Leinster Pass Tough Connacht Test To Retain U-18 Girls Interpro Crown
Watching Ireland Women’s head coach Greg McWilliams was impressed with the emerging talent on show as Leinster overhauled Connacht to be crowned PwC IRFU Under-18 Girls Interprovincial champions. Mick Bolger’s Leinster side made it three wins on the trot with a hard-fought 15-7 success at Energia Park, with an Emma Brogan brace of tries sandwiching a 52nd-minute score from Ireland U-18 lock Koren Dunne. Connacht’s campaign, which began so brightly against Munster, has been disrupted in recent weeks, the tragic passing of centre Molly Boote’s mother Gina seeing this game be rescheduled, and their clash with Ulster was also postponed. Nonetheless, Craig Hansberry’s charges put in a terrific performance in Donnybrook, particularly in the first half, before Leinster, led superbly by captain Abby Moyles, struck at vital stages of the second period. It was an absorbing, high-quality contest and, as McWilliams noted, a number of players, including those involved in the IRFU Women’s National Talent Squad, certainly have the attributes to push on for senior and international selection. From last year’s corresponding fixture, Leinster’s Aoife Wafer, Dannah O’Brien, Emma Tilly, Aoife Dalton, Leah Tarpey (all 15s), Vicky Elmes Kinlan and Erin King (both Sevens) have since been capped at senior level by Ireland. PWC IRFU UNDER-18 GIRLS INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 2: Saturday, September 17 LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS 15 CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS 7, Energia Park Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Emma Brogan 2, Koren Dunne Connacht: Try: Emily Foley; Con: Éabha Nic Dhonnacha HT: Leinster 5 Connacht 7 The breakdown was fiercely contested right from the off, while Connacht laid down early markers through Roisin Maher’s strong carrying and flanker Beibhinn Gleeson landing a bone-crunching tackle on Dunne. Leinster’s leading try scorer, Amy Larn, showed her pace again to threaten out wide from turnover ball, before a wraparound move led by Moyles was spoiled by a knock-on from the Navan out-half. Connacht’s back-three increased their influence and there was a deserved breakthrough in the 10th minute, much to the delight of the vocal travelling support. Karly Tierney’s hard-earned turnover and Ailish Quinn’s well-timed pass released Foley to evade a despairing tackle from Robyn O’Connor and score in impressive fashion from just outside the Leinster 22. With captain Éabha Nic Dhonnacha converting with a crisp strike from the left, Connacht were seven points to the good and managed to absorb Leinster’s immediate bout of pressure, forcing two knock-ons. Still, as well as winning a scrum against the head, the girls in blue were beginning to string the phases together and a well-won turnover penalty from hooker Ava Kavanagh kept them on top in terms of territory. Connacht’s pacy back-three blazed downfield courtesy of openside Gleeson’s neat break and offload, but the move petered out and Leinster hit back with an 26th-minute unconverted score thanks to some incisive running by their skipper. Moyles cut back in against the grain, darting up into the Connacht 22 and getting her hands free in a double tackle to send the supporting Brogan over to the right of the posts. Connacht had most of the territorial pressure approaching the interval, with the impressive Mila Sotoparra and tighthead Maher consistently gaining ground and they also had a last-minute scrum in front of the posts. However, Leinster stood firm, their ability to counter ruck and pick up turnovers – number 8 Jane Neill nabbed one of them – a crucial asset along with busy centre Cara Martin’s knack of beating defenders from deep. There was no let up in the quality and speed of the game when the second half got underway. Both defences gave very little away until Leinster’s fast-stepping full-back O’Connor initiated an attacking wave. The Blues were beginning to turn the screw, Martin hurtling through off a lineout before her centre partner Eva Sterritt was just held up over the try-line. A knock-on spoilt a subsequent break by Sterritt. The try they craved came just a few moments later, Leinster attacking out to the left off a five-metre scrum and their determined retention of the ball was rewarded when Dunne crashed over from a Jade Gaffney pass. Moyles missed the conversion on the near side, leaving it 10-7 with 17 minutes remaining, but Leinster continued to pierce the Connacht defence with the intelligent running of O’Connor and Martin. Prudence Isaac sucked in two defenders on the edge of the westerners’ 22, her offload allowing the hosts to release Brogan who cut inside Sotoparra and grounded the ball despite the best efforts of Tierney and Niamh Corless. After Moyles pulled the conversion wide, both teams launched promising late breaks. Lovely hands had Connacht replacement Rhona O’Dea on the charge, before Sterritt stormed back for Leinster whose cohesion in defence prevented the visitors from responding. LEINSTER U-18 GIRLS: Robyn O’Connor (Wexford Wanderers RFC); Emma Brogan (Navan RFC), Eva Sterritt (Greystones RFC), Cara Martin (Navan RFC), Amy Larn (Athy RFC); Abby Moyles (Navan RFC) (capt), Jade Gaffney (Navan RFC); Hannah Wilson (Old Belvedere RFC), Ava Kavanagh (Arklow RFC), Isobel Clerk (Mullingar RFC), Koren Dunne (Portlaoise RFC), Cliodhna Ní Chonchobhair (Balbriggan RFC), Prudence Isaac (Arklow RFC), Orla Wafer (Enniscorthy RFC), Jane Neill (Arklow RFC). Replacements: Kelly Burke (Mullingar RFC), Lauren Fitzpatrick (Navan RFC), Abigail Keatley Kindregan (Athy RFC), Blathnaid Smith (Portarlington RFC), Ava Galvin (Navan RFC), Eve Prendergast (New Ross RFC), Abaigeal Connon (Tullamore RFC), Fiona Fennessy (Athy RFC). CONNACHT U-18 GIRLS: Hannah Clarke (Tuam/Oughterard RFC/St. Paul’s, Oughterard); Mila Sotoparra (Ballina RFC/St. Joseph’s, Foxford), Molly Boote (Tuam/Oughterard RFC/Clifden Community School), Éabha Nic Dhonnacha (Tuam/Oughterard RFC/Scoil Chumsitheach Chiaráin) (capt), Emily Foley (Ballina RFC/Jesus and Mary Secondary School, Enniscrone); Clara Barrett (Ballina RFC/St. Brendan’s College, Belmullet), Grainne Moran (Ballina RFC/Gortnor Abbey, Crossmolina); Ella Burns (Tuam/Oughterard RFC/Dunmore Community School), Ellen O’Toole (Westport RFC/Sancta Maria College), Roisin Maher (Creggs RFC/Convent of Mercy, Roscommon), Grainne Hahessy (Claremorris Colts/Mount Saint Michael, Claremorris), Sarah McCormick (Ballina RFC/Gortnor Abbey, Crossmolina), Ailish Quinn (Ballina RFC/St. Mary’s Secondary School, Ballina), Beibhinn Gleeson (Tuam/Oughterard RFC/Scoil Bhride, Mercy Secondary School, Tuam), Karly Tierney (Tuam/Oughterard RFC/Salerno Secondary School, Salthill). Replacements: Ella Green (Ballinasloe RFC/Ardscoil Mhuire Ballinasloe), Niamh Corless (Claremorris Colts/Mount Saint Michael, Claremorris), Jemima Adams Verling (Creggs RFC/Colaiste Mhuire, Ballygar), Rhona O’Dea (Claremorris Colts/Mount Saint Michael, Claremorris), Laura Hastings (Tuam/Oughterard RFC/Presentation College Headford), Abbie Murray (Buccaneers RFC/Colaiste Chiarain), Sarah Purcell (Creggs RFC/Convent of Mercy, Roscommon), Cavina Maloney (Gort RFC/St. Raphael’s, Loughrea).