WALES put in a determined effort against New Zealand but were unable to cause a huge shock in their Women’s World Cup opener as they were downed 44-12 in Dublin.

Rowland Phillips’ side were huge underdogs for their clash with the Black Ferns, ranked second in the world, at Billings Park.

While in truth they never looked like upsetting the odds, Wales showed dramatic improvement from the Six Nations, when they finished fifth, to push the Kiwis hard in a contest that was fiercer than the scoreboard suggests.

They must now dust themselves down for another tough task in Pool A against a Canada side ranked third in the world, and Phillips will have been heartened by his side’s commitment.

New Zealand bossed possession in the opening stages but came up against determined Welsh defence – there were no gimmes unlike against England when beaten 63-0 in February – and had to settle for a 10-0 lead approaching the break thanks to tries by full-back Selica Winiata and centre Stacey Waaka, the second after superb handling.

Wales were then left to rue referee Ian Tempest’s decision to rule a knock-on by wing Portia Woodman as accidental when a try was certain down the left.

The chance from the subsequent close-range scrum went begging and the Black Ferns rubbed salt into the wound with a brace by wing Renee Wickliffe, the second an interception of loosehead Caryl Thomas’ pass, for a 20-0 lead half-time.

New Zealand further proved their ruthless streak to stretch away to 25-0 in the 52nd minute when loose ball in midfield was pounced upon by centre Kelly Brazier, who put Woodman over for a simple score.

Try number six swiftly followed when lock Eloise Blackwell powered over from close range after several charges on the line, scrum-half Kendra Cocksedge finally succeeding from the tee to make it 32-0.

Wales needed to show their character and they did just that to get on the scoreboard just past the hour when number eight Sioned Harries powered over for a try that fly-half Elinor Snowsill converted.

Alas, it wasn’t a score to change the momentum and Winiata was soon over for her second after cutting a nice line on halfway before showing serious pace to go under the sticks for 39-7.

Once again Welsh heads did not drop and they went down the other end where Cocksedge was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on after a run down the wing by captain Carys Phillips.

They kept the pressure on and got their reward with a driving lineout score by lock Mel Clay to make it 39-12 with 67 minutes gone.

However, New Zealand made light of their numerical disadvantage to work a nice move, albeit aided by sloppy midfield defence, to set full-back Winiata in the clear for her hat-trick try that made it 44-12 in the 75th minute.

The Black Ferns ended on the front foot as they hunted a half-century but Welsh finished with tenacity to force powerful prop Kate Mata’u to knock the ball on over the line.

Now they will hunt more of a clinical attacking edge to go with that defensive spirit against the Canadians.

Wales: D Hywel (Scarlets), E Evans (RGC), G Rowland (Dragons), H Jones (Scarlets), J Joyce (Scarlets), E Snowsill (Dragons), K Bevan (Ospreys), C Thomas (Scarlets), C Phillips (captain, Ospreys), A Evans (Ospreys), R Rowe (Dragons), M Clay (Ospreys), A Butchers (Scarlets), R Taylor (RGC), S Harries (Scarlets)

Replacements: K Jones (Ospreys), C Hale (Dragons), M York (Dragons), S Lillicrap (Ospreys), L George (Scarlets), S Moore (Dragons), R Wilkins (Ospreys), J Evans (Scarlets)

Scorers: tries - S Harries, M Clay; conversion - E Snowsill

New Zealand scorers: tries - S Winiata (3), S Waaka, R Wickliffe (2), P Woodman, E Blackwell; conversions - K Cocksedge (2)