Defending champions Leinster’s 34-6 triumph over Connacht ensures that they are top of the table on scoring difference after the first round of IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship matches.
Munster matched their arch rivals’ bonus point return with a 38-12 success against Ulster at Irish Independent Park. They had a brace of tries from flanker Chloe Pearse to add to efforts from Laura O’Mahony, Clodagh O’Halloran, Kate Sheehan and Niamh Kavanagh, who tore onto a Rachel Allen-Connolly pass and raced over from outside the Ulster 22.
Ulster opened the scoring in the very first minute as centre Maeve Liston broke clear in midfield and angled her run to evade the cover. Fiona Tuite also crossed from a Vicky Irwin pass in the first half, but Pearse, the new Munster co-captain, was impressed with her side’s resolve.
“We never even got going and we found ourselves seven points behind,” admitted Pearse. “But we trusted our process. We had our set piece and with the calibre of our backs, they’re always going to finish once you give them that platform.
“We did well to get back in the game and our defence at the start of the second half was really solid, so we just need to fine tune a few things before going up to Connacht next week.”
Munster were 19-12 clear at half-time, with some great continuity off a Pearse quick tap leading to lock O’Halloran scoring and hooker Sheehan also plunged over from a lineout maul. They secured their bonus point on the hour mark with Pearse’s first try as she picked from a close-in ruck and crashed over.
“Objective achieved,” said Munster head coach Laura Guest, whose charges faced some stiff opposition throughout from the likes of Irwin, Neve Jones, Kathryn Dane, Ilse van Staden, captain Beth Cregan and loosehead Emma Kearney, one of Ulster’s five new caps in the squad.
“It’s very close to being the best we could have looked for out of today. We lost Niamh Briggs to injury but that didn’t change our focus. We’re a squad. We’re a team. Players switched back onto their job as soon as she went off. Let’s hope it’s not too serious. It’s too early too tell.”
Making history as part of a Donnybrook double header with the men’s team, title holders Leinster got their campaign up and running with a winning start against Connacht. It is their second season with Ben Armstong and Sene Naoupu as head coach and captain respectively.
The game marked a welcome return after a difficult year with injury for scrum half Ailsa Hughes who teed up the first try for Hannah O’Connor with a quickly-taken penalty. Under-18 graduate Meabh Deely responded with two penalties for Connacht whose scrum had started strongly.
However, the visitors’ 17th-minute lead was erased by two well-taken Leinster tries. Number 8 O’Connor’s charge up the middle and accurate passing culminated in full-back Larissa Muldoon, on her debut, putting Grace Miller over in the left corner.
Then it was Naoupu’s turn to split the defence for Hughes to be rewarded for a fine support line. O’Connor converted the 23rd-minute try, leaving it 17-6 for half-time. Chances were few and far between as play was mostly slugged out between the 22-metre lines as the first half drew to a close.
While Leinster made inroads when they lifted the tempo, Connacht were faring better when they could lean on their set piece. Aoibheann Reilly, one of last year’s Interpro title-winning Under-18s, probed with a clever chip over the top but full-back Muldoon was equal to the task.
The next score was crucial and it fell to Leinster as their ex-Connacht flanker Niamh Ní Dhroma drove low to bump off a tackle and touch down in the 58th minute. The hosts held firm during Muldoon’s subsequent sin-binning and made sure they finished with a flourish.
Leinster replacement Meabh O’Brien hoovered up a loose ball to accelerate away from 70 metres out and score the penultimate try. There was still time for Michelle Claffey to mark her return from ankle surgery with the closing score with 80 minutes on the clock.
IRFU WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 1 RESULTS:
MUNSTER WOMEN 38 ULSTER WOMEN 12, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Munster Women: Tries: Laura O’Mahony, Clodagh O’Halloran, Kate Sheehan, Chloe Pearse 2, Niamh Kavanagh; Cons: Niamh Briggs 2, Rachel Allen-Connolly 2
Ulster Women: Tries: Maeve Liston, Fiona Tuite; Con: Jemma Jackson
HT: Munster Women 12 Ulster Women 7
MUNSTER WOMEN: Niamh Briggs (UL Bohemians); Laura O’Mahony (UL Bohemians), Enya Breen (UL Bohemians), Claire Keohane (Railway Union), Eimear Considine (UL Bohemians) (capt); Rachel Allen-Connolly (UL Bohemians), Christine Coffey (Thurles); Fiona Hayes (UL Bohemians), Kate Sheehan (UL Bohemians), Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemians), Clodagh O’Halloran (UL Bohemians), Ciara O’Halloran (Shannon), Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemians) (co-capt), Grainne Fennelly (Thurles), Sarah Quin (UL Bohemians).
Replacements: Edel Murphy (UL Bohemians), Sarah O’Gorman (UL Bohemians), Roisin Ormond (Ballincollig), Sarah Garrett (UL Bohemians), Dorothy Wall (Fethard & District), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemians), Niamh Kavanagh (UL Bohemians), Laura Sheehan (UL Bohemians).
ULSTER WOMEN: Ella Durkan (Malone); Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere), Maeve Liston (Cooke), Vicky Irwin (Cooke), Emma Jordan (Malone); Jemma Jackson (Old Belvedere), Kathryn Dane (Old Belvedere); Emma Kearney (Cooke), Neve Jones (Malone), Ilse van Staden (Cooke), Hannah Beattie (Malone), Keelin Brady (MU Barnhall), Lauren Maginnes (Malone), Beth Cregan (Cooke) (capt), Shannon Buller (Queen’s University).
Replacements: Stacey-Lea Kennedy (City of Derry), Megan Brodie (Harlequins), Shannon Heapes (Cooke), Chloe McIlwaine (Malone), Katie Hetherington (Cooke), Kelly McCormill (Cooke), Diane Ramsay (Queen’s University), Lisa Mullen (Virginia).
LEINSTER WOMEN 34 CONNACHT WOMEN 6, Energia Park
Scorers: Leinster Women: Tries: Hannah O’Connor, Grace Miller, Ailsa Hughes, Niamh Ní Dhroma, Meabh O’Brien, Michelle Claffey; Cons: Hannah O’Connor 2
Connacht Women: Pens: Meabh Deely 2
HT: Leinster Women 17 Connacht Women 6
LEINSTER WOMEN: Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union); Megan Williams (Old Belvedere), Elise O’Byrne-White (Old Belvedere), Michelle Claffey (Blackrock), Grace Miller (Old Belvedere); Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere) (capt), Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union); Lindsay Peat (Railway Union), Chloe Blackmore (Railway Union), Linda Djougang (Old Belvedere), Clodagh Dunne (Old Belvedere), Elaine Anthony (Old Belvedere), Juliet Short (Railway Union), Niamh Ní Dhroma (Old Belvedere), Hannah O’Connor (Blackrock).
Replacements: Lisa Callan (Railway Union), Christy Haney (Blackrock), Katie O’Dwyer (Railway Union), Daisy Earle (Railway Union), Rachel Horan (CYM), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Railway Union), Gemma Matthews (Old Belvedere), Meabh O’Brien (Suttonians).
CONNACHT WOMEN: Mairead Coyne (Galwegians); Orla Dixon (Galwegians), Catherine Martin (Suttonians), Shannon Touhey (Galwegians), Aoibheann Reilly (Ballinasloe); Meabh Deely (Ballinasloe), Mary Healy (Galwegians); Laura Feely (Galwegians), Moya Griffin (Tullamore), Anne-Marie O’Hora (Galwegians), Denise Redmond (Galwegians), Tara Buggie (Galwegians), Ciara Farrell (Tullamore), Edel McMahon (Galwegians), Nichola Fryday (Galwegians) (capt).
Replacements: Lisa Carroll (Wesport), Katie Murray (Tullamore), Elizabeth McNicholas (Tuam), Aifric O’Brien (Suttonians), Shannen Lane (Galwegians), Rebecca Gavin (Westport), Ursula Sammon (Galwegians), Aisling Brosnan (Co. Carlow).
IRFU UNDER-18 WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 1 RESULTS:
MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN 12 ULSTER U-18 WOMEN 17, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Munster U-18 Women: Tries: Penalty Try, Aoibhinn O’Loughlin
Ulster U-18 Women: Farrah McCloskey, Rachel McGee 2; Con: Moya Hill
HT: Munster U-18 Women 12 Ulster U-18 Women 7
MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN: Vivienne O’Donovan (Skibbereen); Aoife Corey (Ennis), Saskia Morrissey (Kilrush), Alana McInerney (Ennis), Aoibhinn O’Loughlin (Ennis); Emma Connolly (Skibbereen), Courtney Duhig (St. Mary’s); Eileen Gleeson (Nenagh Ormond), Sarah Murphy (Kanturk) (capt), Erika Kiely (Carrick-on-Suir), Eilish Cahill (Ennis), Aine Enright (Listowel), Aaliyah Te Pou (Shannon), Faye Dowling (Fethard & District), Eimear Minihan (Skibbereen).
Replacements: Rebecca Collins (St. Mary’s), Chloe Ann O’Driscoll (Skibbereen), Niamh Thornton (Skibbereen) , Marea Walsh (Shannon), Alex O’Sullivan (Skibbereen), Clodagh McMahon (Kilrush), Roisin Houlihane (Ballina/Kilaloe), Jennifer Fogarty (Fethard & District).
ULSTER U-18 WOMEN: Farrah McCloskey (Enniskillen); Sophie Kinghan (Dundalk), Zara Flack (Enniskillen), Moya Hill (Enniskillen), Lucy Thompson (Enniskillen); Toni Macartney (Larne), Sarah Shrestha (Dungannon); Ella Garland (Cooke), Aoife Cahill (Malone), Ava Fannin (Virginia) (capt), Kim Johnston (Dungannon), Taryn Schutzler (Malone), Sophie Barrett (Enniskillen), Erin Carson (Malone), India Daley (Enniskillen).
Replacements: Cara O’Neill (Malone), Hannah Cooney (Malone), Delyth Cook (Ballyclare), Samantha Cassidy Campbell (Ballyclare), Rachel McGee (Ballyshannon), Lauren Kilfedder (Enniskillen), Emma Ryan (Virginia), Jenna Corkey (City of Armagh).
LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN 39 CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN 10, Parsonstown, MU Barnhall RFC
Scorers: Leinster U-18 Women: Tries: Rachel Conroy, Aoife Wafer 2, Kathryn Dempsey, Katie Whelan, Ciara Faulkner 2; Cons: Ava Jenkins 2
Connacht U-18 Women: Tries: Caoimhe English McNamara, Faith Oviawe
HT Leinster U-18 Women 27 Connacht U-18 Women 10
LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN: Lauren Patterson (North Meath); Laura Carty (Edenderry), Ciara Faulkner (Tullamore), Kathryn Dempsey (New Ross), Rachel Conroy (Tullamore); Ava Jenkins (Mullingar), Katie Whelan (Enniscorthy); Rachel Murtagh (Naas), Emily Slater (Arklow), Megan Collis (Greystones), Holly Leach (MU Barnhall), Dara Yore (North Meath), Erin King (Naas), Aoife Wafer (Enniscorthy), Ellie Meade (Dundalk) (capt).
Replacements: Ellen Murray (Naas), Emily Jo White (North Meath), Eimear Douglas (Wicklow), Ivanna Dempsey (Naas), Hannah Foxe (Tullamore), Beth Roberts (Wicklow), Emma Kelly (Tullamore), Orla Hayes (Ashbourne).
CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN: Caoimhe English McNamara (Westport); Katie Hogan (Westport), Alana Roche (Connemara), Maeve Muldoon (Ballinasloe), Fodhla Ni Bhraonain (Corinthians); Megan Walsh (Connemara), Olivia Haverty (Portumna); Mary McLoughlin (Westport), Emily Gavin (Ballinasloe), Zara Grehen (Ballinasloe), Eva McCormack (Westport), Aisling Hahessy (Claremorris Colts), Mollie Starr (Portumna), Hannah Johnston (Sligo), Faith Oviawe (Buccaneers).
Replacements: Molly Ager (Claremorris Colts), Aimee Kelly (Buccaneers), Leah Hogarty (Ballinasloe), Rachel Larkin (Ballinasloe), Aisling Browne (Westport), Caoimhe Geraghty (Corinthians), Katelyn Bourke (Ballina), Nina McVann (Ballina).