Highfield denied Munster rivals UL Bohemians an All-Ireland League and Cup double with a sensational comeback in last weekend’s Women’s Cup final at Clanwilliam Park.
IRFU WOMEN’S ALL-IRELAND CUP FINAL: Saturday, April 6
HIGHFIELD 18 UL BOHEMIANS 14, Clanwilliam Park
Scorers Highfield: Tries: Niamh English, Karen Casey; Con: Norita Duggan; Pens: Norita Duggan, Ger Rea
UL Bohemians: Tries: Ashling Hutchings 2; Cons: Niamh Briggs 2
This was Highfield’s second trophy this season as they had already defeated the Limerick girls in the Munster Cup final.
Their 18-14 victory goes down to an excellent display by their pack who put their bodies on the line as they halted wave upon wave of UL attacks in the final ten minutes.
Highfield scrum half Frances O’Keeffe was involved in everything and outside her out-half Norita Duggan controlled the game with some excellent kicking, while centre Ger Rea was always dangerous with ball in hand.
UL, when they did go wide, always looked very dangerous with Niamh Briggs and Ashling Hutchings always causing problems.
Highfield took the game to UL Bohs from the start and after several drives at the Limerick side’s line, Niamh English scored following a maul from a lineout on the 22.
Bohs came more into the game after this with Briggs and Hutchings posing numerous problems for the Highfield defence. Briggs missed a long range penalty as Highfield went in at the break 5-0 ahead.
At the start of the second half UL’s pack began to get on top and had Highfield pinned back, hitting the front ten minutes into the half.
Following a lineout on the Highfield 22, the Limerick girls mauled the ball towards the try-line and quick ball out the back-line saw Hutchings beat the cover to score and Briggs converted for a 7-5 lead.
Highfield hit back immediately with number 10 Duggan restoring her side’s lead with a penalty.
From the restart, UL scored their second try with Hutchings weaving her way through several tackles to score and Briggs’ successful conversion made it 14-8.
Highfield, to their credit, stuck at it with their back row of skipper Heather O’Brien, Dee Lynch and Laura Guest all playing their part in keeping UL from adding to their total.
Briggs was off target with a second penalty attempt midway through the half and in the final ten minutes the game came to life as Highfield worked the ball upfield.
Dee Lynch knocked on just short of the line, but eight minutes from time a drive by the pack resulted in a try with Karen Casey being credit with the score and Duggan converted to make it 15-14.
The Limerick girls responded immediately and try-saving tackles by Rea and O’Keeffe denied UL scores.
As the game entered injury-time, Duggan lifted the siege with a long range clearance and from this Highfield won a penalty inside the UL half.
For back chat, referee Dave O’Flynn brought it forward to a kickable position and Rea kicked the the points to leave four between the sides.
UL did try to rescue it in the remaining minutes, but a committed Highfield side held out for a famous four-point victory.
HIGHFIELD: Eilish Foley; Nicola Aherne, Nicola Scully, Ger Rea, Fiona O’Sullivan; Norita Duggan, Frances O’Keeffe; Donna Hughes, Chris Fanning, Niamh English, Orlaith Buckley, Karen Casey, Laura Guest, Dee Lynch, Heather O’Brien (capt).
Replacements: Zoe Grattage, Kelly McGuinness, Amy Desmond, Deirdre Fahy, Breda Kenny, Mona Fehily, Clara Bracken, Orla O’Neill.
UL BOHEMIANS: Niamh Briggs; Olivia Stapleton, Ashling Hutchings, Mollie O’Donnell, Liz Burke; Nicola Fitzgerald, Charlene Barter; Deirdre O’Brien, Anna Caplice, Maria Eviston, Valarie Mitchell, Shauna McCallan, Fiona Hayes, Kate Sheehan, Leah Barbour.
Replacements: Fiona Coghlan, Gillian Bourke, Joy Neville, Jennifer O’Leary, Sarah Jane Cody, Megan Walsh, Niamh Kavanagh.
Referee: Dave O’Flynn (IRFU)
– Match report cortesy of Olan Allen