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Improvements and another deep dig, but nowhere near enough to cope with ferocious French

Ireland ended the match, and their World Cup chase, lamented another opening half in which they were second best.

Sean Farrell reports from the UCD Bowl

A RAUCOUS CHEER from the home crowd brought the curtain down on Ireland’s chase for a second World Cup semi-final.

The celebrations that greeted Cliodhna Moloney’s 80th minute consolation try seemed ill-fitting with the tremendously frustrating match that preceded it.  But perhaps it was just reward for another enormous effort delivered by Ireland in another second half.

All that perspiration, just wasn’t complemented by half enough inspiration.

Claire Molloy with Annaelle Deeshaye Molloy sneaks around the fringes. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Coming off a win which had Ireland promising a raft of improvements, the World Cup hosts duly managed to brush up their tactical kicking and they played almost the entire second half ‘in the right areas’, encamped in French territory.

Unfortunately, by that stage the team who didn’t manage to break the 10-point barrier in either of their last two trips to Dublin rattled up three tries to lead by 21 points.

Handling and unforced errors was again a cause for concern for Ireland and the immense pressure from the blue wall in the first half forced spills and turnovers which resulted in devastating counter attacks.

At set-piece time, the scrum was out-muscled and the line-out was out-thought. On their own ball, France trusted captain Gaelle Mignot’s ability to throw beyond Maz Reilly and hit the tail. On Ireland’s they refused to engage with the maul and the early confusion exacerbated the frustration of another first-half that ended with Ireland facing a tougher task than they began with.

“It’s nothing to do with our preparation,” captain Claire Molloy said of the first-half performance.

“I think we met a very good French side. They came at us with everything and executed well. We made simple errors, our discipline let us down, we gave them possession. We didn’t have the ball and they got 21 points out of it.

“Credit to France they didn’t let us play. We can look back at our discipline and say we gave away penalties and handling errors, but without the ball you can’t play rugby.”

Hannah Tyrrell is comforted by friends after the game Hannah Tyrell greeted by loved ones post-match. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

With possession and territory for the second 40 minutes, Ireland did play rugby. The problem was, against a French side content to sit on their lead and empty the bench in the knowledge they would face England with or without a bonus point, the brand of rugby they played remained one-dimensional.

With the sky turning the same dark blue shade which cloaked French, they emptied the bench to keep fresh legs powering through collisions. It took prolonged sets of phases to build pressure on Les Bleus, phases which more often than not featured an Irish forward attempting to turn slow ball fast by trucking in to well-set tacklers.

“The flow of pressure was gone back to us but we couldn’t capitalise,” said Tierney.

“In that second half, we had all the territory, but and still couldn’t get over the line while we tried our hardest.”

Gaelle Mignot celebrates a defensive play Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

In the end, it’s that constant uphill struggle – and how Ireland show they are capable of making the climb out of holes they’ve trundled into – that fuel the frustration around this World Cup campaign.

“We worked really hard to get into their 22 and then simple handling errors let us down,” Molloy added to unwittingly and succinctly sum up all three pool matches.

“I’m proud with what the girls brought in the last five minutes and they got over the line.

“That relentless work-rate that got us victories in the first two matches was there again. If we could play all our games as the second half, we’d be a lot happier today.”

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