Munster emerged as the new IRFU Under-18 Girls Interprovincial champions after defeating last year’s winners Ulster in the second match of a super-charged final round double header at MU Barnhall RFC on Saturday.
IRFU UNDER-18 GIRLS INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 3: Saturday, October 7
ULSTER U-18 GIRLS 12 MUNSTER U-18 GIRLS 23, MU Barnhall RFC
Scorers: Ulster U-18 Girls: Tries: Emma Kearney, Mya Alcorn; Con: Lisa Mullen
Munster U-18 Girls: Tries: Rebecca Hayes 2, Muirne Wall; Con: Ciara Clancy; Pens: Ciara Clancy 2
HT: Ulster U-18 Girls 5 Munster U-18 Girls 3
Eugene McCarthy’s Munster side secured their third straight victory of the campaign to win the second ever IRFU Under-18 Interprovincial Championship at Parsonstown, aided by a brace of tries from Bandon number 8 Rebecca Hayes.
It was the Ulster girls who got off to a promising start, Armagh prop Emma Kearney claiming an unconverted try in the opening 10 minutes to give them an early advantage. Munster tried to keep the eagerness of Ulster’s pack, in particular Bethany McDowell and Keelin Brady, at bay for the remainder of the first half, with an excellent display of rugby by both teams in this period.
Shannon’s Ciara Clancy missed her first penalty attempt but made amends five minutes later to narrow Ulster’s lead to 5-3 going into the break. Munster then started the second period with great intent, creating a number of opportunities in their opponents’ 22.
This pressure was rewarded when back rower Hayes touched down under the posts following some terrific passages of play from the Munster forwards and backs. Clancy added the extras and McCarthy’s charges continued to build, pinning Ulster back in their own half.
Roared on by the vocal Munster support, a well-executed back-line move saw centre Stephanie Nunan break impressively through midfield and pass for supporting full-back Muirne Wall to finish off a superb try out wide. Clancy missed the conversion but a high tackle allowed her to extend Munster’s lead to 18-5.
With a powerful break down the left channel, Hayes crossed for her second try of the day with 15 minutes remaining. The defending champions refused to give up easily with captain Grace Shrestha ensuring that Ulster kept their heads in the game until the final whistle, while Ellie Ingram and Lucinda Kinghan countered many of the threats from the Munster back-three.
Munster head coach McCarthy rung the changes in utilising his entire bench, before Ulster captailised on a sin-binning with a fantastic injury-time score from Letterkenny winger Mya Alcorn, converted by Lisa Mullen. But, there was no denying Munster who were very deserving title winners.
ULSTER U-18 GIRLS: Ellie Ingram (Enniskillen); Mya Alcorn (Letterkenny), Kelly McCormill (Monaghan), Lucy Turkington (Dungannon), Lucinda Kinghan (Monaghan); Lisa Mullen (Virginia), Amber Redmond (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), Ciara Byers (Virginia), Holly Brannigan (Malone), Meabh McAleavey (Armagh), Ruth Gilsenan (Virginia).
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), Gemma Lane (Mallow), Jennifer Fogarty (Fethard & District).
LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS 38 CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS 22, MU Barnhall RFC
Scorers: Leinster: U-18 Girls: Tries: Tess Meade, Orla Molloy, Bethany Sharpe, Molly Fitzgerald, Megan Burns, Meadbh Scally; Cons: Natasja Behan 4
Connacht U-18 Girls: Tries: Beibhinn Parsons 2, Aine Galvin 2; Con: Meabh Deely
HT: Leinster U-18 Girls 14 Connacht U-18 Girls 10
The Leinster Under-18s came up just short of winning the Interprovincial crown as their six-try haul against Connacht saw them finish as the Championship’s runners-up.
Early on, Niall Neville’s title chasers lost their captain Judy Bobbet to injury – she would return at half-time – and Connacht took advantage of the loss of leadership as Ballinasloe centre Beibhinn Parsons struck for two unconverted tries in the sixth and 25th minutes.
Leinster set about turning the tide with turnover machine Grace Kelly leading the charge, accumulating at least five turnovers over the course of the match. Ardee number 8 Tess Meade and full-back Orla Molloy from Gorey put the finishing touches to solid approach work for centre Natasja Behan’s conversions to make it 14-10 at the break.
Leinster’s job was far from done as Connacht, whose tackles were sticking and their offloads creating attacking opportunities, hit back with their third unconverted try in the 44th minute. It was an outstanding individual effort from Ballinasloe full-back Aine Galvin who chipped over the defensive line and showed impressive speed to dot down and nudge the westerners ahead again – 15-14.
However, the searing pace of the game led to tiring bodies and the space began to open up for Leinster to ramp up the pressure and claim three tries in the space of 10 minutes. Replacement Bethany Sharpe, winger Molly Fitzgerald and out-half Megan Burns were the scorers, with Behan converting the second and third for a 33-15 advantage in the 57th minute.
Full-back Molloy misjudged a tackle to see yellow and the determined Connacht girls exploited the extra player for their fourth try, Galvin backing herself to score from a ruck and complete a well-taken brace. It was left to replacement Meadbh Scally to round out the half-a-dozen tries for the victors.
Leinster head coach Neville said afterwards: “The overall impression is that we have to be disappointed we let the game go in Munster. But, we bounced back well and the girls performed really well against Ulster and Connacht. For the girls, it is a taste of playing at a level above the clubs. It is all part of their progression.”
LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS: Orla Molloy (Gorey); Ali Miley (Naas), Anna Doyle (Tullow), 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 College), Judy Bobbet (Westmanstown) (capt), Jessica Schmidt (Wicklow), Katelynn Doran (Port Dara), Grace Kelly (Tullow), Tess Meade (Ardee).
Replacements: Jess Keating (Old Belvedere), Ciara Moughty (Mullingar), Aimee Clarke (Railway Union), Nikki Gibson (Westmanstown), Meadbh Scally (Mullingar), Jane Waters (Tullamore), Orfhlaith Murray (Westmanstown), Bethany Sharpe (ITC/Carlow Coyotes).
CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS: Aine Galvin (Ballinasloe); Aoibheann Reilly (Ballinasloe), Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe), Shona Kennedy (Westport), Niamh Kenny (Ballinasloe); Meabh Deely (Ballinasloe), Muireann Cawley (Westport); Claire Coghlan (Westport), Mia Fahy (Galwegians), Kayley Mannion (Galwegians), Vanessa Finnan (Buccaneers), Jordan Hopkins (Galwegians), Lily Brady (Westport), Sarah Dent (Ballinasloe) (capt), Sarah Walsh (Westport).
Replacements: Claudia McNicholas (Galwegians), Mary McLoughlin (Westport), Sarah O’Rourke (Buccaneers), Rachel Cox (Westport), Rian Callaghan (Buccaneers), Chloe Staunton (Westport), Eleanor McMahon (Ballinasloe), Aisling Murphy (Ballinasloe).
TOP SCORERS AFTER FINAL ROUND:
25 – Ciara Clancy (Munster)
15 – Molly Fitzgerald (Leinster), Rebecca Hayes (Munster)
14 – Natasja Behan (Leinster)
10 – Beibhinn Parsons (Connacht), Aine Galvin (Connacht), Megan Burns (Leinster), Orla Curtin (Munster), Bethany McDowell (Ulster), Ellie Ingram (Ulster), Mya Alcorn (Ulster)
3 – Molly Fitzgerald (Leinster), Rebecca Hayes (Munster)
2 – Beibhinn Parsons (Connacht), Aine Galvin (Connacht), Megan Burns (Leinster), Orla Curtin (Munster), Bethany McDowell (Ulster), Ellie Ingram (Ulster), Mya Alcorn (Ulster)
1 – Muireann Cawley (Connacht), Aoibheann Reilly (Connacht), Sarah Walsh (Connacht), Grace Kelly (Leinster), Ciara Carbery (Leinster), Anna Doyle (Leinster), Tess Meade (Leinster), Orla Molloy (Leinster), Bethany Sharpe (Leinster), Meadbh Scally (Leinster), Dorothy Wall (Munster), Stephanie Nunan (Munster), Muirne Wall (Munster), Lucy Turkington (Ulster), Kelly McCormill (Ulster), Amanda McQuade (Ulster), Emma Kearney (Ulster)