Ireland’s women reach Rugby World Cup semi-finals
Kazakhstan prove no pushovers but Ireland do more than enough to top Pool B and reach last four
Sharon Lynch scores Ireland’s first try. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland’s Tania Rosser reaches for the line after a cutting through the Kazakhstan defence. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland’s Siobhan Fleming goes clear for her try. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Ireland 40 Kazakhstan 5: Now every single player has contributed at the World Cup. And a little piece of history can now be confirmed: Ireland are into Wednesday’s semi-final at Stade Jean Bouin.
To have any chance of winning this tournament, Ireland coach Philip Doyle knows the importance of making full use of his 26-woman squad but for large tranches of the opening 40 minutes the 10 changes in personal was a risk that did not pay off.
Basically, the Kazakhstan pack did to Ireland what Ireland did to the Black Ferns last Tuesday. They thumped the ball into the heart of an Irish eight that was plainly not battle hardened.
They are now.
Two moments of class from the veterans, Lynne Cantwell and Tania Rosser, ensured a 14-5 lead but it was an awfully sticky first half of rugby.
Six minutes gone and Paula Fitzpatrick’s powerful carry was let down by her offload, but Cantwell gathered brilliantly before releasing Sharon Lynch.
Jackie Shiels added the conversion and Ireland were away. No problem.
There followed a 10 minute period of sustained pressure from Kazakhstan that eventually saw Svetlana Karatygina twist over for a try in the right corner.
It got progressively worse until a relieving kick by Larissa Muldoon seemed to rattle her forwards into a common sense approach. Back to basics they went, laying a platform with some close in carries.
Cantwell made a half break before Rosser was fed possession in midfield. She sprinted through a gaping hole, stepping the last defender as her flagging pace brought her home.
Shiels, again, added the extras.
What makes Ireland such a well coached side is the mix of voices in camp. The fundamentals, instilled by former St Michael’s College coach Greg McWilliams, the old school club mentality, via Doyle, and technical professionalism, relayed by former Wasps prop Peter Bracken means they can revert to several different approaches depending on the situation.
Six minutes into the second half and Doyle brought a familiarity to midfield by introducing Nora Stapleton for Rosser. Cantwell immediately became more prominent. But that could just have been the captain’s desire to shut the door on Kazakhstan. The 32-year-old is having a fantastic tournament.
The insurance score took a while coming through. And not before a try saving tackle by Shiels on Oxana Shadrina. That scare prompted the arrival of Ailis Egan, Fiona Coghlan and a leading candidate for player of the tournament, Claire Molloy.
The versatile Lynch switched to hooker as the entire Ireland frontrow departed. From the very next scrum Coghlan and Egan picked up where they left off against New Zealand by destroying their opponents.
The territorial battle was well and truly won by now.
After a succession of scrums referee Nicky Inwood awarded a penalty try which Shiels converted.
At the same time Marianna Balashova was sin-binned.
From the next play, Molloy burst a few tackles before Siobhan Fleming raced away for the bonus point try. Shiels was forgiven for missing the touchline conversion as this mission was over with 13 minutes remaining.
That also meant Cantwell could be relieved of duty.
Lynch crossed for a fifth try, her second, with Vikki McGinn claiming the sixth in injury time. Shiels nailed both conversions to complete an excellent place-kicking return.
Solid day’s work. Into Paris they now go.
Scoring sequence - 6 mins: S Lynch try, 5-0; J Shiels conv, 7-0; 23 mins: S Karatygina try, 7-5; 35 mins: T Rosser try, 12-5; J Shiels conv, 14-5. Half-time. 64 mins: Pen try, 19-5; J Shiels conv, 21-5; 66 mins: S Fleming try, 26-5; 68 mins: S Lynch try, 31-5; J Shiels conv, 33-5; 80 mins: V McGinn try, 38-5; J Shiels conv, 40-5.
Ireland: J Shiels; H Casey, L Cantwell, G Davitt, V McGinn; T Rosser, L Muldoon; F Hayes, G Bourke, KA Craddock; L Guest, O Fitzsimons; S Lynch, S Fleming, P Fitzpatrick. Replacements: N Stapleton for T Rosser (46 mins), F Coghlan for F Hayes, A Egan for KA Croaddock, C Molloy for G Bourke (all 56 mins), A Baxter for L Cantwell (68 mins).
Referee: N Inwood (New Zealand).