There was ecstasy for Munster and agony for Connacht as the 2014/15 IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship concluded in dramatic fashion on Saturday, writes Kate Rowan.
2014/15 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 3 – Saturday, September 20
LEINSTER WOMEN 27 ULSTER WOMEN 6, Ashbourne RFC
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Kim Flood, Janice Daly, Jennie Finlay, Mairead Holohan, Ciara Cooney; Con: Aine Donnelly
Ulster: Pens: Jemma Jackson 2
MUNSTER WOMEN 9 CONNACHT WOMEN 7, Tralee RFC
Scorers: Munster: Pens: Ger Rea 3
Connacht: Try: Jill Draper; Con: Clare Rafferty
The final act of the game at Tralee RFC – a penalty from outside centre Ger Rea – secured the title for Munster who now been champions in seven of the last nine years.
The westerners looked as if they could claim top spot after opening the scoring in the 14th minute with a try from winger Jill Draper who finished off an overlap. Clare Rafferty converted with aplomb from a tricky angle.
Notably, these were the first and only points Munster conceded throughout the entire series.
In the second half the momentum began to shift in the hosts’ favour. Rea’s success from the kicking tee in the 45th minute closed the gap to four points.
As the Wayne Falvey-coached Munster side went on the offensive they had a number of chances. Openside flanker Ciara Griffin was forced into touch just short of the try-line and then Ireland international prop Fiona Hayes was held up.
Full-back Mairead Kelly managed to touch down for the hosts but her effort was ruled out for crossing. However, referee Helen O’Reilly awarded Munster a penalty and Rea (pictured below) managed to reduce the deficit to 7-6.
The match rhythm was somewhat broken when play was stopped due to an unfortunate injury sustained by Connacht try scorer Draper. The Tullamore player was stretchered from the pitch with a suspected broken leg.
Rea missed a penalty kick late in the game and it seemed that Connacht would hang on. However, the Highfield woman was handed another chance right at the death and made no mistake to complete a clean sweep of victories for her province.
One family who both celebrated the result and commiserated with the losers was the O’Mahonys (pictured below) – Munster out-half Laura O’Mahony played against her sister Emer, who was on the left wing for Connacht.
Munster Branch President Mick Goggin was delighted to present the Interpro trophy to captain Laura Guest, who played for Ireland in the recent Women’s Rugby World Cup. The Cork woman, who first played rugby for Clonakilty RFC in 2002, has now won ten Interpro titles during her 13 years as a Munster squad member.
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), Maeve Darcy (UL Bohemians), Elaine Anthony (Highfield), Roisín Ormond (Highfield), Ciara Griffin (Tralee), Laura Guest (Highfield) (capt).
Replacements used: Kate Sheehan (UL Bohemians) for Darcy, Maria Eviston (UL Bohemians) for Desmond (both 62 mins). Not used: Maura Collins (Abbeyfeale), Leah Barbour (UL Bohemians), Gerda Coyne (Highfield), Ayesha Roche (Tralee), Mollie O’Donnell (UL Bohemians), Amy O’Callaghan (Highfield).
CONNACHT WOMEN: Mairead Coyne (Galwegians); Jill Draper (Tullamore), Lisa McDonagh (Galwegians), Emma Clery (Galwegians), Emer O’Mahony (Tralee); Clare Rafferty (Galwegians), Mary Healy (Galwegians); Laura Feely (Galwegians), Ciara O’Connor (Tralee), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians) (capt), Rita Breen (NUIG), Catriona Cassidy (Portlaoise), Marion Sheridan (Tuam/Galwegians), Heather Cary (Galwegians), Grainne Egan (St. Mary’s College).
Replacements used: Edel McMahon (NUIG/Galwegians) for Sheridan (55 mins), Nicole Fowley (Sligo) for Draper (59). Not used: Jean Moore (Portlaoise), Edel Durkin (Tuam), Christine Arthurs (Tralee), Niamh Dempsey (Tralee), Michelle Fitzpatrick (Galwegians), Rhona Julian (NUIG).
In Ashbourne, Ulster fell to a third consecutive defeat against a classy Leinster team who finished the Interprovincial campaign in second place.
Inside centre Kim Flood (pictured below) opened the scoring for the hosts with a try after five minutes. Ulster’s out-half Jemma Jackson closed the gap with a penalty ten minutes later.
Some impressive back play from Leinster led to Old Belvedere winger Janice Daly dotting down on the 20-minute mark.
Daly went close to scoring a second try but was tackled short of the line and persistent indiscretions eventually led to Ulster number 8 Gemma McCutcheon seeing yellow in injury-time.
Despite the visitors showing good endeavour immediately after the interval with another penalty from Jackson, last year’s Interpro champions then switched into another gear.
The Blues closed the game out comfortably with tries from openside flanker Jennie Finlay, replacement Mairead Holohan and lock Ciara Cooney.
Having let the backs do the scoring in the first half, the home forwards now decided to get in on the act. Finlay scored a pushover try in the left corner in the 54th minute, following some excellent work from the pack.
When Holahan crossed the whitewash on the hour mark, the match was over as a contest. Further Ulster indiscipline saw replacement Shirelle Wilson sent to the sin-bin by referee Joy Neville, the former Ireland number 8.
Just moments later Leinster scored their fifth try of the afternoon when Cooney got her name on the scoresheet with a fine pick and drive effort. Cill Dara’s Aine Donnelly added the conversion for a 21-point cushion.
LEINSTER WOMEN: Vikki McGinn (Blackrock College); Aoife Tyrrell (Blackrock College), Elise O’Byrne-White (Old Belvedere), Kim Flood (Railway Union), Janice Daly (Old Belvedere); Aine Donnelly (Cill Dara), Ailsa Hughes (Tullamore); Ruth McElroy (Old Belvedere), Ann-Marie Rooney (St. Mary’s College) (capt), Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere), Ciara Cooney (Tullow), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s College), Katie Norris (Blackrock College), Jennie Finlay (Navan), Sharon Lynch (Old Belvedere).
Replacements: Aoife Maher (Ralway Union) for Rooney, Niamh Fitzgerald (St. Mary’s College) for Finlay (temp sub), Mairead Holahan (Clondalkin) for Maher, Meg Parkinson (County Carlow) for Hughes, Chrissy Doyle (Old Belvedere) for Tyrrell, Fitzgerald for Norris, Maher for McElroy, Joanna Mahon (County Carlow) for O’Brien, Claire Ryan (Railway Union) for Flood.
ULSTER WOMEN: Peita McAlister (Queen’s University); Vicky Irwin (Ormskirk), Stacey Sloan (City of Derry), Claire McLaughlin (Queen’s University), Emma Jordan (Queen’s University); Jemma Jackson (Queen’s University), Imogen Porter (Queen’s University); Alanagh Chipperfield (Belfast Harlequins), Janine Mullan (Queen’s University), Nikita Armstrong (Cooke) (capt), Lauren Maginnes (Queen’s University), Rebecca Smyth (Belfast Harlequins), Laura Johnston (Cooke), Noreen Nethercot (Enniskillen), Gemma McCutcheon (Queen’s University).
Replacements used: Shirelle Wilson (Cooke) for Johnston, Sorcha Chipperfield (Cooke) for Smyth, Ilse van Staden (Belfast Harlequins) for Chipperfield, Steffi Clarke (Queen’s University) for Porter, Emma Rea (Cooke) for van Staden, Lesley Megarity (Belfast Harlequins) for Mullan, Sabrina Higgins (Carrick) for Nethercott, Claire Johnston (Cooke) for Jordan.