Wales take big step towards World Cup qualification – at expense of Irish


WALES had the perfect start to their Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign with a solid 28-10 win over Ireland at Cardiff University Sports Park.

The Irish were no pushovers and fought hard for the whole game, but in the end it was the Welsh experience that got them through.

Wales fielded three new caps – the Cardiff Demons’ duo Lucia Davies and Kim Boaler, aged 20 and 40 respectively, and Sheffield Eagles’ Agnes Wood (all pictured above).

And it was Davies who nearly gave Wales the perfect start in the first five minutes but was stopped short when diving for the line.

Wales eventually opened their account six minutes later when Bethan Dainton crashed over the line for her first ever international try in either rugby code, and Kathryn Salter converted. The Wales skipper nearly scored her second from the next attack but was stopped short.

Ireland fielded nine new caps, some of whom were playing their first full game of Rugby League.

“We’re slowly converting them from rugby union,” commented their Australian-born coach Matt Kennerson after the game.

Mairead Quinn, one of the six Irish players who has played in all five of their games, was the first to nearly score for Ireland, but was held up over the line, and from the next play, one of those newbies in Grace Tutty scored in the corner. Storm Cobain couldn’t land the conversion.

Wales extended their lead in their next attack when a great passing move ended with Georgia Taylor scoring in the corner. Salter converted again.

Then, with eight minutes to go in the half, it was 18-4 when Brittony Price fed Salter, who rolled over when Ireland attempted to hold her up over the line. She converted her own try.

With Wales 14 points up at the break, they looked for the opening try of the second half and on 53 minutes they did it. It was a fantastic clean break from Dainton, no-one could stop her and she scored under the sticks, making the conversion easy for Salter.

Ireland didn’t ever give up and continued to test the Welsh defence. Eventually, with four minutes to go, and with the game won, the Welsh finally broke as Quinn went in under the sticks and Cobain converted.

But Wales cemented their win with the last play of the game when Rhi Parker sprinted over in the corner, Salter missing for the first time as the hooter went.

Ireland will host the Netherlands next month in their final group game, looking for a large win to save their automatic qualifying campaign. Wales just need to beat the Dutch in June to join their wheelchair counterparts down under in 2026.

Wales coach Thomas Brindle said: “Overall I was happy. Ireland put a spirited fight which made the game more competitive.

“We’ve a couple of months now before we take on Netherlands. We had a suspicion that they would be strong and they obviously proved that in their game today.

“But it’s exciting that the first part of the job is done and now we’ve a couple of months to focus and go out to Netherlands and hopefully complete the job.”

First published in League Express newspaper, Issue 3,428 (April 29, 2024)

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