Connacht and Leinster, the two unbeaten teams at the top of the IRFU Under-18 Women’s Interprovincial table, are set for a Saturday afternoon title shootout at MU Barnhall RFC (kick-off 2.45pm), while Munster, last year’s champions, and Ulster will battle it out for the minor placings.
IRFU UNDER-18 WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 2: Sunday, September 9
CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN 26 MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN 10, the Sportsground
Scorers: Connacht U-18s: Tries: Beibhinn Parsons 3, Grace Browne Moran; Cons: Meabh Deely 3
Munster U-18s: Tries: Gemma Lane, Maeve O’Leary
HT: Connacht 7 Munster 5
Inspirational centre Beibhinn Parsons crossed for another hat-trick of tries as the Connacht Under-18 Women took the spoils against the title holders, winning their second home game of the Championship by 16 points to keep pace with leaders Leinster.
As they did against Ulster in the opening round, the westerners produced an energetic finish, this time seeing off a late Munster fight-back. The Munster girls dominated much of the possession and territory during the first quarter and the pressure eventually told when scrum half Gemma Lane used a quick tap to cross in the corner.
Lane, whose sister Emily made her Ireland Sevens debut at the start of the month, was a real livewire for the visitors but Connacht, despite playing with limited ball, struck for a timely try just before half-time. Ballinasloe starlet Parsons showed her lightning pace to score and set up a comfortable conversion for Meabh Deely whose kick split the sides at the turnaround – 7-5.
The second period contained plenty of free-flowing rugby and attacking endeavour, and while Parsons’ hat-trick was the centre piece, there were also standout performances from Connacht captain Aoibheann Reilly, Niamh Kenny, Lily Brady and Grace Browne Moran, the tall number 8 who burrowed over for a well-taken bonus point try.
Ballina Killaloe’s Maeve O’Leary, who was sprung from the bench, was Munster’s lone scorer in the closing half, making it a four-point game entering the final few minutes. Roared on by the vocal home crowd, Connacht regrouped and show an enviable combination of composure and a clinical edge that has them challenging for silverware this season.
Delighted with the performance levels that Connacht are hitting, their Glaswegian head coach Fraser Gow said: “It’s not surprising because we know they’re capable of it, but they just keep performing and they’ve done everything we’ve asked of them over the summer. You can see it paying off on the park today and last week.
“Munster put us under a lot of pressure in that first half, and we were down to 14 at one point. But we really dug in and stuck at it. I thought our defensive effort was fantastic. We worked a lot on defence over the summer and the girls have done so well. You can see the effort and determination – once they make a tackle, they get up off the ground and get back in the fight. i thought that was excellent from us today, and when we had the ball we took our opportunities.”
Looking forward to the title decider, he added: “We had a great day in Ballinasloe last week, we’ve had a great day today at the Sportsground. I think we’ve shown we’re capable of competing with all the other provinces. Leinster will be tough, it’s in their own backyard and they’ll be going all out for it. But we’re going to stick to our guns and we’re going to go up there and play the way we know we can, and we’ll see what happens at the end of the day.”
– Photos by Colbert O’Sullivan & Maeve Moran/Westport RFC
CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN: Aine Galvin (Ballinasloe); Finola Collins (Ballina), Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe), Niamh Kenny (Ballinasloe), Hannah Gullane (Ballinasloe); Meabh Deely (Ballinasloe), Aoibheann Reilly (Ballinasloe) (capt); Macy McDermott (Westport), Mia Fahy (Ballinasloe), Mary McLaughlin (Westport), Jordan Hopkins (Ballinasloe), Eva McCormack (Westport), Emily Gavin (Ballinasloe), Lily Brady (Westport), Grace Browne Moran (Westport).
Replacements: Kayley Mannion (Westport), Claudia McNicholas (Ballinasloe), Sarah O’Rourke (Buccaneers), Hannah Johnston (Sligo), Nina Mathastein (Westport), Ava Ryder (Westport), Rian Callaghan (Buccaneers), Victoria Farrell (Buccaneers).
MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN: Marliese Flynn (Listowel); Jennifer Fogarty (Fethard), Meabh McElligot (Fethard), Maggie Boylan (Carrick-on-Suir), Alana McInerney (Ennis); Ciara Clancy (Shannon), Gemma Lane (Mallow); Niamh Thornton (Skibbereen), Sarah Murphy (Kanturk), Sarah O’Gorman (Newport), Eilish Cahil (Ennis), Claire Bennett (Fethard), Rebecca Reilly (Listowel), Faye Dowling (Fethard), Rebecca Hayes (Bantry Bay) (capt).
Replacements: Clodagh McDonnell (Ennis), Latisha Wycherley (Bantry Bay), Orla O’Donnell (Fethard), Anna Kavanagh (Skibbereen), Aine Enright (Listowel), Kate Grayson Molloy (Fethard), Maeve O’Leary (Ballina Killaloe), Kara O’Sullivan (Kanturk).
Referee: Katie Kilbane (IRFU)
ULSTER U-18 WOMEN 7 LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN 22, Chambers Park, Portadown RFC
Scorers: Ulster U-18s: Try: Ava Fannin; Con: Lisa Mullen
Leinster U-18s: Tries: Molly Fitzgerald, Kathryn Dempsey, Jessica Keating, Ali Miley; Con: Ava Jenkins
HT: Ulster 7 Leinster 12
The table-topping Leinster U-18 Women made it back-to-back bonus point victories as they accounted for hosts Ulster on a 22-7 scoreline at Portadown RFC’s Chambers Park last Sunday.
Niall Neville’s charges converted their early possession and territory into points, building a 12-0 lead by the 20-minute mark. Winger Molly Fitzgerald finished off an excellent team try and New Ross centre Kathryn Dempsey broke a tackle to run in from 20 metres out for the second score, which was converted by out-half Ava Jenkins.
Leinster captain Judy Bobbett and Meadbh Scally were both prominent as carriers during that purple patch, but Ulster began to force some errors from the visitors and they closed the gap to 12-7 by half-time. Their skipper Katie Hetherington’s initial break was followed by Ruth Gilsenan being held up over the line, before further pressure from the forwards saw prop Ava Fannin burst over beside the posts and Lisa Mullen converted.
Ulster maintained that intensity on the resumption, working the ball wide to both wings with the forwards punching some holes in midfield. However, Leinster full-back Ella Roberts covered the danger well and the visitors’ pack then got the scoreboard moving again, a well-worked lineout seeing them drive through and hooker Jessica Keating broke away to score in the corner.
Ulster’s back row of Ciara Byers, Hetherington and Lucy Turkington was their best unit on the pitch, tackling themselves to a standstill and regularly getting in to disrupt Leinster at ruck time. Nonetheless, the girls in blue had their tails up following that third score and they wrapped up the result with a classy bonus point try, centre Ali Miley showing a clean pair of heels to the defence to double her try tally for the tournament.
Leinster remain top of the table, sitting on 10 points with Connacht, their final round opponents, just one behind. Leinster boss Neville knows his troops will have to lift their game even more this weekend, saying: “We were really happy to get the result against a strong Ulster side in Portadown. When we played well we showed what we’re capable of, however we were inconsistent at times and will have to improve for the final game against Connacht.”
– Photos by Tony McGuinness/Wicklow RFC
ULSTER U-18 WOMEN: Ruth Gilsenan (Virginia); Sophie Kinghan (Monaghan), Amanda McQuade (Virginia), Kelly McCormill (Monaghan), Emma Ryan (Virginia); Lisa Mullen (Virginia), Amber Redmond (Virginia); Ella Garland (Monaghan), Aoife Cahill (Malone), Ava Fannin (Virginia), Sorcha Higgins (Virginia), Naomi McCord (Malone), Lucy Turkington (Dungannon), Katie Hetherington (Clogher Valley) (capt), Ciara Byers (Virginia).
Replacements: Cara O’Neill (Malone), Delyth Cook (Ballyclare), Hannah Cooney (Malone), Fern Wilson (Malone), India Daley (Enniskillen), Zoe Rafferty (City of Armagh), Zara Flack (Enniskillen), Suzi Antonia McCartney (Larne).
LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN: Ella Roberts (Wicklow); Caoimhe O’Callaghan (Dundalk), Ali Miley (Naas), Kathryn Dempsey (New Ross), Molly Fitzgerald (Navan); Ava Jenkins (Mullingar), Jane Waters (Tullamore); Meadhbh O’Callaghan (Dundalk), Jessica Keating (Old Belvedere), Rachel Murtagh (Naas RFC), Judy Bobbett (Blackrock) (capt), Holly Leach (MU Barnhall), Katelynn Doran (Cill Dara), Niamh Hickey (Tullamore), Meadbh Scally (Mullingar).
Replacements: Emily Slater (Arklow), Ellie Meade (Ardee), Nicola Gibson (Westmanstown), Ivanna Dempsey (Clane), Rachel Winters (Wicklow), Ciara Carbery (Cill Dara), Kate Farrell (Gorey), Ciara Faulkner (Mullingar).
Referee: Keane Davison (IRFU)
IRFU UNDER-18 WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 3 FIXTURES:
Saturday, September 15 –
MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN (4th) v ULSTER U-18 WOMEN (3rd), Parsonstown, MU Barnhall RFC, 1pm
LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN (1st) v CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN (2nd), Parsonstown, MU Barnhall RFC, 2.45pm
TOP SCORERS AFTER TWO ROUNDS:
30 – Beibhinn Parsons (Connacht)
15 – Lisa Mullen (Ulster)
14 – Meabh Deely (Connacht)
10 – Ella Roberts (Leinster), Molly Fitzgerald (Leinster), Ali Miley (Leinster)
8 – Ava Jenkins (Leinster)
6 – Beibhinn Parsons (Connacht)
2 – Ella Roberts (Leinster), Molly Fitzgerald (Leinster), Ali Miley (Leinster)
1 – Grace Browne Moran (Connacht), Molly Fitzgerald (Leinster), Ali Miley (Leinster), Ciara Carbery (Leinster), Kathryn Dempsey (Leinster), Jessica Keating (Leinster), Maggie Boylan (Munster), Rebecca Hayes (Munster), Gemma Lane (Munster), Maeve O’Leary (Munster), Naomi McCord (Ulster), Lisa Mullen (Ulster), Ava Fannin (Ulster)