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Connacht Come Out On Top In Tight U-18 Interpro Girls Decider

Connacht Come Out On Top In Tight U-18 Interpro Girls Decider

Led by captain Sarah Purcell, Connacht celebrate with the trophy following the PwC Under-18 Girls Interprovincial Championship final at Dubarry Park ©INPHO/Tom Maher

Connacht completed a memorable unbeaten campaign with a hard-fought 8-5 victory over Leinster in the PwC Under-18 Girls Interprovincial Championship final at Buccaneers RFC.


Sunday, February 18 –

Scorers: Connacht U-18s: Try: Emily Foley; Pen: Siofra Hession
Leinster U-18s: Try: Sadhbh Furlong
HT: Connacht U-18s 5 Leinster U-18s 0

Emily Foley’s sixth-minute try proved to be the only score of a fiercely-contested first half, as Craig Hansberry’s charges showed some of the form which saw them go unbeaten during the group stages.

Player-of-the-match Siofra Hession extended Connacht’s lead to eight points, and despite a Sadhbh Furlong try in response, Leinster were unable to force a levelling or match-winning score during a tense finale.

Having beaten Leinster 19-15 back in September, the westerners completed a famous double over last season’s champions. Victorious captain Sarah Purcell was presented with the Interprovincial trophy by Yvonne Comer, Chair of the IRFU Women’s Sub Committee.

Connacht’s triumph brought back memories of their maiden U-18 Interpro title success back in 2018, when current senior internationals Béibhinn Parsons, Méabh Deely, and Aoibheann Reilly were involved.

With a high standard of play and plenty of emerging talent on show across all four provinces, a number of these players will go on to join forces for Ireland as they compete in the upcoming U-18 Women’s Six Nations Festival in Colwyn Bay in Wales.

Table toppers from the round robin phase, Connacht were eager to lay down an early marker and got a territorial grip on the game but two turnovers showed how disruptive Leinster could be at the breakdown.

However, Jemima Adams Verling and Jemma Lees combined in a ball-dislodging tackle, handing Connacht possession just inside the opposition 22. They calmly worked it wide for Hession to slip a one-handed pass out for Foley to finish off in the left corner.

Lively number 8 Usha Daly O’Toole made a big midfield carry for Leinster, with skipper Alex O’Connor’s well-judged kick pinning Connacht back, deep inside their own 22. However, the westerners were steady on their own ball.

Leinster did work some space out wide for winger Clara Dunne, but Connacht were quick to close her down. Hession clawed back the territory on a flying 40-metre break, only to miss out on connecting with her support.

Creggs back rower Adams Verling was leading an impressive breakdown display from Connacht, who forced a number of penalties. Yet, they could not turn the possession into points as a series of knock-ons, in the face of some tigerish Leinster tackling, halted their progress.

Connacht were a whisker away from a try, closing in on half-time. Hession’s pass to Foley did not go to hand, with the covering Emma Brogan doing just enough to put her off. Leinster did lose lock Erin McFadden to the sin bin for infringing near their try-line.

The final pass was the missing link again for the fast-breaking Hession, early in the second half. Leinster responded with a brilliant run from Carla Cloney, McFadden’s second row partner, to take them back up to the halfway line.

Nonetheless, with Lees and Hession continuing to make ground off quick ruck ball, the latter slotted over a central penalty to extend Connacht’s lead to eight points.

Boosted by Alma Atagamen’s impact off the bench, Leinster gained a foothold inside the opposition 22 with a midfield scrum. Some powerful carries, including two from Atagamen, ended with Greystones centre Furlong crossing in the left corner to close the gap to 8-5.

The Derek Maybury-coached Blues were unable to capitalise on a surging break by Atagamen, although Shannon Codd’s hard work in defending a maul soon won turnover ball. Crucially though, Connacht won two scrums against the head late on.

Leinster could not get back into scoring range, and the final concluded with Connacht earning a penalty near halfway, as the ever-industrious Adams Verling and Meabh Flannery both dug in at the breakdown to effectively seal the result.

CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS: Aoife Heaney (Claremorris Colts RFC); Saoirse Lawley (Sligo RFC), Sarah Purcell (Creggs RFC) (capt), Siofra Hession (Creggs RFC), Emily Foley (Ballina RFC); Jemma Lees (Galway Corinthians RFC), Grainne Moran (Ballina RFC); Ciara Corrigan (Creggs RFC), Uillin Eilian (Tuam/Oughterard RFC), Ella Burns (Tuam/Oughterard RFC), Catherine Fleming (Ballinasloe RFC), Chloe Conneely (Tuam/Oughterard RFC), Merisa Kiripati (Creggs RFC), Ailish Quinn (Ballina RFC), Jemima Adams Verling (Creggs RFC).

Replacements: Louise Seoighe (Tuam/Oughterard RFC), Amy Horan (Ballinrobe RFC), Isabelle Quinn (Creggs RFC), Alannah McKeigue (Ballinasloe RFC), Aisling Whyte (Galway Corinthians RFC), Katie McNamara (Loughrea RFC), Shauna Walsh (Creggs RFC), Róisín Power (Ballinasloe RFC).

LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS: Sophie Cullen (Naas RFC); Emma Brogan (Navan RFC), Sadhbh Furlong (Greystones RFC), Caoimhe McCormack (Mullingar RFC), Clara Dunne (Wicklow RFC); Meabh O’Hara (Mullingar RFC), Alex Connor (Navan RFC) (capt); Kate Noons (Cill Dara RFC), Bronagh Boggan (Wexford Wanderers RFC), Lily Byrne (Skerries RFC), Carla Cloney (Enniscorthy RFC), Erin McFadden (Balbriggan RFC), Isobel O’Sullivan (Greystones RFC), Aoife Corcoran (Coolmine RFC), Usha Daly O’Toole (Gorey RFC).

Replacements: Avril Whittle (Portarlington RFC), Shannon Codd (Wexford Wanderers RFC), Emma Jane Wilson (Cill Dara RFC), Alma Atagamen (Balbriggan RFC), Sarah Moody (Greystones RFC), Aoibhe Kelly (Tullamore RFC), Abby Healy (Wicklow RFC), Sorcha Tierney (Tullamore RFC).

Referee: Daniel O’Connell (IRFU)