Carys Phillips and Shona Powell Hughes score tries and Robyn Wilkins kicks seven points as Wales secure qualification for WRWC 2021.The seventh-place play-off win at the Kingspan was built on the significant ground won by Wales' forward.Wales finished their Women's Rugby World Cup campaign on a high with a 17-27 victory against hosts Ireland the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.
In the process of winning this seventh-place play-off, they automatically qualified for the next edition of the tournament in four years' time.
The game was bookended with Wales absorbing huge amounts of pressure from Ireland, in front of a raucous home crowd. In the tenth minute, the Irish won a penalty deep in Welsh territory and kicked to the corner. They won the ball cleanrly and drove over for a try via captain and blindside Paula Fitzpatrick. Fly-half Nora Stapleton added the extras for an early 7-0 lead.
As the half-hour approached, fly-half Robyn Wilkins registered Wales' first points of the match after sustained pressure on the hosts forced them into giving up a penalty.
When loosehead Caryl Thomas powered her way over the line for Wales' opening try on 30 minutes, Wilkins - clever with the boot throughout this match - was again on hand to extend Wales' lead to three points.
Wales started the second half much the same as they'd finished the first, their pack getting on top of the opponents and winning a scrum penalty. They were denied a try twice in quick succession just after the break: once when the TMO ruled that Amy Evans hadn't grounded the ball; the second when they were held up over the line by the spirited Irish defence.
Player of the match Sioned Harries, who so impressed with the ball in hand, took a quick tap at another scrum penalty for Wales and was rewarded with a try in the 48th minute, which Wilkins converted.
Wales' forwards really started to flex their muscles now, and captain captain Carys Phillips scored from the back of the maul on 53 minutes.
Testing times were to come for Wales, however, when prop Evans received a yellow card inside her 22 with the final quarter left to play. Three minutes later, it was a front rower in green who was scoring from the back of the maul as loosehead Lindsay Peat crossed to take Ireland to 12 points, and ten behind Wales.
After patient and precise build-up from the 14-woman Wales, replacement back row Shona Powell-Hughes then crossed for an unconverted try with under ten minutes to go. Ireland wouldn't be dissuaded, though, and although Rowland Phillips's team managed to hold them out Ireland for several phases of attack, centre Katie Fitzhenry went over out in the wide channel.
From there, it was a case of Wales winding down the clock, albeit doing so with Ireland constantly threatening to break through for an unlikely comeback.
It was a fitting farewell to this year's Women's Rugby World Cup, with Wales' young team having learnt some valuable lessons - not only from encounters with the likes of New Zealand and Canada, but from the inspiring impact of retiring stalwarts such as Rachel Taylor and Elen Evans.