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'Devastating. It's hugely heartbreaking' - Ireland boss Griggs after World Cup dream dies

Scotland ended their bid with the very last kick of the European qualifying tournament.

Ireland manager Adam Griggs.
Ireland manager Adam Griggs.
Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

“DEVASTATING, MATE.”

IRELAND boss Adam Griggs’ response when asked to sum up his and his side’s emotions after the gut-wrenching, last-gasp 20-18 defeat to Scotland which ended their World Cup qualification hopes.

After a rollercoaster tournament in Parma, Ireland’s progression hung on one kick in the very end. The permutations were plentiful but as this evening’s battle reached its final stages, it became clear that Italy would qualify directly for next year’s World Cup in New Zealand. The winners of Ireland-Scotland would have another shot in the form of a winnable repechage, at the very least (Ireland could also advance with a draw).

Sarah Law’s conversion at the death would decide the fate of both, after Chloe Rollie’s last-gasp try. Law nailed it, Irish players sinking to their knees in tears as their dream crashed and burned.

“Hugely disappointed,” Griggs reflected in a solemn press conference moments afterwards. “I mean it’s heartbreaking to watch a conversion, with time up, go through the posts.

“We’ve got 28 women there who had a huge goal, and support staff who have worked tirelessly through a Covid pandemic, Six Nations, through dates being changed, all with a goal that essentially was really close, and a last conversion takes it away. It’s hugely heartbreaking. I feel for all the players and the support staff that have put all this work into it.

“Ultimately, we thought we were on the right track, we thought we had done the preparation to be successful. Sometimes you don’t always get what you deserve in life and it’s one of those things that we just have to take on the chin at the moment.

“Just speaking to the group, there’s a huge core of young players there who have done the jersey proud. Once they can take time to reflect on this experience, I hope it makes them better rugby players but also better people. Going through adversity like this, it’s really tough. I think they need to hold their heads up high. While it’s just so upsetting right now, I hope they will bounce back from this.”

Griggs, who took charge of the side in November 2017 following that summer’s disappointing World Cup campaign on home soil, was understandably non-committal on his future in the wake of such a setback.

“I think it’s too soon to say. I’m just really proud of the group that’s there and some of the young players that are coming through on this pathway. I’ve worked as hard as I can to get them right. We’ll see what the future holds.”

The Kiwi also refused to be drawn on conversations regarding the bigger picture of Irish women’s rugby. The spotlight has been on structural issues and the need for systematic change over the past few weeks, the IRFU under fire after the inter-pros facilities fiasco at Donnybrook Stadium and Ireland’s disappointing defeat to Spain.

The next few weeks and months certainly have a pretty bleak outlook as the postmortem continues and more-seasoned players look set to step away.

linda-djougang-makes-a-break-to-score-a-try Linda Djougang facing Scotland this evening. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Asked if more could be done to ensure World Cup qualification next time around and to avoid future on-field setbacks, Griggs said:

“Look, I won’t comment on that at the moment. We were trying to focus on this tournament and we’ve fallen short. The bigger picture stuff is for other people to answer in time.”

Meanwhile, the Ireland boss offered his analysis on where the game was ultimately lost.

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In a see-saw encounter, the lead switched between the sides.

Linda Djougang and Lindsay Peat’s tries in each half, along with Stacey Flood’s excellent kicking, had Ireland in a strong position down the home straight, but it wasn’t enough in the end as Scotland’s never-say-die closing minutes swung everything their way.

“We thought we had a bit of momentum in that second half and then we just couldn’t see it out, I suppose,” Griggs frowned. “I mean you’ve got to give credit to Scotland, they got the ball back in their hands and came direct at us.

“What we’ve based our defence on with linespeed and making sure we take the gainline away, we weren’t able to do that and part of that was some very good Scotland attack, and then we just couldn’t get our connections right. We managed to soak tackles and put them in the right areas of the field. That [last Scotland] try, we were caught short-numbered, we couldn’t just make up the numbers to cut it off.”

“We’ve struggled with our set-piece this whole tournament,” he added. “If you don’t have a set-piece, you can’t give the backs – as lethal as they are – that platform. Again, similar to the other games, we created opportunities and chances and we just couldn’t finish them.

“We were probably too slow into our attacking breakdowns, we were getting in wrestles there and coming out second best, and that would turn the ball over again. It was just… yeah, too many turnovers in vital positions where we know we need to put scores on and come away with points, and we weren’t able to do that.”

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Emma Duffy

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