Black Ferns knocked out of Women's Rugby World Cup

Getty Images     10 Aug 2014     Getty Images

Ireland were the first to confirm their place in the semi-finals with a 40-5 victory over Kazakhstan in the day's opening match, a result which guarantees the girls in green their best ever result in the showpiece of the women's game regardless of the outcome of their semi-final with England.

The Pool A decider between England and Canada ended in a 13-13 draw, a result which meant that four-time defending champions New Zealand could not reach the semi-finals - the first time the Black Ferns have failed to reach the last four in WRWC history.

Canada, who finished behind England on point differential, had to wait a few hours for the outcome of France's Pool C decider with Australia to be confirmed as the best runner-up, but Les Bleues 17-3 win means the two sides will come face to face in the other semi-final on Wednesday.

The climax of the pool stages at Marcoussis doubled as Keep Rugby Clean Day with all teams warming up in branded t-shirts in support of the IRB's anti-doping campaign, having completed education sessions earlier in the tournament.

Pool A: Stalemate enough for rivals

England 13-13 Canada

This match was always going to be the Pool A decider and with a guaranteed place in the semi-finals the prize for the winner it certainly did not disappoint in terms of passion, commitment and tension.

Emily Scarratt opened the scoring with an early penalty, but Canada claimed the first try in the 17th minute when flanker Karen Paquin dropped on the ball after an excellent driving maul. Two perfectly weighted kicks by Ceri Large should have yielded tries for England before the half hour mark but first Danielle Waterman and then Kat Merchant knocked on with the line within touching distance.

Some great work at the breakdown by Canada and uncharacteristic errors from England meant the score stayed that way until the final kick of the first half when Scarratt managed what Magali Harvey was unable to do by kicking a penalty to give England a 6-5 lead at half-time.

Canada came out in determined mood and captain Kelly Russell’s brave decision to take a quick tap metres from England’s line was rewarded when Kayla Mack touched down. England though again hit back when a series of drives and prolonged pressure resulted in a try for captain Sarah Hunter.

The game really opened up in the final quarter with both sides attacking at will, but it was Canada who enjoyed the lion’s share and a period of prolonged pressure saw Harvey land her first kick of the game to drew level at 13-13 with seven minutes to go.

A draw was not enough for Canada to claim top spot, but it did end New Zealand’s reign as world champions with neither the Black Ferns or USA able to match the 12 points of the Canadians, who had a nervous wait to see if it was enough to claim the best runner-up spot in the semi-finals.

“It’s very much a case of job done, from the start of the tournament our aim was to get into the semi-final and that’s where we are,” said England coach Gary Street. “Of course we know that we can improve on today – we made too many silly errors, some of which were quite uncharacteristic. But in some ways that’s the exciting thing, we still haven’t reached our potential.”

Spain 41-5 Samoa

Captain and number 8 Ana Maria Aigneren led from the front as Spain put themselves in the mix for a fifth to eighth place play-off spot with a convincing bonus-point win over Samoa.

Veteran Aigneren was rewarded for her barnstorming efforts at the heart of a powerful scrummaging display from Spain with two second-half tries.

Three other players joined their 36-year-old captain on the scoresheet and there was also a penalty try as Spain made it a hat-trick of tournament wins over the Pacific Islanders, having defeated them twice, albeit by much smaller margins, at WRWC 2006.

Livewire scrum half Patricia Garcia, who kicked four conversions, was denied a deserved try when she knocked on over the line in the last play of the match.

Pool B: Another first for Ireland

Ireland 40-5 Kazakhstan

Ireland initially found it hard to replicate the standard of rugby that had seen them shock four-time defending champions New Zealand and the match was still very much in the balance at half-time, with the score 14-5 in favour of the girls in green.

However four tries in the final quarter saw a much-changed Ireland canter home to the delight of captain and centre Lynne Cantwell.

“We came here with a job to do and I think the strength of a good side is one that can adapt according to the game. There were nerves but we had it under control, the key thing was to keep it nice and simple and to allow all the new combinations to get up to speed. It was always going to take 20 minutes to click and we managed to put them away in the second half.”

Blindside flanker Sharon Lynch scored Ireland’s opening try and was followed over the line by Tania Rosser who eluded several would-be tacklers to settle Irish nerves after Kazakhstan had got back into the match through Svetlana Karatygina's try.

After a scoreless third quarter the floodgates opened when Kazakhstan suffered the double blow of conceding a penalty try and losing Marianna Balashova to the sin-bin in the process.

Openside Siobhan Fleming then raced home from halfway to secure the bonus point before Lynch, by now playing as a makeshift hooker, scored her second. Vikki McGinn added a sixth in added time that was expertly converted by Jackie Shiels, who finished with 10 points.

New Zealand 34-3 USA

The semi-final dream had ended for both sides before they took to the pitch after the draw between England and Canada, but there was of pride on show between the nations that have won five of the six previous World Cups.

Sevens captain Huriana Manuel gave the Black Ferns the perfect start with an early try and another followed through wing Claire Richardson after some slick passing. USA then suffered a blow when captain Kate Daley was stretchered off with what was later confirmed as a fractured left leg.

Despite missing their captain, the Eagles battled hard and spent almost 10 minutes camped in the Black Ferns’ 22. They thought they had scored a try but it was ruled held up and their pressure came to nothing as the four-time champions went in leading 12-0 at half-time.

Kimber Rozier got the Women’s Eagles on the board with a penalty, but New Zealand then gave a glimpse of the attacking threat in their backline with tries from Manuel and replacements Kendra Cocksedge and Renee Wickliffe in an eight-minute spell to seal the victory. Flanker Justine Lavea then had the final say by touching down with time up on the clock.

"Playing for fifth to eighth, we are just going out to play like it is a final," said captain Fiao' Fa'amausili. "I didn't know (we couldn't reach the semi-finals), I found out when I was getting interviewed. I took it in then, some of the girls knew going in but it didn't change our performance out there at all. We want to show the world that we are not going to give in."

Pool C: Wales end win drought

Australia 3-17 France

As France head into the semi-finals they will be grateful for the physical battle they faced against Australia in this pool decider, the Wallaroos producing some incredible defence to restrict the hosts to only two tries.

Australia took the game to the more fancied French from the outset in a frenetic opening, but it was France who took an early lead through Sandrine Agricole’s penalty. With Sevens captain Sharni Williams at the heart of everything Australia did, they drew level with Ashleigh Hewson’s penalty.

A yellow card to captain Shannon Parry gave France’s fearsome pack the advantage they needed and, although the Wallaroos initially repelled their drives, the referee awarded a penalty try four minutes before half-time, the first try conceded by Australia in the tournament.

France spent much of the second half camped in Australia’s half but only had one try to show for it from a powerful drive, the Wallaroos refusing to buckle despite the waves of attack with three players needing stitches to head wounds after some last ditch tackling.

Australia did manage to relieve the pressure briefly with a foray into the French half, but a forced miss pass when they had an overlap wasted the opportunity to put pressure on their hosts and they must now regroup ahead of their meeting with USA on Wednesday.

Wales 35-3 South Africa

Sioned Harries scored with the last play of the match to complete her hat-trick and send Wales through to the fifth to eighth place play-offs at the expense of Spain.

The number 8 had earlier ended Wales’ 197-minute wait for a try at Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 when she crashed over from close range just before half-time.

Replacement prop Jenny Davies got another one for the forwards approaching the hour mark before Harries made it a day to remember with her second and third tries.

Teenage centre Robyn Wilkins only missed one of her six attempts at goal to contribute 12 points, while fly half Elinor Snowsill chipped in with a well-taken drop goal - the first of the tournament - as Wales picked up a first win in the pool stages since 1998.

"Deep down we've known that performance was in us,” admitted coach Rhys Edwards. "Once you are in that sort of spiral it is difficult to come out, but we've kept banging away at the door and we knew one day we would get the result. It's very pleasing that the girls went out and executed the game plan perfectly against South Africa. It certainly feels like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders.”