By Brendan O'Brien
Ireland coach Tom Tierney has described his squad of players as "heartbroken" after a defeat to France on Thursday night that ended their Women's Rugby World Cup dream.
A 21-5 Pool C defeat to their Six Nations counterparts in UCD, in what was a must-win game, has consigned the tournament hosts to the margins where they will scrap for the higher minor placings as the entire operation moves on to Belfast next week.
The best they can finish now is fifth. France, on the other hand, will contest a semi-final with the reigning champions England. New Zealand take on the USA in the other.
"We're heartbroken," said Tierney. "The girls gave it everything. It wasn't meant to be but we have another tournament to get ready for now up in Belfast. It's not the tournament we wanted to be involved in but we have to take it on the chin tonight and tomorrow and move on."
Tierney praised his players for giving their all for the full 80 minutes. Their try arrived courtesy of Cliodhna Moloney in second-half injury time but the damage was done by the concession of three converted tries in the opening half-hour.
"At half time we knew we needed a big first ten minutes in the second-half and we had pressure in their 22 when they got the yellow card," said Tierney. "We don't plan to make mistakes, knock on or show poor discipline. We had chances but we just couldn't get over the line."
Ireland's pool campaign has been hurt by a string of mistakes on both sides of the ball, while questions will be asked about the tactical and strategic approach too, but team captain Claire Molloy boiled it all down to that early French barrage which Ireland were powerless to prevent.
"We let a very good French side come at us," said the back row. "We didn't have the ball and you can't play without it. They had it and they scored 21 points."