Leinster and Ulster kicked off the 2018/19 IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship in fine style at Blackrock College RFC on Friday, with the home side celebrating a 17-0 win at the final whistle. Ross O’Donoghue reports from Stradbrook.
IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 1: Friday, August 31
LEINSTER WOMEN 17 ULSTER WOMEN 0, Stradbrook, Blackrock College RFC
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Juliet Short 2, Lauren Farrell McCabe; Con: Nikki Caughey
HT: Leinster 5 Ulster 0
Three tries secured a winning start to the tournament for new Leinster head coach Ben Armstrong and captain Sene Naoupu. It was a night to remember for Railway Union flanker Juliet Short who touched down twice while Suttonians’ Lauren Farrell McCabe, who started at full-back, marked her debut with a try.
“We’re pretty happy with how we went,” admitted Australian Armstrong, who fielded ten new caps in all. “Firstly to get the win, but secondly to get some rustiness out of our system so we’ve a few things to work on. We’re asking the girls to challenge their own skill-set and see what’s in front of them. If it’s on up front, it’s on up front. If it’s on out the back, we’ll take it.”
Leinster were motoring early in the game and it took some impressive scramble defence from Ulster to hold out. The breakthrough came on 15 minutes when a neat pass inside the 22 from Aoife McDermott gave the strong-running Short the chance to barge over for an unconverted score.
Ulster eventually settled and had their best spell of the game in the second quarter, with plenty of bite and tempo in their attack. Powerful prop Ilse van Staden made some big carries and managed to cross the line in the 39th minute, only for the ball to be held up. Leinster won the resulting scrum to relieve the pressure and enter the second half with a five-point buffer.
Ulster head coach Derek Suffern said: “We did have seven or eight possessions close to their line. If we’d scored one of those, it would have given us a lot of confidence. In the second half, we just failed to get out of our exit and they just put us under pressure, but we’re making strides. A lot of players performed very well right to the end. We’ve got to be proud of their effort and to take the positives.”
The Leinster Women were back on top from the restart. They shoved Ulster off their own five-metre scrum on 48 minutes and Short, who played for the Ireland Sevens Development team last season, dived on the loose ball to double the hosts’ advantage.
The final try of the evening came from a searing break by Blackrock’s own Michelle Claffey. Her 63rd-minute counter-attack took Leinster right into the scoring zone for the 23-year-old Farrell McCabe to scamper home untouched. Former Ulster out-half Nikki Caughey landed the conversion for her new side whose bench maintained their momentum, but the bonus point eluded them as Ulster dug in late on.
Armstrong is already looking forward to next weekend’s second round of the Championship when Leinster face ‘a rejuvenated Connacht that came so close on our patch last year and they’ve got that Sportsground that’ll be spurring them on’.
LEINSTER WOMEN: Lauren Farrell McCabe (Suttonians); Gemma Matthews (Old Belvedere), Michelle Claffey (Blackrock), Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere) (capt). Elise O’Byrne-White (Old Belvedere); Nikki Caughey (Railway Union), Ellen Murphy (Old Belvedere); Lindsay Peat (Railway Union), Emma Hooban (St. Mary’s), Katie O’Dwyer (Railway Union), Aoife McDermott (Railway Union), Meg Kendal (Railway Union), Jeamie Deacon (Blackrock), Juliet Short (Railway Union), Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock).
Replacements used: Ann-Marie Rooney (Blackrock) for Hooban, Christy Haney (St. Mary’s) for Peat, Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere) for O’Dwyer, Mairead Holohan (Blackrock) for Deacon, Nicole Purdom (Suttonians) for O’Connor, Niamh Griffin (Blackrock) for Murphy, Nicole Carroll (Suttonians) for Farrell McCabe, Ray Lawless (Blackrock) for O’Byrne-White.
ULSTER WOMEN: Ella Durkan (Malone); Eliza Downey (Cooke), Maeve Liston (Ballyshannon), Vicky Irwin (Cooke), Emma Jordan (Cooke); Jemma Jackson (Cooke), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union) (capt); Ilse van Staden (Cooke), Neve Jones (Malone), Sorcha Mac Laimhin (Cooke), Rebecca Lawlor (Malone), Lauren Magennis (Cooke). Bethany McDowell (Malone), Claire McLaughlin (Cooke), Beth Cregan (Cooke).
Replacements used: Shannon Heapes (Cooke) for Mac Laimhin, Keelin Brady (Virginia) for McDowell, Kathryn Hannah (Ballynahinch) for Lawlor, Peita McAlister (Cooke) for Irwin, Diane Ramsey (Queen’s University) for Jordan, Fiona Tuite (Dublin University) for Downey. Not used: Michelle Gormley-McLaughlin (City of Derry), Aishling O’Connell (Cavan).
Referee: Enda O’Shea (IRFU)
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