Wallaroos lose to Ireland in rugby opener

 

Australia have begun their women's rugby union World Cup campaign with a 19-17 loss to host nation Ireland.

The new-look Wallaroos were in the hunt to upset the Six Nations runners-up, leading 10-7 lead with 20 minutes remaining before being overrun in Dublin.

Australia conceded the first try when Irish flyhalf Nora Stapleton crossed after 20 minutes in the pool C clash on Wednesday.

But winger Mahalia Murphy hit back eight minutes later after Australia won a lineout on the back of a midfield break by sevens star Sharni Williams.

Ireland beat Wallaroos in their opening World Cup match. Pic: AAP

Speedy debutante Murphy, one of nine changes from the last-start heavy loss to Canada in June, received a long pass from fullback Samantha Treherne 25m from the line, slicing through the defence to score untouched.

Treherne missed the conversion, helping Ireland to a 7-5 lead at half-time.

The visitors took a three-point lead when co-captain Shannon Parry drove over in the 56th minute, with Treherne again failing to add the extras.

World No.5 Ireland dominated the match for territory and hit back with two tries to lead 19-10 with nine minutes remaining.

Wallaroos substitute Ashleigh Hewson scored in the 73rd to set up a tense finale.

But the hosts held on for a perfect start to their campaign as Stapleton's boot proved decisive, slotting two from three conversions.

Wallaroos coach Paul Verrell said his world No.6 side had improved from their winless Four Nations tour of New Zealand two months ago.

"The team matched it with the Irish and for the majority of the match and matched them in physically and put in a solid defensive display," Verrell said.

"The Irish controlled possession for a large portion of the second half and kept the ball inside our own half and that prevented us from creating any real opportunities."

Australia will begin preparations for their August 14 clash with France, who lead the group after a a 72-14 win over Japan.

Canada beat Hong Kong 98-0, while New Zealand fullback Selica Winiata bagged a hat-trick to help the four-time champions overrun Wales 44-12 in pool A

In pool B, England beat Spain 56-5 and the United States defeated Italy 24-12.

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