Ireland relish maiden New Zealand victory

Defending champions tamed in World Cup Pool B clash in Marcoussis

Ireland beat reigning champions New Zealand in the group stage of the 2014 Women's World Cup in France, only their second loss ever at a World Cup finals. Video: Reuters

 

Belief has long been deeply ingrained in the Ireland women’s rugby squad, but the rest of us only dared to wonder after Heather O’Brien’s try against the mighty New Zealand in their World Cup group match at Marcoussis.

Dreaming about the perfect day usually ends with the sound of an alarm clock. Especially when the defending world champions, and most physically intimidating side at the tournament in this quaint Parisian suburb, still led 8-7 after Niamh Briggs planted the conversion.

“We believed from the start,” said Briggs, a Limerick- based garda, so clearly spent after her heroics.

Horrid last bend

The rest of us did not. Fiona Coghlan’s team had so much road to travel. Particularly that horrid last bend.

“But I think in those first couple of minutes when we put them under pressure we knew we had the better of them,” Briggs educated us. “We just didn’t turn the pressure into points. But we came together and said ‘let’s be patient: the points will come’. And they did.”

But they always catch us. Well, the men’s team anyway. Six minutes after the interval the Black Ferns pounded the green line. Kelly Brazier posted a penalty to make it 11-7. We presumed the rest.

Of course, Briggs got involved again. She danced into enemy territory before releasing the fastest woman in Laois; Alison Miller’s try made it 11-12. Briggs then kicked the conversion from near the sideline.

Black tide

Still, a three-point lead will never do against the black tide. Sure enough, Brazier levelled it. But these women won the Grand Slam in 2013. They always believed what the rest of us doubted. There was no luck involved. Briggs’s last penalty was sure and true – 17-14.

There were nervy moments but it didn’t end like last November’s alarm clock in Dublin. It ended as it began. And the rest is history. “It’s not that big really,” Briggs added. “If we don’t win on Saturday against Kazakhstan it counts for nothing.”

It is that big, Niamh. Really.

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