Rugby Union

Ireland hold on to record opening win over Australia at Women's Rugby World Cup

Ireland's Larissa Muldoon celebrates with her cousin Bobby McCrory, 7, after the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup, Pool C match against Australia at the UCD Bowl, Dublin

HOSTS Ireland clung on to claim a nail-biting 19-17 Women’s Rugby World Cup opening win over Australia in the UCD Bowl in Dublin.

Replacements Ciara Griffin and Sophie Spence had scored tries to put the Irish in a commanding position midway through the second half.

But the Australians hit back with a late converted try by Hilisha Samoa making it a tense final few minutes for the home side.

Ireland had gone into the game full of confidence but took some time to unlock the Australian defence until scrum-half Larissa Muldoon sneaked over.

Nora Stapleton’s conversion gave the Irish a seven-point advantage but Australia hit back with Mahalia Miller reducing the deficit to two points at the interval.

When Wallaroos captain Shannon Parry crossed the line early in the second half Ireland were facing potential embarassment and they reached the hour mark trailing 10-7.

Griffin went over to restore the hosts’ lead and another Stapleton conversion gave Ireland four-point cushion.

After a long spell of domination Spence was granted another Irish try via video replay, and it looked like the hosts had done enough to dig themselves out of a hole.

But Samoa’s late effort helped Australia get back within touching distance and ensured Ireland would be a very relieved team at the final whistle.

WALES were overrun 44-12 by New Zealand to launch their Women’s Rugby World Cup Pool A campaign in disappointing fashion in Dublin. The Black Ferns, who are expected to be the greatest challengers for England’s global crown, amassed eight tries at a sun-kissed Billings Park.

Full-back Selica Winiata spearheaded the assault with a hat-trick of tries and wing Renee Wickliffe ran in two as New Zealand’s back three ran riot.

Wales’ best asset was their pack and level of commitment and in the second half they were at least able to score tries through Sioned Harries and Mel Clay.

However, the defeat means Rowland Phillips’ team must prevail against Canada, who were 98-0 winners over Hong Kong yesterday, on Sunday if they are to progress to the semi-finals.

Wing Portia Woodman’s scorching break that was finished by Winiata began the rout before centre Stacey Waaka ran in a simple finish following a sweeping team move.

The Black Ferns were giving a lesson in the art of finishing as captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili made the initial inroads for Wickliffe to score before the wing added a long-range intercept for her second.

New Zealand led 20-0 at half-time and were already out of sight even before Woodman gathered Kelly Brazier’s hack on to score and shortly after second row Eloise Blackwell crashed over.

Wales finally made an indent on the scoreboard when Harries was able to use her strength to power over from a line-out and Winiata and Clay went on to swap tries in a lively second half.

Winiata then completed her hat-trick as the Black Ferns sounded an ominous warning to their World Cup rivals.

ENGLAND laid out a big statement of intent with a 10-try, 56-5 demolition of Spain to launch their Women’s Rugby World Cup title defence in Pool B.

Wing Kay Wilson ran in four tries as the reigning world champions opened their bid to retain the crown in ominous fashion in Dublin.

England got the ball rolling in the first minute, with Megan Jones crossing - and Wilson had completed her hat-trick in 31 minutes.

Emily Scarratt, Harriet Millar-Mills, Alex Matthews, Amy Cockayne and Lydia Thompson all dotted down to complete a comprehensive victory over the world’s eighth-ranked Test side.

Diana Gasso claimed Spain’s sole score as England flexed their muscles in style.

In the other Pool B match, wing Kris Thomas scored two tries as the United States opened their World Cup campaign with a 24-12 victory over Italy at the UCD Bowl

Thomas, who was also yellow-carded late in the game, opened her team’s account with an early score as the Americans claimed a bonus-point Pool B triumph.

Fly-half Kimber Rozier also touched down in the first half, converting her own try, but Italy - England’s next opponents on Sunday – struck back with a Lucia Cammarano try that Veronica Schiavon converted.

Thomas’ second try, though, ensured some breathing space before replacement lock Abby Gustaitis secured a five-point maximum, with Alev Kelter converting, before flanker Elisa Giordano claimed a consolation score.

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