It was the penultimate round of games in Belfast yesterday, as teams fought for places in the final matches of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 (WRWC2017). With a wealth of knockout rugby played, it ended up as an England v New Zealand showdown in the World Cup finale.
The day panned out well for the two leading sides, but in other results, the day went well for Canada. The Maple Leafs regained composure, as Hong Kong scored their second ever try in another entertaining day. Of course, the home town favourites Ireland didn’t have it all their way, unable to withstand an Australian storm.
The players and teams have all given their all. From the emerging nations, to the home nations partners. The seventh edition of the WRWC has been hugely popular with spectators, and online with coverage and social media interaction. It truly has seen Rugby World Cup records broken.
KO: Saturday, 19:45hrs (GMT+1) pic.twitter.com/IsGHtI7Sdf
England v New Zealand reach World Cup finale, 2017.
All 12 teams will battle for their final placings this Saturday, with the Red Roses hoping to retain their world crown. It will be a repeat of the International Women’s Rugby Series finale – held in New Zealand back in June. On that day, it was the English driving maul that caught the Black Ferns by surprise. On a wet Rotorua afternoon, they had no answer to it.
Very much more now at stake for the Kiwis, as they seek redemption from their surprise fall to Ireland, in 2014. They have long dominated the Women’s World Cup [four titles] with the English [two] but in recent form, the Red Roses have the upper-hand.
Day Four: Talking Points
While the semifinal was a beauty to watch, the scoreline in most of the games still gives a lot to talk about. It has been fantastic watching these teams compete but the gap is too wide to really reflect on how deeply the game has grown with the ladies. Three or four teams stick out as competitive, however the others do not appear to be on the same level.
Having only three teams in the Top Tier [realistically] is not good for Women’s rugby, but we are still at the growth stage. Hopefully, the exposure the game gets from the Olympic Games, will trigger interest. From that, more development across the globe results in more competition at the next World Cup
As World Rugby have seen how sevens rugby has changed drastically in the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series. It benefits all playing nations.
The positive signs are through the participation of Hong Kong and Japan. However, an Pacific Island side from Fiji and Samoa could add more flavor. As well, an African side would benefit that fast growing region. Representation, balanced by high performing teams.
First and foremost though, lets recap how Day Four unfolded in Belfast.
WRWC2017 Day Four – the Lowdown
Match 1: Italy 22 Japan 0; 9th Place Semifinal #1
The Italians kicked off the day with an impressive win over the Japanese. The feisty Sakura girls couldn’t score a point as they were outsmarted and outclassed by the wounded Italians. A big day for centre Maria Grazia Cioffi, who will become the third Italian player to reach 50 caps. Italy captain Sara Barattin played her 75th test for the Azzurre.
Mayu Shimuzu tried to rally her troops, however, when it came to taking opportunities when presented, the Azzure took care of business.
Player of the Match
Melissa Bettoni was in the thick of everything in the game. She scored, tackled and encouraged her forwards to withstand the Japanese rhythm.
Match 3: Spain 31 Hong Kong 7; 9th Place Semifinal #2
The Hong Kong side grew from game to game. When they had possession, they threatened but the Spanish are the ‘Queens of turnovers’. They nullified their opponents attack and spread the ball wide. Rose Hopwell-Fong scored Hong Kong’s second try of the tournament, with Adrienne Harvey adding the extras.
Sevens star Iera Echebarria was also in the thick of things, running aggressively and offloading when needed. The Hong Kong side will take a lot from this game. Their battle with Japan on Saturday will be one to watch, as the ‘Battle of the Minnows’.
Player of the Match
Patricia Garcia again takes the award for the second consecutive match. Her kicking and general direction leading her troops yet again. The Italians will know now who should be their main target, when they clash on Saturday.
Match 2: Australia 36 Ireland 24; 5th Place Semifinal #1
The Australians were on fire from the start, making the big Irish pack run all over the park. The game started with a frantic pace that the Irish found hard to catch up to. Burly prop Hilisha Samoa was very disruptive with her powerful runs and was well supported by captain Sharni Williams. Alison Miller and Hannah Tyrell were outstanding for the Irish in the opening exchanges as they showcased their sevens skills. However, it was Sarah Riordan who kept the Aussies in touch.
Ashleigh Hewson and Mahalia Murphy picked up tries in the second half as the Wallaroos shut down the Irish. It was a longtime coming to see the girls in green and gold delivering, a clinical performance like they did. It will be a huge battle when they take on the Canadians in the 5th place playoff.
Player of the Match
Hilisha Samoa was instrumental in the Wallaroos win today. The burly prop led from the front and showed the way for the other to step up and fight.
Match 4: Canada 52 Wales 0; 5th Place Semifinal #2
It was inevitable that the wounded Canadians would be ruthless on Day Four, and they certainly were. Latoya Blackwood battered through some flailing Welsh tackles and Elissa Alarie executes a brilliant chip which she runs on to herself for her second try, to lead 26-0 at half-time.
In the second half it was the Canadians who continued their onslaught. Winning by eight tries to nil, Wales will feel this tournament went against all their planning. It will be interesting how the Welsh fair against hosts Ireland on Saturday.
On the other side of the draw, Canada will try to avoid more disappointment and win fifth place outright, ahead of the rejuvenated Wallaroos side.
Player of the Match
LaToya Blackwood deserves her award as she played her heart out. With emotion running high after a family tragedy, she delivered where it mattered in the field.
Match 5: New Zealand 45 USA 12; Cup Semifinal #1
Despite the scoreline, credit should be given to the Americans for competing well against the high flying Black Ferns. It was an uphill battle but they stood their ground and asked some very good questions of the Kiwi defence, especially with ball in hand.
Portia Woodman grabbed four tries – yes not only does she rule the World Sevens Series, she is ‘reigning tries’ here in Ireland. A huge battle looms, up ahead against the Red Roses, as they will try to retain their crown from France.
Player of the Match
Kelly Brazier is an unsung hero, she doesn’t get noticed most of the time but she is one consistent performer. When you have the backline firepower at your disposal, you need a good supplier. That is what Kelly Brazier offers, and more.
Match 6: England 20 France 3; Cup Semifinal #2
It was a tighter game to wrap up the day, especially in the first half. The French were in the game but they didn’t turn opportunities into points. Their set-pieces; especially their lineout, was in tatters. Something Captain Gaelle Mignot will be pondering before their third place playoff against the Americans.
Youngster Sara Bern was on hand for the English to give them their first try of the game. It was a special occasion, as she scored her maiden try in a World Cup game. Surprisingly, Emily Scarratt converted and was on par with her kicking today unlike in their previous games.
Marlie Packer; who was playing in her 50th test, was instrumental in the flanks with Alex Mattews and Sarah Hunter. Megan Jones was also very vocal off the bench, resulting in the last try. It will be an epic final, with the trophy on the line.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve done the job we wanted to do, from one to 23, we’ve done it.”
“France were fantastic but we had the right mindset and fought for everything. Both sides were going for it and both defences stood up to it. But there was no way anything was getting across our try line tonight.” This was the ecstatic reaction from Sarah Hunter, England captain on worldrugby.org.
Player of the Match
Sara Bern deservedly wins this award. For a youngster, her determination in one of the finest game in Women’s rugby history deserves applause.
The Final Day of Competition is Set for Saturday
After the success of the fixtures in Dublin, the action focuses on Belfast, Northern Ireland. Fans will arrive from all corners of the world, with a the Japanese, American and European supporters making a noise to show that the women’s game is extremely popular.
It will be a fantastic final to watch on Saturday. In other action, The Rugby Championship Round 2 plays out in Dunedin and Buenos Aires, but if you want to be entertained, don’t miss the women’s games. The action will reach epic proportions, on Day Five of the WRWC2017.
England v New Zealand Showdown in World Cup Finale
Day Five Fixtures – Sunday, August 26
11th Place Playoff: Japan vs Hong Kong; Queen’s University, Belfast. 11:00 GMT
9th Place Playoff: Spain vs Italy; QU, Belfast.13:30 GMT
7th Place Playoff: Ireland vs Wales; Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. 13:00 GMT
5th Place Playoff: Canada vs Australia; QU, Belfast. 16:00 GMT
3rd Place Playoff: France vs United States; Kingspan, Belfast. 16:00 GMT
World Cup Finale – England v New Zealand
Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. 18:45 GMT
The Kiwi side will be tough to defend, and attack against. Breaking records at will in 2017, on a dry, fast ground they appear to be formidable.
Saying that, the 4W’s in Woodman, Winiata, Wycliffe and Waaka will have their game cut out from them. They will be up against a more talented backline, led by Emily Scarratt, Rachael Burford, Kay Wilson and Danielle Waterman.
Last Word on Rugby wish every side all the very best, and look forward to reporting on all Day Five results.
“Main photo credit”
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