In hindsight, the looming presence of the Parc des Princes sitting on the shoulder of the Stade Jean Bouin wasn’t the most encouraging of portents on an evening when Ireland’s women had their hopes of a first World Cup final appearance ruthlessly dashed.
The Parc was, for the bones of three decades, a biannual graveyard for Irish rugby teams and, in truth, the manner of this comprehensive defeat to a superb English side was very much in keeping with so many of those lopsided losses back in the day.
This was meant to be different.
Ireland swept purposefully into Paris from their base in Marcoussis south of the capital where they had dispatched New Zealand’s world champions last week, but only to produce their worst performance just when their best was needed most.
Head coach Philip Doyle and captain Fiona Coghlan dissected their performance afterwards and let us just say that the number of areas in which they found fault, individually and collectively, pushed towards double figures.
Doyle said plainly they had made England look good.
With so many of their players and coaches on board for one or more of the three finals lost to New Zealand in 2002, 2006 and 2010, England were always going to act on the scent of blood. They didn’t look good, they looked sublime.
The seeds of defeat were sown from the off with Ireland driven backwards and turned over on their own scrum. Minutes later winger Ashleigh Baxter was being called on to drag down a rampaging Emily Scarratt inside the Irish 22.
Both sights would become uncomfortably common for an Irish team who suffered three more turnovers at scrum time and whose loose defence was repeatedly shredded by the pace and power of a back line which was simply uncontainable.
An awesome Scarratt was the pace-setter in that, but in Kay Wilson, Rachel Burford, Katherine Merchant and Danielle Waterman, the 24-year old centre had an abundance of others following in her slipstream.
It made for an irresistible cocktail and Ireland’s efforts looked flat in comparison. Doyle’s side proved to be a constant menace at the English lineout, but it was far from enough and the five-tries-to-one tally flattered the winners in no way at all.
Ireland weathered an early English storm impressively enough and responded with what would prove to be their only period of concentrated attacking pressure, which ended with a lineout and maul that saw scrum-half Tania Rosser awarded the try.
Evidence of a grounding was scarce when referee Amy Perrett went to the TMO, but the Australian official made the likelihood of a score being allowed all the greater when asking merely if there was any reason not to award it.
Niamh Briggs — one of four players nominated for the IRB’s player of the year award yesterday morning — added the two points, but the period that followed witnessed a handful of individual errors from Ireland which allowed any momentum slip away.
It was an invitation England accepted with alacrity.
On 26 minutes, they ground their way towards the Irish line with loosehead Rochelle Clark going over for their first points after three colleagues had been halted within inches — and then it was the backs’ turn to do the damage.
Scarratt was once again the instigator, driving down Ireland’s right wing and the punctured hole was such that a quick recycle after being tackled inside the Irish 22 allowed Merchant skip around Alison Miller on the far side and into the corner.
At 15-7, Ireland needed to hang on until the break, but a Briggs penalty to touch was miscued over the end line and the consequence was the price of England rolling downfield and Scarratt popping over another penalty.
It was the most obvious example of Ireland’s ability to hurt themselves on the night and the gap stretched from daunting to undoable 16 minutes after the restart when another spell of concerted pressure ended with Wilson going over in the corner.
Everything else was mere decoration.
England emptied their bench with one eye on Sunday’s final at this same venue, but the alterations hardly diluted the effect with one of the replacements, Marlie Packer, claiming the last pair of five-pointers.
Disappointing doesn’t come close to cutting it.
IRELAND: N Briggs; A Baxter, L Cantwell, G Davitt, A Miller; N Stapleton, T Rosser; F Coghlan, G Bourke, A Egan; S Spemce, ML Reilly; P Fitzpatrick, C Molloy, H O’Brien.
Replacements: J Murphy for Davitt, S Fleming for O’Brien (both 47); S Lynch for Egan, L Muldoon for Rosser (both 66); H Casey for Cantwell (67); L Guest for Spence (73).
ENGLAND: D Waterman; K Merchant, E Scarratt, R Burford, K Wilson; K Mclean, LT Mason; R Clark, V Fleetwood, S Hemming; T Taylor, J McGilchrist; A Matthews; M Alphonsi, S Hunter.
Replacements: N Hunt for Mason (58); L Keates for Clark, R Essex for Taylor, M Packer for Alphonsi, E Croker for Fleetwood (all 63); C Large for Mclean, C Allan for Scarratt (both 67).
Referee: A Perrett (Australia).