Leinster are the only unbeaten team after the opening two rounds of the IRFU Under-18 Women’s Interprovincial Championship. Connacht claimed their first win thanks to two second half tries against Munster at the Sportsground.
Heading north on the back of a 39-10 bonus point victory over Connacht, Niall Neville’s Leinster side turned in a strong first half performance to lay the foundations for a 38-20 triumph over hosts Ulster in Armagh.
The provinces produced a 10-try thriller at City of Armagh Rugby Club where Leinster were lethal from turnovers. Laura Carty and Rachel Conroy, two members of their threatening back-three, touched down inside the opening quarter.
The Ulster pack led a determined response, building through the phases before Virgina winger Emma Ryan was released to score. However, Leinster centre Ciara Faulkner crossed for her third try of the tournament and Emily Jo White, the North Meath prop, showed impressive strength on a rampaging run to the line.
Those scores left Ulster 24-5 adrift at the break, and although Leinster captain Ellie Meade notched their fifth try on the resumption, the Charlie Farrell and Zoe Templeton-coached home side began to make serious inroads with much better ball retention and attacking shape.
It was prop Ella Garland who forced her way over for a galvanising try, before Naas Lock Ivanna Dempsey grabbed her second try in the space of a week. Ulster showed their mettle, though, as closing scores from Lucy Thompson and Sarah Shrestha, who broke two tackles on a pacy run to the line, ensured they pocketed a deserved bonus point.
Leinster head coach Neville said afterwards: “We’re happy with the result which puts us in a really good position to push for top seeding in the semi-finals. All credit to Ulster as it was a really tough game and they fought hard all the way through, scoring three second half tries.
“We know that if we meet them again we’ll have to be at our best. We’re away to Munster in Cork in the final group game (next Saturday) and that is never an easy task. They will be disappointed to have had a second loss at the weekend.
“That means they’ll be even more determined to try and finish the group stage with a win. Our focus is on building on the momentum of the first two games and to finish the group stage in a good position going into the semi-finals.”
While Leinster and Ulster lead the way on 10 and five points respectively, Connacht have moved up the table into third place after their hard-fought 10-0 defeat of Munster at the Sportsground. The first half was scoreless with both defensive lines proving resilient.
Ireland U-18 Sevens international Ivana Kiripati and fellow back rower Faith Oviawe proved to be the game-breakers for Fraser Gow’s charges, with the pair’s strength and speed on the ball proving too much for the scrambling Munster tacklers.
Kiripati burst onto a pass from Mary McLoughlin, breaking in between two defenders from just outside the Munster 22 and creating an opening with an arcing run and a big hand-off. The Buccaneers number 8 was eventually brought down but got her offload away for Ballinasloe winger Hannah Gullane to finish off the try.
A second unconverted effort wrapped up the result despite Munster’s best efforts to hit back. Hannah Johnston and Olivia Haverty gained ground with their carries, past the visitors’ 22-metre line, before try scorer Oviawe embarked on an electric run to the line, getting by a series of defenders with her injection of pace and a couple of hefty fends.
IRFU UNDER-18 WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 2 RESULTS:
CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN 10 MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN 0, the Sportsground
Scorers: Connacht U-18 Women: Tries: Hannah Gullane, Faith Oviawe
Munster U-18 Women: –
HT: Connacht U-18 Women 0 Munster U-18 Women 0
CONNACHT U-18 WOMEN: Caoimhe English McNamara (Westport); Hannah Gullane (Ballinasloe), Fodhla Ni Bhraonain (Corinthians), Megan Walsh (Connemara), Nina McVann (Ballina); Caoimhe Geraghty (Corinthians), Olivia Haverty (Portumna); Hannah Coen (Creggs), Emily Gavin (Ballinasloe), Aimee Kelly (Buccaneers), Eva McCormack (Westport), Aisling Hahessy (Claremorris Colts), Katelyn Bourke (Ballina), Hannah Johnston (Sligo), Ivana Kiripati (Buccaneers).
Replacements: Molly Ager (Claremorris Colts), Zara Grehan (Ballinasloe), Mary McLoughlin (Westport), Leah Hogarty (Ballinasloe), Faith Oviawe (Buccaneers), Aisling Browne (Westport), Avril Deely (Ballinasloe), Alana Roche (Oughterard).
MUNSTER U-18 WOMEN: Aoibhinn O’Loughlin (Ennis); Saskia Morrissey (Kilrush), Aoife Corey (Ennis), Alana McInerney (Ennis), Jennifer Fogarty (Fethard & District); Emma Connolly (Skibbereen), Clodagh McMahon (Kilrush); Eileen Gleeson (Nenagh), Sarah Murphy (Kanturk) (capt), Niamh Thornton (Skibbereen), 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), Erika Kiely (Carrick-on-Suir), Marea Walsh (Shannon), Alex O’Sullivan (Skibbereen), Abbie Salter Townsend (Skibbereen), Emer Tuohy (Nenagh), Roisin Houlihane (Ballina/Killaloe).
ULSTER U-18 WOMEN 20 LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN 38, Palace Grounds, City of Armagh RFC
Scorers: Ulster U-18 Women: Tries: Emma Ryan, Ella Garland, Lucy Thompson, Sarah Shrestha
Leinster U-18 Women: Tries: Ivanna Dempsey, Emily Jo White, Laura Carty, Ciara Faulkner, Elle Meade, Rachel Conroy; Cons: Ava Jenkins 3, Ciara Faulkner
HT: Ulster U-18 Women 5 Leinster U-18 Women 24
ULSTER U-18 WOMEN: Farrah McCloskey (Enniskillen); Sophie Kinghan (Dundalk), Lucy Thompson (Enniskillen), Moya Hill (Enniskillen), Emma Ryan (Virginia); Toni Macartney (Larne), Sarah Shrestha (Dungannon); Ella Garland (Cooke), Aoife Cahill (Malone), Ava Fannin (Virginia) (capt), Kim Johnston (Dungannon), Taryn Schutzler (Malone), Rachel McGee (Ballyshannon), Erin Carson (Malone), Sophie Barrett (Enniskillen).
Replacements: Cara O’Neill (Malone), Hannah Cooney (Malone), Delyth Cook (Ballyclare), Samantha Cassidy Campbell (Ballyclare), Jennifer Collins (Donaghadee), Lauren Kilfedder (Enniskillen), Jana McQuillan (Larne), Jenna Corkey (City of Armagh).
LEINSTER U-18 WOMEN: Laura Carty (Edenderry); Orla Hayes (Ashbourne), Ciara Faulkner (Tullamore), Emma Kelly (Tullamore), Rachel Conroy (Tullamore); Ava Jenkins (Mullingar), Beth Roberts (Wicklow); Emily Jo White (North Meath), Ellen Murray (Naas), Eimear Douglas (Wicklow), Ivanna Dempsey (Naas), Dara Yore (North Meath), Hannah Foxe (Tullamore), Erin King (Naas), Ellie Meade (Dundalk) (capt).
Replacements: Emily Slater (Arklow), Rachel Murtagh (Naas), Oreoluwa Oluteju (Cill Dara), Nina Hjalmers (Dundalk), Aoife Wafer (Enniscorthy), Katie Whelan (Enniscorthy), Kathryn Dempsey (New Ross), Vicky Elms Kinlan (Wicklow).
IRFU UNDER-18 WOMEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – TOP SCORERS AFTER ROUND 2:
17 – Ciara Faulkner (Leinster)
10 – Rachel Conroy (Leinster), Ava Jenkins (Leinster), Rachel McGee (Ulster), Faith Oviawe (Connacht), Aoife Wafer (Leinster)
5 – Laura Carty (Leinster), Ivanna Dempsey (Leinster), Kathryn Dempsey (Leinster), Caoimhe English McNamara (Connacht), Ella Garland (Ulster), Hannah Gullane (Connacht), Farrah McCloskey (Ulster), Ellie Meade (Leinster), Aoibhinn O’Loughlin (Munster), Emma Ryan (Ulster), Sarah Shrestha (Ulster), Lucy Thompson (Ulster), Katie Whelan (Leinster), Emily Jo White (Leinster)
3 – Ciara Faulkner (Leinster)
2 – Rachel Conroy (Leinster), Rachel McGee (Ulster), Faith Oviawe (Connacht), Aoife Wafer (Leinster)
1 – Laura Carty (Leinster), Ivanna Dempsey (Leinster), Kathryn Dempsey (Leinster), Caoimhe English McNamara (Connacht), Ella Garland (Ulster), Hannah Gullane (Connacht), Farrah McCloskey (Ulster), Ellie Meade (Leinster), Aoibhinn O’Loughlin (Munster), Emma Ryan (Ulster), Sarah Shrestha (Ulster), Lucy Thompson (Ulster), Katie Whelan (Leinster), Emily Jo White (Leinster)