Munster made it two IRFU Women’s Interprovincial titles in-a-row – and eleven in all – as they put in an impressive performance to beat arch rivals Leinster 15-7 at Thomond Park on Saturday. Kate Rowan rounds up the action from the final round of the Championship.
2015/16 IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP:
ROUND 3 – Saturday, September 5
MUNSTER WOMEN 15 LEINSTER 7, Thomond Park
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Leah Lyons, Niamh Briggs; Con: Niamh Briggs; Pen: Niamh Briggs
Leinster: Try: Jeamie Deacon; Con: Nora Stapleton
ULSTER WOMEN 12 CONNACHT WOMEN 15, Portadown RFC
Scorers: Ulster: Tries: Jemma Jackson, Grace Davitt; Con: Jemma Jackson
Connacht: Tries: Mairead Coyne, Sene Naoupu, Emma Clery
From kick-off, the Munster Women made their intentions clear, dominating possession in the opening quarter thanks to an imperious display from their back row of Tralee duo Ciara Griffin and Siobhan Fleming, the 2013 Grand Slam winner, and two-time Six Nations champion Heather O’Brien.
However, it took until the 20-minute mark for the hosts to open the scoring. Referee Helen O’Reilly awarded them a penalty which out-half and captain Niamh Briggs kicked into the 22 for a lineout. From this, Munster drove a powerful maul that allowed tighthead prop Leah Lyons (pictured below) crash over for a try, and Briggs duly converted.
The seven-pointer acted as something of a wake up call for Leinster and through a strong scrummaging display, Robert Forbes’ charges began to claw their way back into the game. In the final few minutes before the interval, some slick cross-field passing set up full-back Jeamie Deacon for a try which Ireland out-half converted.
The half time score of seven points apiece did not reflect Munster’s early dominance, and although Leinster applied pressure in the opening minutes of the second period, from then on Munster began to turn the screw.
Their young scrum half Ellen Murphy controlled the game with great tactical awareness. Her half-back partner Briggs nailed a 56th minute penalty to put her side back in front.
Leinster regained their composure but a clearance kick from Briggs from deep in the Munster half territory was fumbled into touch. Munster drove forward from the lineout with Briggs eventually scoring the try close to the touchline on 62 minutes. The resulting conversion, from a tricky angle, was missed by the Waterford woman.
Munster, now holding a 15-7 advantage, managed to nullify Leinster’s main threats for the remainder and Wayne Falvey’s side deservedly sealed a hard-fought victory and another Interprovincial crown.
MUNSTER WOMEN: Valerie Power (Shannon); Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Highfield), Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians), Nicola Scully (Highfield), Laura O’Mahony (Tralee); Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians) (capt), Ellen Murphy (Highfield); Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians), Amy Desmond (Highfield), Leah Lyons (Highfield), Róisín Ormond (Highfield), Elaine Anthony (Highfield), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee), Ciara Griffin (Tralee), Heather O’Brien (Highfield).
Replacements: Zoe Grattagh (Highfield), Maura Collins (Abbeyfeale), Niamh English (Highfield), Gerda Coyne (Highfield), Chloe Pearse (Shannon), Mona Fehily (Highfield), Jayne Pennefather (Highfield), Edel Murphy (UL Bohemians).
LEINSTER WOMEN: Jeamie Deacon (Blackrock); Janice Daly Morrissey (Old Belvedere), Elise O’Byrne White (Old Belvedere), Aine Donnelly (Port Dara), Amy Cotter (Suttonians); Nora Stapelton (Old Belvedere), Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union); Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere), Sharon Lynch (Old Belvedere), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere) (capt), Ciara Cooney (Railway Union), Orla Fitzsimons (St. Mary’s), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere), Jennie Finlay (Railway Union), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s).
Replacements: Ann-Marie Rooney (St. Mary’s), Karla Dunne (Blackrock), Ruth McElroy (Old Belvedere), Mairead Holohan (Blackrock), Susan Fogarty (Railway Union RFC), Meg Parkinson (Co. Carlow), Sara Phelan (Clondalkin), Meabh O’Brien (Naas).
Heading north to Portadown RFC, there was both third place and pride to play for as Ulster, who were yet to score in this season’s Championship, took on a hungry Connacht outfit who, despite showing plenty of endeavour in the previous rounds, were also winless.
The hosts seemed to have the measure of the Connacht scrum in the early minutes of this round 3 match, and their persistence was rewarded with a 13th minute try from out-half Jemma Jackson. The Queen’s University player failed to convert her own try.
Connacht sprang back to life and just five minutes later, they responded with a quick tap penalty leading to a try in the corner courtesy full-back Mairead Coyne. Out-half Nicole Fowley missed the conversion.
The score gave the visitors further momentum and they used that to grab try number two in the 23rd minute with Ireland international Sene Naoupu, playing at outside centre, crossing for an unconverted effort.
For the remainder of the first half and the early stages of the second stanza, the teams played free-flowing rugby and both defences were thoroughly tested in an intriguing aerial battle. Notably, this was a significantly improved performance from the Ulster girls in comparison to their recent clashes with Leinster and Munster.
Former Ireland centre Grace Davitt gave the vocal Portadown crowd much to cheer as she broke through midfield to score a fine try in the 62nd minute. This time Jackson struck a successful conversion for a 12-10 scoreline.
However, once more Connacht were able to strike back immediately with inside centre Emma Clery crossing the whitewash for a well-worked five-pointer. Despite Ulster being camped on the Connacht line for much of the final ten minutes, the westerners stood firm to close out a hard-earned 15-12 triumph.
ULSTER WOMEN: Teah Maguire (Cooke); Amy Davis (Cooke), Grace Davitt (Cooke), Claire McLaughlin (Queen’s University), Eliza Downey (Cooke); Jemma Jackson (Queen’s University), Kathryn Dane (Enniskillen); Sorcha Chipperfield (Cooke), Lesley Megarity (Cooke) (capt), Nikita Armstrong (Cooke), Colette Broome (Queen’s University), Naomi McCullagh (Omagh), Noreen Nethercott (Enniskillen), Niamh Fitzgerald (Old Belvedere), Lauren Maginnes (Queen’s University).
Replacements: Kelly Gormley (City of Derry), Beth Cregan (Cooke), Shannon Heapes (City of Derry), Ilse van Staden (Cooke), Shirelle Wilson (Cooke), Erin Caughey (Queen’s University), Stacey Sloan (City of Derry), Peita McAlister (Queen’s University).
CONNACHT WOMEN: Mairead Coyne (Galwegians); Ursula Sammon (Castlebar), Sene Naoupu (Galwegians), Emma Clery (Galwegians), Jill Draper (Tullamore); Nicole Fowley (Galwegians), Mary Healy (Galwegians); Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians) (capt), Ciara Farrell (Tullamore), Amanda Kelly (Tuam), Marion Sheridan (Tuam/Galwegians), Rita Breen (NUIG), Heather Cary (St. Mary’s), Grainne Egan (St. Mary’s), Clodagh Cleary (Mullingar).
Replacements: Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians), Laura Feely (Galwegians), Eimear Murphy (Co. Carlow, Catriona Cassidy (Co. Carlow), Carol Staunton (Galwegians), Clare Raftery (Galwegians), Niamh Ni Dhroma (Buccaneers), Emer O’Mahony (Railway Union).