Defending champions Leinster and arch rivals Munster recorded opening victories in the IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship on Saturday, with both sides winning on the road. Kate Rowan reviews the round 1 action.
2014/15 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 1 – Saturday, September 6
CONNACHT WOMEN 8 LEINSTER WOMEN 15, Crowley Park
Scorers: Connacht: Try: Niamh Ni Dhroma; Pen: Nicole Fowley
Leinster: Tries: Ann-Marie Rooney, Elise O’Byrne-White, Vikki McGinn
ULSTER WOMEN 0 MUNSTER WOMEN 22, Kingspan Stadium
Scorers: Ulster: –
Munster: Tries: Fiona Hayes, Ashling Hutchings, Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird, Gerda Coyne; Con: Ger Rea
It was a case of 13 being a lucky number for defending Women’s Interprovincial champions Leinster as 13 players made their debuts in their round 1 win over Connacht.
Due to the IRFU’s player welfare programme, many stars of Ireland’s Women’s Rugby World Cup campaign have been rested across all four provinces.
Another high profile absentee from the Leinster ranks at Crowley Park – the home of Galwegians RFC – was recently retired Ireland captain Fiona Coghlan. Her former international colleague, Joy Neville, was the referee in Galway.
It was the westerners who got off to a bright start with winger and Ireland Sevens international Niamh Ní Dhroma dotting down after 16 minutes.
Despite Leinster only venturing into the Connacht half three times in the first 40 minutes, the visitors’ stream of five lineout steals showed their class.
Leinster were level ten minutes into the second half thanks to a try from captain Ann-Marie Rooney.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, Connacht retook the lead via a penalty from the boot of Nicole Fowley.
Five minutes later Connacht went a woman down when prop Laura Feely received a yellow card. Robert Forbes’ side used this to their advantage with Old Belvedere centre Elise O’Byrne-White scoring a try to put them ahead for the first time.
Full-back Vikki McGinn, who was part of the girls in green’s World Cup campaign, then showed her international credentials by scoring a match-sealing try just three minutes from time.
CONNACHT WOMEN: Emer O’Mahony (Tralee); Niamh Ni Dhroma (Buccaneers), Emma Clery (Galwegians), Lisa McDonagh (Galwegians), Jill Draper (Tullamore); Nicole Fowley (Sligo), Mary Healy (Galwegians); Laura Feely (Galwegians), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians) (capt), Rita Breen (NUIG), Marion Sheridan (Tuam/Galwegians), Grainne Egan (St. Mary’s), Heather Cary (Galwegians), Christine Arthurs (Tralee).
Replacements used: Darwyn O’Halloran (Castlebar) for Sheridan (58 mins), Jean Moore (Portlaoise) for Feely, Edel McMahon (NUIG/Galwegians) for Arthurs (both 59), Edel Durkin (Tuam) for O’Connor (76), Rhona Julian (NUIG) for McDonagh (78). Not used: Catriona Cassidy (Portlaoise), Jacqui Mulligan (Sligo).
LEINSTER WOMEN: Vikki McGinn (Blackrock College); Sara Phelan (Clondalkin), Elise O’Byrne-White (Old Belvedere), Claire Ryan (Railway Union), Janice Daly (Old Belvedere); Aoife Tyrrell (Blackrock College), Ailsa Hughes (Tullamore); Ruth McElroy (Old Belvedere), Ann-Marie Rooney (St. Mary’s College) (capt), Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere), Ciara Cooney (Tullow), Ciara Munnelly (NUIM Barnhall), Katie Norris (Blackrock College), Jennie Finlay (Navan), Sharon Lynch (Old Belvedere).
Replacements used: Joanna Mahon (County Carlow) for O’Brien (35 mins), Aine Donnelly (Cill Dara) for Phelan, Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s College) for Munnelly (both half-time), Kim Flood (Railway Union) for Ryan, Meg Parkinson (County Carlow) for Hughes, Aoife Maher (Railway Union) for Cooney (all 60), Ryan for O’Byrne-White (69), Amy O’Neill (Blackrock College) for McGinn, Niamh Fitzgerald (St. Mary’s College) for McElroy (both 78).
The Ulster Women’s team endured a difficult afternoon at Kingspan Stadium as a Munster side infused with both youth and experience ran out 22-0 winners.
Ireland prop Fiona Hayes crashed over the first try, converted by Ger Rea. With Ulster hooker Lesley Megarity sin-binned, the visitors’ early dominance continued. A try from winger Ashling Hutchings put Munster 12 points to the good after 15 minutes.
Winger Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird made her Munster debut a memorable one with a try on the half hour mark.
On the stroke of half-time Ulster’s Jemma Jackson had a chance to claim back three points but her penalty attempt drifted to the left of the posts.
Munster’s fourth try came early in the second half as lock Gerda Coyne, another debutant, broke free of the defence to score in the corner.
Ulster’s young side – coached by Jonathan Gillespie – grew into the game in the final quarter. During this spell Munster replacement Mollie O’Donnell was yellow carded but despite much endeavour the hosts were unable to break through a stubborn Munster defence.
ULSTER WOMEN: Vicky Irwin (Ormskirk); Emma Jordan (Queen’s University), Pieta McAlister (Queen’s University), Claire McLaughlin (Queen’s University), Zoe Templeton (Queen’s University); Jemma Jackson (Queen’s University), Imogen Porter (Queen’s University); Ilse van Staden (Belfast Harlequins), Lesley Megarity (Belfast Harlequins), Nikita Armstrong (Cooke) (capt), Sorcha Chipperfield (Cooke), Lizzie Ballentine (Cooke), Shirelle Wilson (Cooke), Hannah Kilgore (Cooke), Lauren Maginnes (Queen’s University).
Replacements: Shannon Heapes (Finn Valley), Janine Mullan (Queen’s University), Sabrina Higgins (Carrick), Laura Johnston (Cooke), Rebecca Smyth (Belfast Harlequins), Noreen Nethercot (Enniskillen), Steffi Clarke (Queen’s University), Stacey Sloan (City Of Derry).
MUNSTER WOMEN: Mairead Kelly (UL Bohemians); Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird (Highfield), Ger Rea (Highfield), Nicola Scully (Highfield), Ashling Hutchings (UL Bohemians); Laura O’Mahony (Tralee), Mona Fehily (Highfield); Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians), Amy Desmond (Highfield), Leah Lyons (Fermoy), Gerda Coyne (Highfield), Elaine Anthony (Highfield), Roisin Ormond (Highfield), Ciara Griffin (Tralee), Laura Guest (Highfield) (capt).
Replacements: Kate Sheehan (UL Bohemians), Maura Collins (Abbeyfeale), Leah Barbour (UL Bohemians), Maeve Darcy (UL Bohemians), Marie Eviston (UL Bohemians), Ayesha Roche (Tralee), Mollie O’Donnell (UL Bohemians), Michelle Barry (Tralee).