3rd Play-off: Best ever finish for Australia

(IRB.COM) Sunday 5 September 2010
 
 3rd Play-off: Best ever finish for Australia
Debby Hodgkinson's charging runs made her a thorn in France's side - Photo: rugbymatters.net

Australia overcame a nervy and tentative start to the third place play-off to beat France 22-8, scoring four first half tries at the Twickenham Stoop to sign off from Women's Rugby World Cup 2010 on a winning note.

The Wallaroos were already guaranteed their best ever World Cup ranking by virtue of reaching the semi finals for the first time, but Australia were not prepared simply to settle for fourth place after giving England an almight scare in the semi finals.

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In the opening minutes, France made their intentions clear, kicking for touch in the Australian half with regularity, fly half Aurélie Bailon's boot keeping the Wallaroos virtually pinned in their own 22. Her delicate chip was gathered in goal by Nicole Beck, but the resultant penalty gave France a 3-0 lead.

Australia found themselves repeatedly penalised by referee Dana Teagarden, resulting in wing Nicole Beck - one of four nominees for the IRB Women's Personality of the Year 2010 award which will be presented after the World Cup final - receiving an early yellow card.

France, though, were unable to make their player advantage count and if anything the yellow card managed to fire the Australians into life, a flowing move involving breaks from Debby Hodgkinson and Sharni Williams resulting in a try for centre Cobie-Jane Morgan.

With regular kicker Beck off the field, Tobie McGann missed the conversion and a penalty minutes later after the Wallaroos were unlucky not to score again, Tricia Brown scything through the defence only to be unable to find Kristy Giteau on her inside with France clearing the danger.

France suffered a blow when flanker Claire Canal was forced to limp off minutes later, and things got worse when Australia scored another try, a powerful drive coming up just short, but quick ball and awareness by captain Cheryl Soon enabled her to find flanker Rebecca Trethowan to touch down in the corner.

Australia had the bit between their teeth and number three followed, Beck making a break and finding Brown in support only for the full back to fall. Her quick release of the ball and arrival of support enabled the ball to reach Williams, who sent Morgan in under the posts for her second.

The French, bidding to replicate their third place finishes at the last two World Cups, did manage to stem the tide briefly but with their tails up, Australia added another try just before half time, a miss pass releasing Brown who stepped inside the covering defender to race clear. Beck hit the post with the conversion, but Australia still had a 22-3 half-time advantage.

The Wallaroos, unlike in their Pool A match against South Africa, failed to build on that advantage despite making a number of breaks, the French defence not allowing them the space to make the breakthrough and as a result the two sides largely cancelled each other out for long periods.

The scoreline would remain that way until six minutes from time when the French finished with a flourish, replacement Manol Andre powering over to score her side's first try. France thought they had added another through centre Sandrine Agricole, but she was adjudged to have been held up over the line.

POST MATCH REACTION

Australia captain Cheryl Soon: "We came here, we made history. First would have been nice, or top two, but after our loss against England our goal was to finish three and we achieved that so very pleased with the result. The second half started off a bit slow, but we picked up our game. I think we should have just come out in the second half and put our foot on the thread. But that's irrelevant, we won and we are very pleased with the result. We scored with 14 on the field so it just goes to show the depth and the skill of our team."

Australia try-scorer Cobie-Jane Morgan: "I'm pretty happy, the girls set a platform and us backs had to finish the job off. We were as hungry as any other game to finish it, but we went out there with nothing left in our tanks. Fourth wasn't enough for us today, we just had to go out there and show that we can still play and hopefully we will be better for next time. We lack in experience, but we've had girls who have felt the winnings and what it's like to win a World Cup and I think their leadership, for us young ones, was deep inside us and they just showed us the way, we just had to follow them. So I think the leadership skills of those who have been here before really helped us."

France coach Christian Galonnier: "It's certainly disappointing because when you come into a tournament obviously what you want to do is you want to win, but when you look at the evidence and the other players on the pitch, it's obvious we didn't go as far as we wanted to. Fourth place is the last of the top four teams so it's good to be on the top podium."

France wing Celine Allainmat: "I'm really disappointed because I think we had a good start but then we made mistakes and we gave them the points. The second half was better but it was too late. We used to be in third place and finishing fourth place is really disappointing. Women's Rugby is continuing to improve and the French team have to improve their rugby."