IRELAND SECURED THEIR place in the semi-finals of the Women’s Rugby World Cup as expected with Saturday’s 40-5 victory over Kazakhstan.
With 10 personnel changes and two positional switches ahead of the clash, it always seemed likely that Ireland would lack a similar degree of the cohesion to that which was evident in their previous wins over USA and New Zealand.
While that proved the case during certain spells of Saturday’s win, there were passage of excellence from the Lynne Cantwell-captained side, as many new World Cup caps showed that Ireland have depth in their squad.
We mentioned after the New Zealand success that there had been no ‘passengers’ in Ireland’s two opening wins, and that theme very much continued against Kazakhstan. Handling errors and some stuttering phase play aside, it was another encouraging attacking performance from Ireland.
In this piece, we look at the tries Philip Doyle’s team scored on Saturday, pinpointing the qualities of this squad each of them illustrated.
Try One – Sharon Lynch
Ireland enjoyed a bright start to the encounter, dominating possession and camping themselves inside the Kazakh 22 early on. The rewards came via a sharp try from Old Belvedere’s Sharon Lynch after some excellent offloading.
It’s a relatively straightforward try, demonstrating Ireland’s skills in contact, but the opening for Laura Guest to burst through is initially created by Ireland’s shape coming around the corner from left to right.
As we see in the image below, scrum-half Larissa Muldoon has several options as she moves the ball away from the ruck. First, there is the possibility of the Bristol playmaker sniping herself around the fringes.
Eventual try-scorer Lynch  offers the short passing option, while Guest  is further out, but starting from a flatter position and therefore open for Muldoon to pass to. Out the back door, Vikki McGinn  and the backs are keeping the outside defenders busy.
It’s very basic shape, but it conspires to produce poor spacing in the Kazakh defence, as signified by the line between the ‘A’ and ‘B’ defenders in the image above. Guest spots the hole, screams for the ball and Muldoon delivers.
From there, Ireland’s classy offloading skills take over as Guest and Cantwell produce the ball for Lynch, who has continued her running line to take the scoring pass. McGinn comes from deep for a final involvement, cleverly cutting across the despairing final tackles from Kazakhstan and guiding Lynch over.
Try Two – Tania Rosser
Ireland had to wait until the 36th minute for their next try, but the delay was worth it for the quality of Rosser’s effort. Shifted to out-half for this game, the 36-year-old showed that she still has a smart turn of pace and excellent footwork.
This score came about as Ireland put into practice the plan to drag Kazakhstan across the pitch, forcing them to defend for multiple phases. The intention in these cases is always to tire the defence, before exploiting weaknesses and gaps clinically.
Rosser’s linebreak comes on phase eight of play, with Ireland having moved the Kazakhstan defence from left to right. The result is that the Central Asians have forwards across their midfield – a prime opportunity for an opportunist like Rosser.
Below, we get a still of the glaring disjoint in the Kazakh defensive line, with second row Svetlana Karatygina bursting up at speed and prop Olga Bakhtiguzina [in the grey scrumcap] being left behind.
Again, with Ireland’s clever phase play having drawn Kazakhstan into a compromised defensive position, the individual skills take over. Rosser darts through for the clean bust and then turns on some sharp footwork to beat fullback Aigerym Daurembayeva.
Try Three – The Scrum
Following the superb victory over New Zealand last week, we highlighted the Ireland scrum as a real source of strength. Peter Bracken – a Heineken Cup winner with Wasps in 2007 – has been part of a shift in the Irish mindset around the scrum over recent seasons.
In the past, Ireland had looked simply to cope at scrum time, with captain Fiona Coghlan having admitted that former No. 8 Joy Neville was very often back-peddling as she picked from the base to carry.
Under Bracken’s tutelage, the Ireland scrum has improved technically and, perhaps most importantly, looked to start dominating their opponents.
While Ireland were incredibly denied a penalty try against New Zealand, there was no stopping them on Saturday, as referee Nicky Inwood headed straight for the posts when Marianna Balashova lost her bind and kicked the ball loose.
There was little doubt Ireland were destined for the tryline in this instance, as the front row of Ailis Egan, Sharon Lynch [who had moved to hooker from blindside at this stage] and Fiona Coghlan got the drive on.
Behind them, Guest and Orla Fitzsimons provide further power, while the back row are also head-down and driving. A wonderful try for the Irish pack, and one that will continue to build their scrummaging confidence.
Try Four – Siobhan Fleming
There was a nice variety to Ireland’s tries against Kazakhstan, and the memorable 66th-minute offering from Fleming was a classic counter-attacking score.
Against New Zealand, Ireland’s counter-attack looked to exploit a pre-identified weakness in the Black Ferns’ front-up chase, with fullback Niamh Briggs running the ball back to the same area from where the kick had stemmed.
Fleming’s try was a more traditional counter, as Ireland fielded a poor Kazakhstan kick and swiftly moved the ball to the far side of the pitch, where there are so often fewer defenders in position.
Lots of teams operate with ‘two-pass’ or ‘three-pass’ rules on counter-attack, meaning they look to shift the ball to the opposite side of the field as quickly as possible after a turnover or kick reception.
Here, Ireland get in four passes to send Fleming sprinting away. However, it’s the work from the flanker off the ball that allows her be in position to take Hannah Casey’s scoring pass.
As Jackie Shiels fields the ball on the far left side of the pitch, Fleming  and Guest  are back-peddling, working to get themselves back into a position where they are valid options to carry or support the ball carrier.
At the same time, Nora Stapleton  and Grace Davitt  have moved infield, towards Shiels, in order to open up the pitch and to act as the two passing pivots. Out of shot, Casey has taken up a central position outside Davitt.
With that basic structure in place, Ireland carry out their counter-attack effectively, using four crisp passes to move the ball out to the right. Casey’s draw and pass to send Fleming bursting away is precise, dragging the last defender in off her wing.
Again, this is simple stuff, but it’s all about the basics of the game done well. Ireland haven’t reinvented attacking rugby in this World Cup, but they have planned cleverly and done the basics with impressive accuracy.
That wasn’t always the case against Kazakhstan, certainly, but the example above shows how dangerous Ireland were when they get it right.
Try Five – Sharon Lynch
Ireland’s superior conditioning was apparent again in the closing stages of their third pool fixture, backing up the impression made in the USA and New Zealand victories. On top of that, some key reinforcements off the bench in the second half provided additional power.
The scrum absolutely destroys Kazakhstan on their own put-in to kick-off this clinical passage of Ireland attack [below], driving the minnows completely off the ball and allowing Guest [repositioned in the back row] to carry from the base of the scrum.
The impressive Stapleton, who was excellent off the bench, takes over on the next two phase, creating the try for Ireland with her unique vision and creativity. First, the Old Belvedere out-half spots the space in behind the Kazakh line and drops in a perfectly-weighted chip for Ashleigh Baxter to run on to.
On the next phase, Stapleton picks out the ideal pass, lofting the ball over Anna Yakovleva’s head as the outside centre looks to intercept and cut off the overlap out on the left.
The pass finds its way into Egan’s hands and the tighthead prop again demonstrates the quality of Ireland’s basic skills with a neat draw and pass to send Lynch clear. It’s fitting that the prop and hooker combine to finish off a try that initially begins with their wonderful scrum turnover.
Try Six – Vikki McGinn
Ireland rounded off their scoring with a team try in injury time, another score that stemmed from the scrum.
Lynch gets an extremely clean hook on the ball, which comes firing out at the tail of the set-piece. Muldoon reacts well to scoop it up and feed Davitt on a typically selfless, direct running line.
McGinn trails in behind and carries out a superb clear-out of Anastassiya Khamova, arriving low and driving the replacement back row clear of the breakdown [below].
A phase later, it’s out-half Stapleton who makes a crucial rucking contribution, clearing the Kazakh defender out in a direct one-on-one confrontation over the ball [below].
While Stapleton is rucking, McGinn is back on her feet and working hard to get around the corner and get a second involvement in the attack [below].
The Blackrock wing’s reward is of the five-point variety as Kazakhstan fail to get any width in their defensive spacing, and Shiels draws in the final defender to provide the assist for McGinn.