The stage is set for next Saturday’s Under-18 Girls Interprovincial Championship final round double header at MU Barnhall RFC, with unbeaten leaders Munster (8 points), Leinster (6) and defending champions Ulster (5) locked in a three-way battle for the title.
IRFU UNDER-18 GIRLS INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 2: Saturday, September 30
LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS 22 ULSTER U-18 GIRLS 5, North Kildare RFC
Scorers: Leinster U-18 Girls: Tries: Molly Fitzgerald 2, Ciara Carbery, Anna Doyle; Con: Natasja Behan
Ulster U-18 Girls: Try: Amanda McQuade
HT: Leinster U-18 Girls 10 Ulster U-18 Girls 5
The Leinster Under-18s got their Interprovincial campaign back on track with a well-executed 22-5 bonus point victory over 2016 champions Ulster at North Kildare RFC on Saturday.
Looking for his side to bounce back from their heartbreaking 17-14 defeat away to Munster, Leinster head coach Niall Neville made three changes, bringing in scrum half Ciara Carbery, winger Niamh Belton and hooker Niamh Tester and holding Ireland U-18 Sevens international Anna Doyle, back from injury, on the bench.
Ulster were unchanged from last week’s impressive 37-12 dismissal of Connacht, with half-a-dozen starters from the Virginia club in Cavan. They continued where they left off in round 1 by setting the pace in Kilcock, aided by some fine touches from half-backs Amanda McQuade and Lisa Mullen.
The visitors went close to opening the scoring when second row Megan Brodie was held up over the line by the combined efforts of Tester and winger Molly Fitzgerald. From the scrum, Ulster showed calmness in the face of fierce defence from the girls in blue.
The Ulster forwards trucked the ball up and the time came for it to be moved left where centre Kelly McCormill’s thrust was dealt with diligently. However, McQuade was alert to the space on the short side for a sniper’s try, in the 17th minute, and a deserved 5-0 lead.
A feature of the game was the amount of turnovers from good technique at the ruck, Ulster centre Lucy Turkington and Leinster openside Grace Kelly taking it in turns to snaffle penalties. Then, Kelly ripped the ball away in the tackle to set up an attack and the confidence of Leinster out-half Megan Burns on the ball made way for Fitzgerald to get outside Mya Alcorn for a levelling 27th-minute score.
It looked like it would be all-square at the break, but Leinster prop Casey O’Brien had other ideas, latching onto a spilled ball to tear a hole in Ulster’s defence. The recycle came quickly enough for a one-two from Burns to Fitzgerald and the Tullamore winger duly finished off her second try, handing the hosts a 10-5 advantage.
Ulster had to strike back and their most dangerous weapon was left winger Ellie Ingram, a real menace with her speed and nifty footwork. However, the Ireland U-18 Sevens flyer was never encouraged in off the wing from set plays where she could have caused havoc.
It was Leinster who took control when the awareness of scrum half Carbery, younger sister of Leinster and Ireland star Joey, caught Ulster napping down the blindside of a ruck to touch down and make it 15-5 in the 52nd minute.
Coached by Zoe Templeton and Charlie Farrell, Ulster were not about to cave in, creating go-forward ball through number 8 and vice-captain Keelin Brady and chances for Alcorn and centre McCormill which they just could not finish.
In the end, Leinster rounded it off in stunning style when fleet-footed replacement Doyle’s piece of individual brilliance took her all the way to the posts for a memorable bonus point score, with centre Natasja Behan comfortably adding the extras.
Giving his reaction afterwards, Ulster forwards coach Farrell said: “The players and coaches are extremely disappointed with the result, although full credit must go to Leinster for a great game. I’m happy to see our girls playing some good rugby in attack but at times we were guilty of being too passive in defence which allowed Leinster to dictate the game. We’ll watch the video, regroup, work hard during the week at training and aim to put in a solid performance against Munster next weekend.”
LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS: Bethany Sharpe (IT Carlow/Carlow Coyotes); Niamh Belton (Dundalk), Ali Miley (Naas), Natasja Behan (Gorey), Molly Fitzgerald (Navan); Megan Burns (Tullamore), Ciara Carbery (Athy); Meadbh O’Callaghan (Dundalk), Niamh Tester (Boyne), Casey O’Brien (St. Mary’s), Judy Bobbet (Westmanstown) (capt), Jessica Schmidt (Wicklow), Katlynn Doran (Port Darra), Grace Kelly (Tullow), Tess Meade (Ardee).
Replacements: Jess Keating (Old Belvedere), Ciara Moughty (Mullingar), Aimee Clarke (Railway Union), Nikki Gibson (Westmanstown), Karen Delaney (Kilkenny), Jane Waters (Tullamore), Anna Doyle (Tullow), Orla Molloy (Gorey).
ULSTER U-18 GIRLS: Ruth Gilsenan (Virginia); Mya Alcorn (Letterkenny), Kelly McCormill (Monaghan), Lucy Turkington (Dungannon), Ellie Ingram (Enniskillen); Lisa Mullen (Virginia), Amanda McQuade (Virginia); Emma Kearney (Armagh), Grace Shrestha (Dungannon) (capt), Ella Garland (Monaghan), Megan Brodie (Virginia), Caolinn McCormack (Virginia), Bethany McDowell (Malone), Katie Hetherington (Clogher Valley), Keelin Brady (Virginia).
Replacements: Aoife Cahill (Malone), Ava Fannin (Virginia), Tammy Millar (Enniskillen), Sorcha McCormack (Virginia), Naomi McCord (Malone), Amber Redmond (Virginia), Ciara Byers (Virginia), Holly Brannigan (Malone).
CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS 5 MUNSTER U-18 GIRLS 25, Ballinasloe RFC
Scorers: Connacht U-18 Girls: Try: Sarah Walsh
Munster U-18 Girls: Tries: Rebecca Hayes, Dorothy Wall, Stephanie Nunan; Cons: Ciara Clancy 2; Pens: Ciara Clancy 2
HT: Connacht U-18 Girls 0 Munster U-18 Girls 17
The Munster Under-18s made it two wins out of two with a 25-5 success away to Connacht in Ballinasloe, thanks to tries from Rebecca Hayes, Dorothy Wall and Stephanie Nunan and 10 points from the boot of scrum half Ciara Clancy.
Inspired by Ireland Women’s captain Niamh Briggs’ jersey presentation and words of motivation, Munster hit the ground running in their second outing of the Championship. Bandon number 8 Hayes opened the scoring with a try on 15 minutes after good work through the phases. Shannon starlet Clancy converted and she also added a penalty soon after.
Before long, Clancy was lining up her third kick at goal, this time converting a well-taken try from winger Wall, the Ireland U-18 Sevens international cutting a good line off a solid scrum.
Clancy’s first miss of the game came just before the interval when her penalty attempt dropped short to send Munster into the dressing room with a commanding 17-0 lead.
The John The Baptist Community School pupil was back on target early in the second period with her second successful penalty, before Westport and Connacht lock Sarah Walsh struck back via maul for the hosts’ only try of this round 2 fixture. The westerners’ back row caught the eye again, with Ballinasloe flanker Georgia Codyre is excellent form before injury forced her off.
Ireland-capped centre Nunan made certain of victory with Munster’s third touchdown in the final quarter when, after some hard yards from the pack,she finished off a free-flowing back-line move. Enya Breen was unable to convert with the contest finishing up 25-5 in favour of Eugene McCarthy’s young charges.
CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS: Aine Gavin (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe); Aoibheann Reilly (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe), Niamh Kenny (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe), Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe), Meabh Deely (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe); Shona Kennedy (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Muireann Cawley (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport); Mary McLoughlin (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Mia Fahy (Galwegians/Glenamaddy Community School), Kayley Mannion (Galwegians/Glenamaddy Community School), Sarah Walsh (Westport/Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh), Jordan Hopkins (Galwegians/Calasanctius College Oranmore), Lily Brady (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Georgia Codyre (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe), Sarah Dent (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe) (capt).
Replacements: Claudia McNicholas (Galwegians/Colaiste na Coiribe, Galway), Claire Coghlan (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Sarah O’Rourke (Buccaneers/Our Lady’s Bower, Athlone), Vanessa Finnan (Buccaneers/Our Lady’s Bower, Athlone), Rian Callaghan (Buccaneers/Athlone Community College), Chloe Staunton (Westport/Sacred Heart School, Westport), Rachel Cox (Westport/Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh), Eleanor McMahon (Ballinasloe/Ardscoil Mhuire, Ballinasloe).
MUNSTER U-18 GIRLS: Muirne Wall (Listowel); Maggie Boylan (Carrick-on-Suir), Stephanie Nunan (St. Mary’s, Limerick), Enya Breen (Bantry Bay), Dorothy Wall (Fethard & District); Emily Lane (Mallow) (capt), Ciara Clancy (Shannon); Andrea Stock (Bantry Bay), Orla Curtin (Shannon), Hayley Betts (Shannon), Claire Bennett (Fethard & District), Sarah Garrett (Fethard & District), Katelyn Fleming (Carrick-on-Suir), Mary Hilda Hurley (Bantry Bay), Rebecca Hayes (Bandon).
Replacements: Annie Laffan (Carrick-on-Suir), Caroline Downey (Bantry Bay), Sarah O’Connor (Shannon), Rebecca Reilly (Listowel), Sarah O’Gorman (Newport), Lea Turner (Iveragh), GemmaLane (Mallow), Jennifer Fogarty (Fethard & District).
IRFU UNDER-18 GIRLS INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMIONSHIP – ROUND 3 FIXTURES:
Saturday, October 7 –
LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS (2nd) v CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS (4th), MU Barnhall RFC, 1pm
ULSTER U-18 GIRLS (3rd) v MUNSTER U-18 GIRLS (1st), MU Barnhall RFC, 3pm
TOP SCORERS AFTER TWO ROUNDS:
17 – Ciara Clancy (Munster)
10 – Molly Fitzgerald (Leinster), Orla Curtin (Munster), Bethany McDowell (Ulster), Ellie Ingram (Ulster)
6 – Natasja Behan (Leinster)
2 – Molly Fitzgerald (Leinster), Orla Curtin (Munster), Bethany McDowell (Ulster), Ellie Ingram (Ulster)
1 – Muireann Cawley (Connacht), Aoibheann Reilly (Connacht), Sarah Walsh (Connacht), Grace Kelly (Leinster), Megan Burns (Leinster), Ciara Carbery (Leinster), Anna Doyle (Leinster), Rebecca Hayes (Munster), Dorothy Wall (Munster), Stephanie Nunan (Munster), Mya Alcorn (Ulster), Lucy Turkington (Ulster), Kelly McCormill (Ulster), Amanda McQuade (Ulster)