Defending champions Munster and chief rivals Leinster picked up first round wins in the IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship on Saturday, with a number of Grand Slam winners and provincial newcomers on the scoresheet.
2013/14 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, November 30
ROUND 1 RESULTS –
ULSTER WOMEN 7 LEINSTER WOMEN 41, Ravenhill
Scorers: Ulster Women: Try: Imogen Porter; Con: Grace Davitt
Leinster Women: Tries: Sophie Spence 2, Michelle Claffey, Janice Daly, Penalty try, Aine Ni Chatháin, Chrissy Doyle; Cons: Nora Stapleton 3
CONNACHT WOMEN 17 MUNSTER WOMEN 37, the Sportsground
Scorers: Connacht Women: Tries: Tanala Kehoe, Mairead Coyne 2; Con: Clare Raftery
Munster Women: Tries: Aimee Lee Murphy Crowe 2, Aoife Doyle 3, Fiona Hayes; Cons: Niamh Briggs 2; Pen: Niamh Briggs
A clinical first half performance from Leinster Women, in which they accumulated 36 unanswered points, paved the way for a 41-7 inteprovincial win over Ulster at Ravenhill on Saturday afternoon.
The visitors – coached by Rob Forbes and captained by Marie Louise Reilly – got the scoring underway in the ninth minute courtesy of a tremendous try from Ireland international Sophie Spence.
Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan’s midfield pass allowed flanker Spence to break through a number of tackles and score under the posts. Their international colleague Nora Stapleton added the simple conversion.
Leinster soon found their rhythm and outside centre Michelle Claffey got the second try when she slipped through a weak challenge to touch down in the right hand corner, extending the lead to 12-0.
The floodgates opened shortly after with left winger Janice Daly getting on the end of a speculative kick to score the third try, before a high tackle on the same player led to a penalty try. Out-half Stapleton added a second conversion to make it 24-0 inside 20 minutes.
Aine Ni Chatháin broke through a couple of attempted tackles for the fifth touchdown, converted by Stapleton, before a powerful run from Spence – earning her first cap in Leinster colours – led to her second try just after the half hour mark.
36-0 adrift at the break, the Ulster girls managed to turn things around in a very physical second half with a larger share of territory and possession.
But Leinster too looked dangerous and replacement Chrissy Doyle touched down with 15 minutes remaining following a well-executed back-line move from a five-metre scrum.
Ulster got a consolation score late on when scrum half Imogen Porter dived over from close range after good work from Grace Davitt and Jemma Jackson.
Davitt, whose strong defence and penetrating runs were major positives for Ulster, added the extras. A number of the younger players also stood out and the hosts deserved to win the second half 7-5.
Meanwhile, reigning champions Munster went home with the spoils following a tough but very entertaining encounter with Connacht that took place in ideal conditions at the Sportsground in Galway.
The Munster girls opened at a fierce pace and went ahead after only two minutes when Grand Slam star Niamh Briggs split the home defence on halfway and sent speedster Aimee Lee Murphy Crowe away to score her first senior interprovincial try, giving the visitors a 5-0 lead.
This shook the Connacht team into action and the remainder of the opening quarter was all about their attack.
The westerners’ endeavour was rewarded after 14 minutes when a quick tap penalty saw hooker Tanala Kehoe get the touchdown near the posts, with Clare Raftery’s conversion putting the ahead.
Munster came back quickly and following a series of rucks and good hands across the backs, debutant Aoife Doyle rounded the defence for her first senior interpro try and influential full-back Briggs added the extras.
The second quarter was even, with both sides – and a number of the provinces’ newer players – creating good chances.
Connacht came close on 25 minutes when Grainne Egan cut through the red-shirted defence, but a try-saving tackle by Siobhan Fleming and a resulting defensive penalty kept the line safe.
However, the resultant lineout was lost and good hands by the home side allowed full-back Mairead Coyne dot down and bring Connacht level.
This lapse in concentration spurred Munster into attack and from the kick-off they put severe pressure on Connacht’s defence. From a lineout on the 22, the Munster pack set up a maul and controlled it up to the line with Fiona Hayes touching down for a 17-12 scoreline.
In added time, Munster extended their advantage as Briggs’ chip through was followed by another textbook tackle from Fleming who forced covering winger Lisa McDonagh to concede a five-metre scrum.
Following a series of rucks, Munster won a penalty which resulted in a lineout for the visitors. Two quick rucks sucked in the defence and quick hands to Doyle allowed the winger collect her second try of the day, leaving her side 22-12 ahead at the interval.
Led by international lock Heather O’Brien, Munster opened the second half with the same level of intensity and within five minutes they had stretched their advantage.
A penalty for offside led to a cleanly won lineout and three quick rucks were followed by fast hands across the backs with newcomer Murphy Crowe completing her brace of tries.
The lead was further extended by a 30-metre penalty from Briggs after 50 minutes. On the hour mark, Ger Rea won a turnover on halfway, Briggs outwitted the defence and released Doyle for her hat-trick score. Briggs added the extras for a 37-12 scoreline.
Connacht, to their credit, did not give up and a late bout of pressure was rewarded on the 75th minute when the Munster defence was breached by full-back Coyne for the last score of the game.
ULSTER WOMEN Squad: Stacey-Lea Kennedy (Cooke), Ilse van Staden (Belfast Harlequins), Fiona O’Brien (Cooke), Collette Broome (Queen’s University), Sorcha Chipperfield (Belfast Harlequins), Shirelle Wilson (Cooke), Gemma McCutcheon (Queen’s University), Nikita Armstrong (Cooke), Hannagh Kilgore (Cooke), Lizzie Ballentine (Cooke), Janine Mullan (Queen’s University), Lesley Megarrity (Belfast Harlequins), Alanagh Chipperfield (Belfast Harlequins), Gemma Lynch (City of Derry), Kelly Holmes (Cooke), Jemma Jackson (Queen’s University), Grace Davitt (Cooke), Claire McLaughlin (Queen’s University), Dani Boyd (Belfast Harlequins), Emma Lorimer (Queen’s University), Lauren Arther (Queen’s University), Imogen Porter (Queen’s University), Eliza Downey (Cooke), Ashleigh Baxter (Belfast Harlequins), Laura Stewart (Cooke), Amy Davis (injury cover, Blackrock).
LEINSTER WOMEN: Vikki McGinn; Aine Ni Chatháin, Michelle Claffey, Jenny Murphy, Janice Daly; Nora Stapleton, Tania Rosser; Fiona Coghlan, Fionnuala Gleeson, Ailis Egan, Orla Fitzsimons, Marie Louise Reilly, Sophie Spence, Sharon Lynch, Paula Fitzpatrick.
Replacements: Ailish Toner, Anne Marie Rooney, Ruth McElroy, Alana Lowe, Carmela Morey, Sarah Jane Cody, Claire Ryan, Chrissy Doyle.
MUNSTER WOMEN: Niamh Briggs; Aimee Lee Murphy Crowe, Nicola Scully, Ger Rea, Aoife Doyle; Mollie O’Donnell, Mona Fehily; Fiona Hayes, Kate Sheehan, Niamh English, Heather O’Brien, Orlaith Buckley, Ciara Griffin, Siobhan Fleming, Laura Guest.
Replacements: Leah Lyons, Zoe Grattage, Leah Barbour, Maeve D’Arcy, Genevive Rowland, Aine Staunton, Fiona O’Sullivan.
CONNACHT WOMEN: Mairead Coyne; Lisa McDonagh, Grainne Egan, Emma Clery, Jacqui Mulligan; Clare Raftery, Mary Healy; Laura Feely, Tanala Kehoe, Ruth O’Reilly, Niamh Dempsey, Heather Cary, Edel McMahon, Claire Molloy, Catriona Cassidy.
Replacements: Jean Moore, Edel Durkin, Ciara O’Connor, Katherine McDonagh, Emer Phelan, Nicole Frowley, Ruth Goodwin, Colette McSpadden.
ROUND 2 –
Saturday, December 7:
LEINSTER WOMEN v CONNACHT WOMEN, Ashbourne RFC, 4.30pm
Sunday, December 8:
MUNSTER WOMEN v ULSTER WOMEN, Clonmel RFC, 1pm
ROUND 3 –
Saturday, December 14:
MUNSTER WOMEN v LEINSTER WOMEN, Thomond Park, 1pm
Sunday, December 15:
ULSTER WOMEN v CONNACHT WOMEN, Queen’s University, 1pm
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