Leinster defeated last year’s winners Munster, running in three converted tries at Thomond Park to be crowned IRFU Women’s Interprovincial champions for 2013. In the weekend’s other game, Ulster and Connacht played out a 0-0 draw in Belfast.
2013/14 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, December 14/Sunday, December 15
ROUND 3 RESULTS –
MUNSTER WOMEN 6 LEINSTER WOMEN 21, Thomond Park
Scorers: Munster Women: Pens: Ger Rea 2
Leinster Women: Tries: Ailis Egan, Sophie Spence, Nora Stapleton; Cons: Nora Stapleton 3
ULSTER WOMEN 0 CONNACHT WOMEN 0, Queen’s University
Scorers: Ulster Women: –
Connacht Women: –
Set against the backdrop of magnificent Thomond Park, with the travelling fans in fine voice in the wind and rain, tensions were high as Munster and Leinster took centre stage in the final showdown.
The first half showcased just what an impact the weather would have on the match, forcing uncharacteristic knock ons from both teams.
Ger Rea of Munster put the first points on the board with a well-struck penalty kick. The first break of the day came on 10 minutes, with a great move from the back of the scrum which saw number 8 Sharon Lynch link with scrum half Tania Rosser to create an overlap, but the pass to winger Aine Ni Chathain did not go to hand.
Leinster certainly worked on the foundations they had laid down in previous games, showcasing their flare and creativity. Munster relied much more on their forwards.
Ultimately, defending champions Munster were in Leinster territory for the entire first half, being aided by steely grit and determination, accompanied by a strong gale backing them.
Despite the territory and pressure inflicted on the Leinster side, the hosts were crucially not able to convert it to points on the board.
Leinster, on one of their few occasions in the Munster half, set up a fantastic maul from a lineout which saw prop Ailis Egan secure the opening try of the game. Out-half Nora Stapleton stepped up to land a terrific conversion against the strong wind.
Gary Walsh’s Munster team, however, bounced straight back from that seven-point concession and Leinster did well to steal two important lineouts on their own 22.
However, Munster centre Rea fired home a penalty from in front of the posts to give them some reward for the amount of pressure they applied.
The immediate response from the girls in blue was to maul up close to the home line. A yellow card for Munster loosehed prop Fiona Hayes resulted in Leinster going for touch from the penalty.
The maul took the visitors close and having opted for a scrum, a knock on at the back from Lynch robbed them of a certain try.
The handling errors by both teams were largely due to the difficult weather conditions, leading to a nail-biting first half which ended 7-6 in Leinster’s favour.
The second period saw the departure of gale force winds and a rejuvenated Leinster took full advantage. They kept it in the tight initially and Paula Fitzpatrick went close from a close-in drive before her back row colleague Sophie Spence plunged over to give the visitors some breathing space at 14-6.
The introduction of Grand Slam star Niamh Briggs, who has been battling an injury, steadied Munster, but the hosts’ young back-line lacked the experience to contain Leinster’s collective power and intelligence on the ball.
The Leinster squad showcased their talents when making a crucial turnover just as Munster looked at their most dangerous.
Lynch make a huge break on the right after Briggs had a kick blocked down, developing an overlap for the Leinster back-line which resulted in a magnificent team try scored and converted by Stapleton.
With Leinster down to 13 players – captain Marie Louise Reilly and fellow forward Spence saw yellow – Munster managed to create overlaps, but they seemed to run out of steam which led to some bad decision making.
Rob Forbes’ Leinster outfit had the game within their grasp and deservedly saw out their third victory of the series to complete a clean sweep, with Lynch, Fiona Coghlan and Spence all exerting influence during the title decider.
Number 10 Stapleton kicked superbly on the day, while centre Jenny Murphy continued to showcase her strength in attack and defence and Rosser’s skill at producing quick ball really impacted on the final result.
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