Ladies first as New Zealand finally beaten by an Ireland side

World Cup semi-final looms after marvellous Marcoussis display

The women were doing it in Paris for themselves, more than anyone could have imagined. Prior to the World Cup centre Lynne Cantwell said she was no dreamer but belief was with them. Not many took notice. They will now.

Watched by Ireland outhalf Johnny Sexton, the team of school teachers, physiotherapists, students and youth workers did what the Irish men's rugby team have being trying to do since 1905.

In a stunning upset, they came from behind to beat tournament favourites and World Cup winners on four consecutive occasions New Zealand 17-14 margin to secure a controlling position in their Pool B and a probable place in the World Cup semi-final.

It is only the second time the towering New Zealand team have been humbled since the World Cup tournament began in 1991.


A semi-final would also be a first for Irish rugby as the men’s side has not yet advanced past the quarter-final stages since they started playing in the competition in 1987.

"The ladies are showing us how it's done," tweeted Ireland and Leinster forward Kevin McLaughlin.

Cian Healy, Rob Kearney, Seán O'Brien and Welsh Lion, Jamie Roberts were also declaring their admiration.

Yesterday’s game in the Paris suburb was the first time the Irish women had ever played against the world number one side, while the men have had 28 opportunities to do so.

The last time the men’s sides met was in Aviva Stadium last autumn when the country held its breath only to watch as the iron-willed All Blacks came back with a last gasp winning try in the dying seconds of the match.

Played in 30-degree heat, yesterday’s triumph was as much one of spirit and unity as well as a performance that has grabbed the attention of the rugby world and shaken up the competition.


It will advance women’s sport in Ireland and rugby in particular as few if any Irish national sides reach World Cup semi-final or finals. Ireland now meet the weakest team in the pool,


, who were beaten 79-5 by New Zealand in their first match.

"It was a huge game but the girls were confident," said Fiona Coghlan, a Dublin school teacher in Lucan Community School. "We knew we had to be consistent and we were.

“We were all on the same page,” added the captain. “It’s (New Zealand) a team we respect, we’ve watched. They are on top of the world. We want to be. We’re not there yet.”

Now Ireland must come down and then again stand tall to face the Kazaks and take their place among the four best teams in world rugby.

They have earned their position among the elite and maybe over the next four days they can learn to expect, then go out and do it again. Do it again for the people who deserve it most, themselves.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times