The women’s Interprovincial title went right down to the wire, writes Sarah Lennon
The IRFU women’s Interpro series came to an end on Saturday after a brief three week run. Following the previous 2 weeks matches there was a winner takes all match at Ashbourne between Leinster and Munster and a 3rd place decider between Connacht and Ulster at the Sportsground.
Ulster had been narrowly pipped by Leinster the week before and went into the game with Connacht at the Sportsground as favourites. Connacht had struggled with points in the opening two games securing only one penalty in the two matches, but they did get off the mark with a try scored through Jacqui Mulligan. Ulster proved to be far too strong on the day however with three unconverted tries through Imogen Porter, Stacey-Lea Kennedy, Nikki Caughey, with Caughey also adding a penalty. The Women from Ulster secured 3rd place in the table with a 18-5 win in Galway.
The title decider took place in Ashbourne and promised to be an exciting and close match. Muster were keen to avenge the previous season’s defeat to Leinster in Cork and regain the Interprovincial title that they have dominated in recent seasons. The AIL matches between the top two teams in Munster, UL Bohemian and Highfield and the top team in Leinster, Old Belvedere had all been settled by a single score so a close match was expected. The first 25 minutes were close with neither team able to break the deadlock, but it was Munster who broke through first with a try manufactured by the backs with Niamh Kavanagh going over in the corner. Niamh Briggs wasn’t able to add to the 5 pointer and Munster’s slender lead was chalked off after 32 minutes when Leinster captain Maz Reilly crashed over for a try following good work from the Leinster pack. With Nora Stapleton injured, the Ashbourne crowd were treated to the slightly unusual sight of 2nd Row Reilly converting her own try. Leinster held the slenderest of leads going into the halftime break in what was a predictably close encounter.
Munster came out of the blocks the sharpest in the 2nd period with Ashling Hutchings finishing a good Munster team move, the try was again unconverted but was enough to give Munster a 10-7 lead. Leinster again fought back quickly and scored their second try, this time unconverted, through Aoife Ryan who darted home from close range to give Leinster a 12-10 advantage. The narrow 2 point lead was not enough for Leinster and they looked to add to their tally but to no avail, with time running out Munster secured a penalty in the Leinster half and following a good break from Hutchings, Gillian Bourke forced her way over for Munster’s third try of the match. Again the try went unconverted, but it mattered not as Muster were able to resist the frantic efforts of Leinster in the remaining minutes to hold on to their narrow 3 point lead.
An extraordinarily close match, with the two teams separated by the odd try in 5 and Muster had regained their Interpro title with a hard fought 18-15 win over Leinster.
The curtain has come down on an exciting year in women’s rugby. The women take a few weeks off over Christmas, and so do I, but will return in what promises to be an exciting year with resumption of the provincial leagues and cups, the All Ireland Cup, the women’s 6 nations and the Irish women continue their 7s odyssey with participation in the Guangzhou 7s in March in preparation for the 2013 7s World cup.
Sarah Lennon (@sarahlennon08) is passionate about all things rugby. A Leinster Season Ticket holder since the Donnybrook days, a supporter of the Irish teams home and abroad and can regularly be seen cheering on Junior Rugby at Stillorgan RFC (a labour of love). As well as spectating, she dabbles in playing a bit and is a member of Old Belvedere RFC and fully paid up member of the front row union.