Munster began the defence of their IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship title with a 24-7 win over Connacht at Irish Independent Park, writes Ross O’Donoghue. The result means Munster and Leinster are joint leaders ahead of their second round trips next Sunday to Portadown and Galway respectively.
IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 1: Saturday, September 1
MUNSTER WOMEN 24 CONNACHT WOMEN 7, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Chloe Pearse, Fiona Hayes, Eimear Considine; Cons: Niamh Briggs 2, Enya Breen; Pen: Niamh Briggs
Connacht: Try: Shannon Touhey; Con: Nicole Fowley
HT: Munster 17 Connacht 0
“Objective achieved,” said Munster head coach Laura Guest, whose side had lost 19-15 to Connacht in Galway at the start of last year’s tournament. “We have four points leaving here today and Connacht have none. We knew it would be a physical battle. It always is with Connacht. We’ve loads to fix and loads to work on but it’s a great start.”
Munster controlled possession right from the kick-off in Cork and needed just five minutes to open the scoring. Experienced centres Niamh Briggs and Niamh Kavanagh combined to bring the home side into the Connacht 22 and after some patient build-up play with Nicole Cronin sniping around the fringes, it was co-captain Chloe Pearse who touched down from a close-in drive.
Munster’s pace out wide combined with their breakdown intensity secured the next try – key prop and co-captain Fiona Hayes with the close-range finish this time. Winger Rachel Healy’s jinking run took Connacht into the opposite half for the first time.
Also encouraging for the westerners was out-half Nicole Fowley’s kicking out of hand, which was on the money, but Munster were still hunting for a score as half-time approached. With a penalty in front of the posts on 39 minutes, Hayes nodded to Briggs to kick the three points.
That left Munster leading 17-0 at the interval and former Ireland international Guest was certainly satisfied with the on-field decision making. “That was the call,” she explained. “You just need to build points. You can never have enough of a lead with Connacht. You know they’ll come back.”
Guest was proven correct from the restart as Connacht, undoubtedly fired up by coach Jarleth Naughton’s half-time words, began the second half with real intent. Strong-running Galwegians centre Shannon Touhey got their try out wide after Connacht’s high tempo and intensity drew red jerseys into the contact area on their first visit to the 22.
The visitors’ set piece work gave them a strong platform in opposition territory, but telling hits from Briggs and current Ireland captain Ciara Griffin made Munster hard to breach. The pair were both forced off in what proved to be an attritional second half.
Nonetheless, the reigning Interprovincial champions eventually got back on top and sealed the victory with a late try. The province’s young full-back Enya Breen, who was making her senior debut, punched a hole in midfield before popping the ball off for replacement Eimear Considine to score on her return to the red jersey after a year out travelling.
MUNSTER WOMEN: Enya Breen (Bantry Bay); Laura O’Mahony (UL Bohemians), Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians), Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians), Laura Sheehan (UL Bohemians); Rachel Allen-Connolly (UL Bohemians), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians); Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians) (co-capt), Kate Sheehan (UL Bohemians), Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians), Roisin Ormond (Ballincollig), Siobhan McCarthy (Railway Union), Edel Murphy (UL Bohemians), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemians), Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemians) (co-capt).
Replacements used: Orla Curtin (Shannon) for K Sheehan, Clodagh O’Halloran (UL Bohemians) for Murphy, Sarah Quin (Richmond) for Griffin, Christine Coffey (Thurles) for Cronin, Ciara Scanlan (St. Mary’s) for Kavanagh, Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians) for Briggs. Not used: Andrea Stock (Bantry Bay), Clodagh Cronin (Durham University).
CONNACHT WOMEN: Jill Draper (Tullamore); Rachel Healy (Railway Union), Catherine Martin (Suttonians), Shannon Touhey (Galwegians), Orla Dixon (NUIG); Nicole Fowley (Galwegians), Mary Healy (Galwegians); Laura Feely, (Galwegians), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians), Anne-Marie O’Hora (Castlebar/Galwegians), Nicola Caldbeck (Tullow), Amelie Roux (Galwegians), Edel McMahon (Galwegians), Grainne Egan (Railway Union) (capt), Nichola Fryday (Galwegians).
Replacements used: Moya Griffin (Tullamore) for O’Connor, Elizabeth McNicholas (Tuam) for Feely, Julia Bauer (Suttonians) for O’Hora, Denise Redmond (Galwegians) for Caldbeck, Tara Buggie (NUIG) for Roux, Shannen Lane (Galwegians) for Healy, Hilary Griffin (Tullow) for Touhey, Mairead Coyne (Galwegians) for Healy.
Referee: Glenn Sheridan (IRFU)
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