The opening matches in the IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship produced away victories for Munster and defending champions Leinster, with a huge amount of skill and endeavour on show during the games in Belfast and Galway.
2012/13 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 1 RESULTS:
Sunday, December 2 –
ULSTER 10 MUNSTER 36, Queen’s University
Scorers: Ulster: Tries: Imogen Porter, Jemma Jackson
Munster: Tries: Niamh Briggs, Ashling Hutchings 2, Niamh Kavanagh, Fiona Hayes, Anna Caplice; Cons: Niamh Briggs 3
ULSTER WOMEN: Amy Davis (Blackrock); Jemma Jackson (Queen’s University), Nikki Caughey (Belfast Harlequins), Claire McLaughlin (Queen’s University), Zoe Templeton (Belfast Harlequins); Grace Davitt (Cooke), Imogen Porter (Cooke); Isle Van Steden (Belfast Harlequins), Stacey-Lea Kennedy (City of Derry) (capt), Fiona O’Brien (Cooke), Sorcha Chipperfield (Belfast Harlequins), Colette Broome (Queen’s University), Shirelle Wilson (Cooke), Gemma McCutcheon (Queen’s University), Nikita Armstrong (Cooke).
Replacements: Dani Boyd (Belfast Harlequins), Aoife Walsh (Queen’s University), Noreen Nethercott (Enniskillen), Lizzie Ballentine (Cooke), Kellie Holmes (City of Derry), Laura Feely (Sligo), Hannah Kilgore (City of Derry).
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), Kathryn Buggy (Shannon), Karen Casey (Highfield), Ciara Griffin (Young Munster), Clara Bracken (Highfield), Nicola Scully (Highfield), Riona Kennedy (Tralee).
CONNACHT 0 LEINSTER 20, the Sportsground
Scorers: Connacht: –
Leinster: Tries: Marie Louise Reilly, Aoife Tyrrell; Cons: Nora Stapleton 2; Pens: Nora Stapleton 2
CONNACHT WOMEN: Emma Clery (Galbally); Niamh Ni Dhroma (Buccaneers), Alison Miller (Portlaoise) (capt), Christine Arthurs (Tralee), Lisa McDonagh (Galwegians); Clare Raftery (Galwegians), Sorcha Ni Chadhain (Galwegians); Ruth O’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), Yvonne Delaney (Portlaoise).
LEINSTER WOMEN: Carol Murphy (Old Belvedere); Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere), Shannon Houston (Blackrock), Aoife Tyrrell (Blackrock); Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere), Sarah Jane Cody (UL Bohemians); Anne-Marie Rooney (St. Mary’s), Fionnuala Gleeson (Old Belvedere), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere) (capt), Carmela Morey (Cill Dara), Aoife Ryan (Old Belvedere), Sharon Lynch (Garda).
Replacements: Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians), Ruth McElroy (Old Belvedere), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s), Emer McManamly (Blackrock), Roisin O’Donnell (Old Belvedere), Kim Flood (Railway Union), Claire Ryan (Railway Union).
Connacht and Leinster both tore out of the blocks under a dreary and bleak Galway sky on Sunday, but it was all Leinster in the final half hour as they ran out 20-0 winners of this Interpro opener.
Connacht starved the visitors of any chance for continuity in the first eight minutes and looked every bit in control before Leinster turned the tide and maintained control for the next quarter hour.
That said, Connacht toiled well deep in their own territory where loose forwards Shellie Barry and Carol Staunton’s hits proved telling on their line.
For at least 10 minutes Leinster hammered at the Connacht line, first through Jenny Murphy and Shannon Houston in the midfield and then it was the turn of Ailis Egan and hooker Fionnuala Gleeson to press.
Connacht escaped on three separate occasions through out-half Clare Raftery’s boot, a Niamh Dempsey turnover and Leinster indiscretions on the deck.
Finally, it took a hip swivel and lunge in the 31st minute from skipper Marie Louise Reilly, who not so much went through the defence but over it, to break the deadlock some eight metres to the left of the posts. The ever-reliable Nora Stapleton added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
A rejuvenated Connacht restarted and Grainne Egan, Sorcha Ni Chadhain and full-back Emma Clery probed the defence but too often found fierce opposition instead of space.
Leinster centres Murphy and Houston stuck like glue to Connacht captain Alison Miller throughout, giving the speedy Ireland international precious little breathing space at all.
Stapleton added three more points before the break. The match was evenly poised, but if underdogs Connacht impressed in the first 40 minutes, they fell apart thereafter.
Handling error after handling error robbed the westerners of momentum and they also fell foul of referee Rob Watson’s whistle as penalties invited Leinster forward.
That gifted Leinster the lion’s share of possession throughout the second period and without any real possession to speak of, Connacht was always going to struggle to post points.
Stapleton went three from three with a penalty 21 minutes in to go 13-0 up, and concerted territorial dominance freed up new winger Aoife Tyrrell for a try wide out left with 10 minutes remaining.
A desperate effort from Lisa McDonagh, at that stage outnumbered three to one, could not to force Tyrrell into touch and she ran it around for Stapleton to comfortably convert.
Connacht head coach Dave O’Brien, speaking afterwards, acknowledged that a ferocious first half performance from his charges had set things up for a frenetic second spell.
But he conceded that a muscle, weight and experience deficit with the introduction of Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan and St Mary’s stalwart Paula Fitzpatrick off the Leinster bench at half-time proved telling.
Connacht’s front row of Ruth O’Reilly, Beth Mallard and Tanala Kehoe finished ahead of their Leinster counterparts on performance, Ni Chadhain too stood out at half-back and McDonagh was vocal and busy also out wide.
But this round one fixture belonged to Stapleton and company, who maintained their half-time defensive record through to the finish.
Munster proved too strong for a spirited Ulster side in their opening Interpro clash at Queen’s University on Sunday afternoon.
Gary Walsh’s charges emerged as 36-10 victors, pulling clear in the second half with UL Bohemians duo Ashling Hutchings and Niamh Briggs scoring two tries apiece.
The Ulster girls, with captain Stacey-Lea Kennedy showing the way, got off to a strong start and missed out on an opening penalty when Grace Davitt pushed a third minute kick wide of the posts.
Davitt struck the woodwork with her next attempt which was the conversion of scrum half Imogen Porter’s try. She did very well to squeeze over after breaking from a ruck close to the Munster whitewash.
The visitors snapped back to take a 7-5 lead with Ireland star Briggs finishing off a slick move on the right, with the Ulster defence beaten for pace. She converted the try herself.
Munster were beginning to click and they extended their advantage before half-time with lively winger Hutchings bursting through for a quick-fire brace of tries, the second of which was converted by Briggs in front of the posts.
Ulster clawed five points back though, showing their battling qualities late on with their physically strong pack providing quick ball.
The promising Jemma Jackson crowned her debut with a fine try which saw her beat three defenders to make it over in the right corner.
The winger’s score closed the gap to 19-10, but Munster continued to improve and they sewed up their bonus point triumph in the second half by running in three unanswered tries.
Niamh Kavanagh, prop Fiona Hayes and back rower Anna Caplice, who all play their club rugby for Division 1 champions UL Bohs, got the closing touchdowns with the hard-working Hayes and Caplice both powering over from close range.
Kavanagh had restarted the scoring at the end of a scrappy third quarter. The influential Briggs tagged on one more conversion to complete her 11-point tally, making a welcome return in red from a broken thumb.
It was a winning weekend for the Munster females as the province’s Under-19 Girls side also beat Leinster and Connacht in the Interpro Blitz in Limerick on Saturday.
MATCHES TO COME:
Saturday, December 8 –
LEINSTER v ULSTER, Ashbourne RFC, 1.30pm
MUNSTER v CONNACHT, Musgrave Park, 2.30pm
Saturday, December 15 –
LEINSTER v MUNSTER, Ashbourne RFC, 1.30pm
CONNACHT v ULSTER, the Sportsground, 2.30pm