ROUND 2 RESULTS:
Saturday, December 8 -
MUNSTER 24 CONNACHT 3, Musgrave Park
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Anna Caplice, Heather O'Brien, Niamh Briggs; Cons: Niamh Briggs 3; Pen: Niamh Briggs
Connacht: Pen: Clare Raftery
MUNSTER WOMEN: Claire Keohane (UL Bohemians); Ashling Hutchings (UL Bohemians), Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians), Laura O'Mahony (Tralee), Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians); Nicole Fitzgerald (UL Bohemians), Louise Costello (UL Bohemians); Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians), Chris Fanning (Highfield), Gillian Bourke (UL Bohemians), Heather O'Brien (Highfield) (capt), Orlaith Buckley (Highfield); Anna Caplice (UL Bohemians), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee), Joy Neville (UL Bohemians).
Replacements: Leah Barbour (UL Bohemians), Laura Guest (Highfield), Karen Casey (Highfield), Ciara Griffin (Tralee), Clara Bracken (Highfield), Nicola Scully (Highfield), Riona Kennedy (Tralee).
CONNACHT WOMEN: Emma Clery (Galbally); Lisa McDonagh (Galwegians), Alison Miller (Portlaoise) (capt), Christine Arthurs (Tralee), Margaret Fitzgibbon (Galwegians); Clare Raftery (Galwegians), Sorcha Ni Chadhain (Galwegians); Ruth Reilly (Galwegians), Tanala Kehoe (Portlaoise), Beth Mallard (Galwegians), Heather Cary (Galwegians), Niamh Dempsey (Tralee), Michelle Barry (Tralee), Grainne Egan (Galwegians), Carol Staunton (Galwegians).
Replacements: Jean Moore (Portlaoise), Mary Rose Flanagan (UL Bohemians), Cliodhna Hughes (Old Belvedere), Marion Sheridan (Tuam), Ciara O'Connor (Tralee), Jacqui Mulligan (Sligo), Niamh Ni Dhroma (Buccaneers).
LEINSTER 24 ULSTER 20, Ashbourne RFC
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Jenny Murphy, Paula Fitzpatrick 2, Aoife Ryan; Cons: Nora Stapleton 2
Ulster: Tries: Stacey-Lea Kennedy, Nikki Caughey, Ashleigh Baxter, Claire McLaughlin
LEINSTER WOMEN: Carol Murphy (Old Belvedere); Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere), Shannon Houston (Blackrock), Kim Flood (Railway Union); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere), Sarah-Jane Cody (UL Bohemians); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians), Sharon Lynch (Garda), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary's), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere) (capt), Carmela Morey (Cill Dara), Aoife Ryan (Old Belvedere), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary's).
Replacements: Deirdre O'Brien (UL Bohemians), Charlene Barter (UL Bohemians), Roisin O'Donnell (Old Belvedere), Carrie Hanley (Blackrock), Anne-Marie Rooney (St. Mary's), Aoife Tyrrell (Blackrock), Fionnuala Gleeson (Old Belvedere).
ULSTER WOMEN: Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins); Jemma Jackson (Queen's University), Amy Davis (Blackrock), Claire McLaughlin (Queen's University), Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins); Grace Davitt (Cooke), Imogen Porter (Cooke); Ilse Van Staden (Belfast Harlequins), Stacey-Lea Kennedy (City of Derry) (capt), Fiona O'Brien (Cooke), Lizzie Ballentine (Cooke), Colette Broome (Queen's University), Shirelle Wilson (Cooke), Gemma McCutcheon (Queen's University), Nikita Armstrong (Cooke).
Replacements: Laura Feely (Sligo), Sorcha Chipperfield (Belfast Harlequins), Kellie Holmes (City of Derry), Hannah Kilgore (City of Derry), Dani Boyd (Belfast Harlequins), Aoife Walsh (Queen's University), Brenda Brogan (Enniskillen).
The Munster Women maintained their winning form in the Interpro Championship by beating their Connacht counterparts 24-3 at Musgrave Park on Saturday.
In-form centre Niamh Briggs opened the scoring with a penalty in the opening 10 minutes before the home pack's dominance paid off just before the half hour mark.
A rolling maul ended with flanker Anna Caplice touching down for the game's first try. Briggs added the extras to Caplice's second try of the competition.
Connacht's response was a well-struck penalty from Clare Raftery, closing the gap to 10-3 before the interval.
However, Gary Walsh's girls in red once again showed their strength and experience by dominating the closing 40 minutes.
Tries from captain Heather O'Brien and Briggs completed the victory, with Briggs converting both efforts for a 14-point personal tally.
Next up for the Munster Women is a mouth-watering final clash with defending champions Leinster in Ashbourne next Saturday.
The Leinster side are also undefeated at this point, so it is all to play for in next weekend's Interprovincial Championship decider.
The development of Women's rugby in Munster continues to prosper as the Munster Under-19 Girls enjoyed another successful outing on Saturday, defeating their Connacht counterparts 60-5 in Cork.
Leinster were given a scare and left it very late to overcome a gritty Ulster side on a 24-20 scoreline at Ashbourne RFC, in what was a tremendous advertisement for Irish Women's rugby.
Having dispatched of Connacht last Sunday in Galway, confidence was high for Niall Neville's Leinster team heading into this second round tie.
It was a bitterly cold and overcast afternoon in Ashbourne but conditions were perfect for rugby. Ulster were looking to get their first win of the competition having been beaten by Munster last weekend and set about getting at Leinster right from the start.
Some good early possesion and quick distribution of the ball from the visitors was a signal of their intent that attack was the best form of defence.
Leinster were winning the early lineouts as they looked to gain a foothold in the game but the opening minutes saw both sides feeling each other out.
Some solid kicking from Ulster out-half Grace Davitt pinned Leinster back deep inside their own half, but the northerners could not capatilise from the lineout.
Leinster matched Ulster's early kicking with some fantastic kicking from Nora Stapleton, and unfortunatley for Ulster their defence was breached after 14 minutes when a great burst from Stapleton left busy centre Jenny Murphy free on the left to run in a converted try.
Leinster's momentum was buliding and their pressure paid off again in the 22nd minute. After driving Ulster back to their try-line at a scrum, number 8 Paula Fitzpatrick touched down. Stapleton made light work of the conversion as Leinster seemed to be cruising.
Ulster bounced back and a great turn of pace from Ireland international Ashleigh Baxter caused problems, yet the attack fizzled out. Leinster were chasing hard and putting Ulster under real pressure.
This was highlighted in the 26th minute when home winger Kim Flood made a fantastic block as Ulster were trying to clear the ball. There were quite a few stoppages in a physical first half as the desire of both sides made sure that no player shirked a challenge.
The most notable of these came after 30 minutes when an injury to Stapleton saw the game held up for five minutes. Her injury-enforced withdrawal was a blow for Leinster because as usual, her kicking was dictating the pace of the game.
It proved to be a turning point as Ulster dominated the last five minutes of the first half and a great burst through the Leinster defence from the Ulster captain Stacey-Lea Kennedy was stopped just short of the line.
Young winger Jemma Jackson had a great chance for a try, only to be stopped by the Leinster defence.
Ulster began the second period exactly how they needed to, playing with a confidence and sharpness in possesion that was at times lacking in the opening half.
This paid off after only three minutes when the impressive Kennedy burst through the Leinster defence to run in for Ulster's first try of the afternoon which they failed to convert.
The pattern of the game was beginning to change as Ulster saw their attacking rhythm rewarded again on 50 minutes when a great pass from Davitt released Nikki Caughey to run in unopposed, but again the conversion was missed.
Leinster needed a response and inspired by Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan, they got a foothold back in the match.
However, Ulster really had the defending champions rattled and they ran in another try on the hour mark and it was a stunning effort from full-back Baxter.
She sped away from a clutch of Leinster players from inside her own half, skipping past tackles and turning on the after burners to run in a brilliant solo try.
Just four minutes later, another eye-catching break from Baxter's international colleague Amy Davis sent centre Claire McLaughlin squeezing in for the visitors' bonus point try and a 20-14 lead.
Leinster knew the game was getting away from them and they were running out of time to respond. Back rower Fitzpatrick settled them down again in the 70th minute, shaking off the Ulster defence to score a much-needed try.
Having then won possesion at a lineout, Ulster opted to run rather than kick which proved costly as Leinster won possession and with the help of Coghlan and Fitzpatrick, flanker Aoife Ryan crashed over for the decisive final try of an absboring and memorable encounter.
MATCHES TO COME:
Saturday, December 15 -
LEINSTER v MUNSTER, Ashbourne RFC, 1.30pm
CONNACHT v ULSTER, the Sportsground, 2.30pm