Stacey Waaka, Kelly Brazier and Renee Wycliffe were the other try scorers. Eloise Blackwell, who was impressive at lock, was guilty too when being sent to the bin, along with Aldora Itunu.
“The Ferns came out hard and we left everything out there but our discipline… you can’t drop the ball like we did. It wasn’t good enough today.”
“The Canada supporters have been incredible and we appreciate it – it’s why we do it.” Canadian captain Kelly Russell told worldrugby.org.
Player of the Match
Aldora Itunu ran like a back, carried like a flanker and scored tries like a winger. She was everywhere, doing what was expected from her, and some. The award was deservedly hers (even though she was sent to the bin too).
Match 2: England 47 USA 26
It was a game that had many promising moments. The English dictated play but the American women had fine moments. The English led 33-7 at halftime through tries from Emily Scarratt, two from Marlie Packer, a penalty try and one before the halftime hooter from Katy McLean. On the other hand, robust flanker Kate Zackary pulled one back for the North Americans.
The English came out firing in the opening minute of the second stanza though. Two tries raised the pressure on the Eagles, before fullback Cheta Emba found the line. The Eagles were looking at a 47-12 scoreline. Then, with a fine set move, Tapper found space, and released her blistering pace to score herself (see below video). Alev Kelter converting it to be at 47-19 – so the comeback was on.
Under Pressure, World Champions Show Class
Then, the English loose trio showed their class. Two tries to Marlie Packer and ‘Player of the Match’ Alex Matthews. However, not to be outdone, it was left to Kristen Thomas to showcase some individual sevens brilliance. She outsmarted and outran the Red Roses backline, to score their final US try.
Even though they were denied a victory, staying within three tries of the English was enough to take her team to the semis. Who would have thought, when the English seemed so forthright. But they say ‘you make your own luck’ so well done Eagles.
Player of the Match
Alex Matthews operates in the shadows of Marlie Packer, Harriett ‘The Poacher’ Millar-Mills and Sarah Hunter. Today she showed her class against another formidable trio in Sara Parsons, Kate Zackary and Jordan Gray. Her versatility and hard work on and off the ball earned her the award.
Match 3: Italy 8 Spain 22
The Spanish were lost in the opening rounds and when it mattered, Las Leonas certainly showed up. Like the United States, it was their sevens stars who stood out on WRWC2017 Day Three. They dug deep, fought hard and deserved the win.
Maria Bravo, Iera Echebarria and Anne Fernadez De Corress scored tries for the Spanish, with the Italians grabbing one back. Credit to the Italian, girls who played a positive game too, fighting hard until the end.
Player of the Match
Patricia Garcia was instrumental in this win, after her emotional scenes at the conclusion of their game against the Americans. The sevens-Star came here with a vengeance, and she delivered. She dictated, orchestrated and mastered their victory today. An MVP performance.
Match 4: Australia 29 Japan 15
It had to go down to the wire, but the Wallaroos held on for the win. It was a tough encounter, the Sakura side turned up the heat but the Aussies withstood it all.
Fullback Samantha Treharne opened the scoring for the Aussies. Winger Nareta Marsters was denied minutes later on the tryline, as Japan’s Mayu Shimuzu gave her a copybook tackle with Marsters spilling the ball [reminiscent of George Gregan]. However, good work from Katrina Barker, Sarah Riordan and Marsters made way for one of Australia’s outstanding performers, Grace Hamilton to crash over.
Mahalia Murphy benefited from a Sharni Williams big hit in the centers, that gave the ball for the Aussie girl to ‘turn on the afterburners’. Murphy strode away, extending their lead 19-0 and exhibiting that players bright future. Soon Marsters was again scoring from a Williams burst, to extend their lead.
The Japanese scored two tries in the game, to show they are a force on the world stage. It was a well deserved; and bonus point win for the Wallaroos. If only they could have begun the tournament in this fashion.
Player of the Match
Grace Hamilton regathered after her side were thrashed by the French. Hamilton epitomizes the Aussie passions for the game. Even with the side out of cup contention, she kept on fighting hard. Today like a true passionate player she gave her all.
Match 5: Wales 39 Hong Kong 15
Fans in Dublin all hoped it was coming, and it was Adrienne Harvey who kicked Hong Kong’s first ever point in this Rugby World Cup. They didn’t stop there, scoring a try through Natasha Olsen-Harvey. Hong Kong ended up scoring 15 valuable points, but it was the Welsh who were far superior.
No doubt, they will have wanted to score more points when they faced Canada or New Zealand. Wales might be a side that could do better, so the consolation maybe aiming to finish fifth overall.
Player of the Match
Shona Powell-Hughes continues to grow in every game. Even playing against, minnows she still gave her all and greatly deserves her award.
Match 6: France 21 Ireland 5
The French showed their intent after the Australian game, and they carried through on their objective today. It was a physical encounter, with the French out-muscling and outclassing the hosts. Good defensive work and aggression won them this crucial game.
Big hitting number eight Safi N’Diaye was the toast of her French side, along with super-boot team mate Amdee Montserratt. At one point, the hosts went to 23 phases on attack but the French defense never buckled.
The first score of the game and it’s @FFRugby star Romane Menager
The Irish have only themselves to blame, they could’ve changed their game plan but they played right into the French hands. Even saying that, center Jenny Murphy was outstanding for the Irish with her big hits.
Player of the Match
Safi N’Diaye, she was everywhere but her biggest test will be against the English loose-forwards trio. If the Montpellier born player can help in stopping those second and third phase-ball plays, it will be go far toward elevating her fellow French women above their third place in 2014.
WRWC2017 Day Three Final Standings:
Here’s how your Pools ended up after some incredible action in Dublin.
Who are you backing in the semi-finals? pic.twitter.com/xtwYWZrLFQ
With the three leading teams all unbeaten, the United States managed to secure a valuable ‘losing bonus point’ to enter the final four. Even though most fans will feel for the Canadian girls, the sides know the rules and should have approached the game in a mind to stay close to New Zealand.
And with Rugby World Cup records falling, observers will no doubt see more action in the knockout stages.
WRWC2017 Day Four Playoffs Fixtures List
9th Place Semi-final #1 – Italy v Japan (Queen’s University, Belfast) 11:00 GMT
5th place Semi-finals #1 – Ireland v Australia (Kingspan Stadium, Belfast) 13:00 GMT
9th Place Semi-finals #2 – Spain v Hong Kong (Queen’s University) 13:30 GMT
5th place Semi-finals #2 – Canada v Wales (Queen’s University) 16:00 GMT
2017 Rugby World Cup Semifinals – Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
16:00 GMT – New Zealand v USA
18:45 GMT – England v France
Can the Red Roses Retain Their WRWC Crown?
It will be huge clash against the French, which the Red Roses strong forward pack should get them through. However, don’t count out the ‘French flair’ because on their day; they can be unpredictable and unstoppable. The current champions have been tested but the French offer a different test.
In the earlier clash, the Kiwis will be disappointed that they haven’t been really tested entirely. Breaking all scoring records, it appears to be a smooth ride, yet the Americans won’t be a pushover. Unlike in the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series [won by the Kiwis], each game must be won ‘on the field’ because anything is possible over 80 minutes.
Whoever wants it the most out of both matches, will feature in the final. True, the Red Roses can retain their title, they are tough enough. If everything goes to plan, then they have to conquer the biggest obstacle of all – the New Zealand Black Ferns.
Plenty mouth watering clashes to watch on Day Four, with the business end of the competition. Follow Last Word on Rugby, as the 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup reaches it’s crescendo.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images