Munster brilliantly claimed their sixth Women’s Interprovincial Championship title in seven years with a 15-12 defeat of defending champions Leinster at Ashbourne RFC.
2012/13 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 3 RESULTS:
Saturday, December 15 –
LEINSTER 12 MUNSTER 15, Ashbourne RFC
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Marie Louise Reilly, Aoife Ryan; Con: Marie Louise Reilly
Munster: Tries: Niamh Kavanagh, Ashling Hutchings, Gillian Bourke
LEINSTER WOMEN: Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock); Aoife Tyrrell (Blackrock), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere), Carrie Hanley (Blackrock), Elise O’Byrne-White (Old Belvedere); Shannon Houston (Blackrock), Charlene Barter (UL Bohemians); Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians), Fionnuala Gleeson (Old Belvedere), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s), Marie Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere) (capt), Sharon Lynch (Garda), Aoife Ryan (Old Belvedere), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s).
Replacements: Deirdre O’Brien (UL Bohemians), Roisin O’Donnell (Old Belvedere), Emer McManamly (Blackrock), Anne-Marie Rooney (St. Mary’s), Carmela Morey (Cill Dara), Sarah-Jane Cody (UL Bohemians), Kim Flood (Railway Union).
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), Laura Guest (Highfield), Karen Casey (Highfield), Ciara Griffin (Tralee), Clara Bracken (Highfield), Nicola Scully (Highfield).
CONNACHT 5 ULSTER 18, the Sportsground
Scorers: Connacht: Try: Jacqui Mulligan
Ulster: Tries: Imogen Porter, Stacey-Lea Kennedy, Nikki Caughey; Pen: Nikki Caughey
CONNACHT WOMEN: Alison Miller (Portlaoise) (capt); Emma Clery (Galbally), Christine Arthurs (Tralee), Clare Raftery (Galwegians), Jacqui Mulligan (Sligo); Ciara O’Connor (Tralee), Sorcha Ni Chadhain (Galwegians); Ruth Reilly (Galwegians), Tanala Kehoe (Portlaoise), Beth Mallard (Galwegians), Cliodhna Hughes (Old Belvedere), Niamh Dempsey (Tralee), Heather Cary (Galwegians), Michelle Barry (Tralee), Carol Staunton (Galwegians).
Replacements: Jean Moore (Portlaoise), Maire Hanly (Longford), Mary Rose Flanagan (UL Bohemians), Marion Sheridan (Tuam), Lisa McDonagh (Galwegians), Margaret Fitzgibbon (Galwegians), Niamh Ni Dhroma (Buccaneers).
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), Hannah Kilgore (City of Derry), Noreen Nethercott (Enniskillen), Dani Boyd (Belfast Harlequins), Aoife Walsh (Queen’s University), Zoe Templeton (Belfast Harlequins).
Munster outscored fierce rivals Leinster by three tries to two as they regained the IRFU Women’s Interprovincial crown they lost in September of last year.
Both teams went into the Ashbourne decider knowing that a win would guarantee the title having secured victories over Connacht and Ulster in their previous games.
In front of a decent crowd, the well-drilled Leinster and Munster sides started the game with the mentality that only a win would do.
The opening ten minutes were slow to get going. Munster settled the better, boosted by facing a Leinster line-up that was missing injured out-half Nora Stapleton.
Some slick passing from Niamh Briggs to Nicole Fitzgerald caused the hosts problems at the back, but Leinster grew into the contest as the first half wore on with impressive captain Marie Louise Reilly dominating the lineouts.
A fantastic phase of play, with Claire Keohane and Louise Costello to the fore, released Munster centre Briggs but her powerful run was stopped just short of the line.
The girls in red continued to threaten and went close again in the 18th minute, number 8 Joy Neville intercepting a pass and offloading for winger Niamh Kavanagh to charge at the Leinster defence.
As the action swung from end to end, Leinster showed glimpses of their attacking talent. Great distribution from Carmela Morey and Sharon Lynch left Aoife Tyrrell free and the winger darted through only to be held up short.
Briggs, who probed all afternoon with clever kicks, forced a number of errors from Leinster and the pressure told in the 25th minute. Fitzgerald spun an inviting pass out to Ashling Hutchings and she set up fellow winger Kavanagh to run in unopposed for the first try.
After Briggs missed the conversion, Leinster sparked into life and began to find their passing rhythm, batting their way back into a half that looked to be getting away from them.
A brust of pace and aggression from number 8 Lynch drove Leinster close to the whitewash as they gained some precious momentum. Second row and skipper Reilly managed to power her way over the line in the 33rd minute for a well-taken try.
In the absence of Stapleton, her Ireland international colleague Reilly took the goal-kicking duties and she converted to put last year’s winners 7-5 in front.
Munster had a big opportunity to move back ahead two minutes before the break. The home side were penalised by referee Jonny Irskine for infringing at a lineout, but Briggs failed to find the target from a good position.
Gary Walsh’s charges came out of the traps quickly in the second half, driving hard at the Leinster defence with the power they demonstrated in the first period.
Their quick start paid off on 45 minutes when a sweeping passing move involving Fitzgerald and Keohane sent Hutchings over for an unconverted try on the right despite the Jenny Murphy-led Leinster cover.
Niall Neville’s Leinster girls fought back again and were being driven forward by their front row, particularly Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan. They were met by wall of red shirts, but they were building pressure.
Their efforts were rewarded in the 49th minute when flanker Aoife Ryan sniped through from close range for the hosts’ second try which Reilly was unable to convert.
A fantastic hit in the 58th minute from the increasingly influential Briggs buoyed the travelling supporters as Munster fought relentlessly for possession.
With the multi-talented Reilly the driving force for Leinster, most of the second half play was spent in the Munster half but Leinster could not add another score as the Munster defence held strong.
The Heather O’Brien-captained visitors then managed to win a penalty in Leinster’s half in the 70th minute after some tricky footwork and speed from Hutchings.
Crucially, they were able to capitalise and tighthead prop Gillian Bourke forced her way over for what was the match-winning try. It went unconverted but Munster’s tails were up as victory loomed with time running out for Leinster.
Munster were winning the lineouts and were quicker to the ball in the remaining minutes as the clock ran down in a hard-fought and skill-laden Interpro decider.
The final whistle was met with great celebrations from the Munster players, fans and management as Leinster’s bid for back-to-back titles fell just short.
After going close to beating Leinster last time out, Ulster finished the Interprovincial Championship with a deserved 18-5 victory over Connacht at the Sportsground.
Imogen Porter, captain Stacey-Lea Kennedy and Nikki Caughey all crossed for tries as the northerners confirmed themselves as third place finishers.
Winger Caughey gave Ulster an early boost at the Sportsground with a seventh minute penalty.
Inspired by the likes of Clare Raftery, Ruth O’Reilly and Michelle Barry, Connacht replied with a number of good phases, but they failed to take advantage of a sizeable overlap as Ulster closed down the space.
Kennedy and front row colleagues Isle van Staden and Fiona O’Brien then crashed through on some strong carries, supplying the momentum for Ulster’s opening try in the 25th minute.
Scrum half Porter was the scorer of the unconverted effort, nipping over having spotted a gap at close quarters. It remained 8-0 for half-time.
The westerners made a strong start to the second period, Sligo winger Jacqui Mulligan dotting down in the corner after Ulster prop van Staden was sin-binned.
A high tackle by Connacht flanker Barry on Ashleigh Baxter earned her a yellow card, an untimely setback just as the westerners were beginning to make inroads.
Ulster seized upon the numerical advantage with the ever-impressive Kennedy driving over for a 70th minute try, a score that her efforts more than merited.
The away win was confirmed with a third Ulster touchdown, this time flanker Shirelle Wilson showing her pace to set up the excellent Caughey for a sprint to the line.