Leinster proved victorious against Connacht 38-10 as Munster kept Ulster scoreless finishing 34-0 in Round 1 of the Vodafone Women's Interprovincial Championship this weekend.
LEINSTER 38 CONNACHT 10, Energia Park
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Ella Roberts, Anna Doyle, Elise O’Byrne-White, Jenny Murphy 2, Katie Whelan; Cons: Dannah O’Brien 3, Hannah O’Connor
Connacht: Try: Orla Dixon; Con: Nicole Fowley; Pen: Nicole Fowley
HT: Leinster 14 Connacht 3
Tullow teenager Dannah O’Brien created two tries and kicked three conversions on her Leinster debut as they beat Connacht 38-10 to give new head coach Tania Rosser a winning start.
Last season’s runners-up launched their challenge for Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship honours with a bonus point triumph, but Connacht made them work for it, particularly during a scoreless opening 30 minutes at Energia Park.
A first half blighted by knock-ons came to life during the closing minutes when Ella Roberts and Anna Doyle touched down for a previously misfiring Leinster, before Connacht’s Nicole Fowley landed a late penalty.
Armed with a 14-3 half-time lead, Rosser’s charges made certain of the result – and maximum points – thanks to further scores from Elise O’Byrne-White, Jenny Murphy (2) and Katie Whelan.
Fowley skilfully set up Orla Dixon to open Connacht’s try account, but the Blues, whose tireless 19-year-old centre Aoife Dalton was the Vodafone player-of-the-match, signed off with two late tries ahead of next week’s trip to Munster.
TIME LINE: 33 minutes – Leinster try: Ella Roberts – 5-0; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 7-0; 36 mins – Leinster try: Anna Doyle – 12-0; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 14-0; 40 mins – Connacht penalty: Nicole Fowley – 14-3; Half-time – Leinster 14 Connacht 3; 45 mins – Connacht penalty: missed by Nicole Fowley – 14-3; 49 mins – Leinster try: Elise O’Byrne-White – 19-3; conversion: missed by Dannah O’Brien – 19-3; 55 mins – Leinster try: Jenny Murphy – 24-3; conversion: Dannah O’Brien – 26-3; 68 mins – Connacht try: Orla Dixon – 26-8; conversion: Nicole Fowley – 26-10; 76 mins – Leinster try: Katie Whelan – 31-10; conversion: missed by Lisa Mullen – 31-10; 80 mins – Leinster try: Jenny Murphy – 36-10; conversion: Hannah O’Connor – 38-10; Full-time – Leinster 38 Connacht 10
LEINSTER: Ella Roberts (Wicklow RFC); Clare Gorman (Old Belvedere RFC), Aoife Dalton (Tullamore RFC/Old Belvedere RFC), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere RFC), Anna Doyle (Tullow RFC/Blackrock College RFC); Dannah O’Brien (Tullow RFC/Old Belvedere RFC), Ailsa Hughes (Tullamore RFC/Railway Union RFC); Niamh O’Dowd (Old Belvedere RFC), Jess Keating (Old Belvedere RFC), Christy Haney (St. Mary’s College RFC/Blackrock College RFC) (co-capt), Aoife McDermott (Railway Union RFC), Eimear Corri (Portlaoise RFC/Blackrock College RFC), Ali Coleman (Blackrock College RFC), Molly Boyne (Dublin University FC/Railway Union RFC), Hannah O’Connor (CYM RFC/Blackrock College RFC) (co-capt).
Replacements used: Aoife Moore (Blackrock College RFC) for Coleman (15 mins), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Garda Westmanstown RFC/Railway Union RFC) for Hughes, Elise O’Byrne-White (Dublin University FC/Old Belvedere RFC) for Gorman (both 47), Elaine Anthony (Old Belvedere RFC) for Corri, Lisa Mullen (Virginia RFC/Blackrock College RFC) for O’Brien (both 62), Lisa Callan (Railway Union RFC) for Keating, Megan Collis (Greystones RFC/Railway Union RFC) for Haney (both 69), Katie Whelan (Enniscorthy RFC/Old Belvedere RFC) for Roberts (75).
CONNACHT: Mairéad Coyne (Galwegians RFC); Ava Ryder (Railway Union RFC), Orla Dixon (Galwegians RFC), Shannon Touhey (Suttonians RFC), Laoise McGonagle (Galwegians RFC); Nicole Fowley (Galwegians RFC), Mary Healy (Galwegians RFC) (capt); Grainne O’Loughlin (Railway Union RFC), Elizabeth McNicholas (Galwegians RFC), Laura Feely (Blackrock College RFC), Fiona Scally (Galwegians RFC), Eva McCormack (UL Bohemian RFC), Grace Browne Moran (Galwegians RFC), Emma Fabby (Railway Union RFC), Lisa-Marie Murphy (Galwegians RFC).
Replacements used: Lily Brady (UL Bohemian RFC) for McNicholas, Niamh O’Grady (Galwegians RFC) for O’Loughlin (both 50 mins), Clara Barrett (UL Bohemian RFC) for McGonagle, Sonia McDermott (Railway Union RFC) for McCormack (both 55), Hannah Coen (Galwegians RFC) for Feely, Orla Fenton (Galwegians RFC) for Murphy, Éabha Nic Dhonnacha (Tuam/Oughterard RFC) for Coyne (all 62), Olivia Haverty (Galwegians RFC) for Healy (64).
Referee: Keane Davison (IRFU)
MUNSTER 34 ULSTER 0, Musgrave Park
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird 2, Stephanie Nunan, Aoife Doyle, Claire Bennett 2; Cons: Nicole Cronin, Kate Flannery
HT: Munster 22 Ulster 0
Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird delivered a stellar player-of-the-match performance as Munster kicked off their Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship title defence with a 34-0 bonus point win over Ulster.
The Ballincollig native excelled for Old Belvedere during the Energia All-Ireland League, and her all-action display at Musgrave Park saw her pick up two tries, make a series of rampaging runs and also switch from number 8 to hooker for the second half.
The driving wind and rain made conditions especially difficult, but it took Munster just 31 minutes to register their bonus point thanks to tries from Nic a Baird, Stephanie Nunan, Aoife Doyle and Claire Bennett.
With 22 points the difference at half-time, Ulster had it all to do and they did take some positives from the game with Ella Durkan playing well at out-half and their scrum recovering from a shaky start.
Despite losing captain Nicole Cronin to injury and the visitors improving in the second half, Munster’s all-international back row of Nic a Bhaird, Dorothy Wall and Maeve Óg O’Leary were too much for the visitors to handle.
Lock Bennett, who plunged over from a lineout maul, and Nic a Bhaird completed their braces to close out a productive first competitive outing for Munster under new head coach Niamh Briggs.
TIME LINE: 7 minutes – Munster try: Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird – 5-0; conversion: missed by Nicole Cronin – 5-0; 12 mins – Munster try: Stephanie Nunan – 10-0; conversion: missed by Nicole Cronin – 10-0; 16 mins – Munster try: Aoife Doyle – 15-0; 31 mins – Munster try: Claire Bennett – 20-0; conversion: Nicole Cronin – 22-0; Half-time – Munster 22 Ulster 0; 64 mins – Munster try: Claire Bennett – 27-0; conversion: missed by Enya Breen – 27-0; 80+1 mins – Munster try: Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird – 32-0; conversion: Kate Flannery – 34-0; Full-time – Munster 34 Ulster 0
MUNSTER: Aoife Corey (UL Bohemian RFC); Aoife Doyle (Railway Union RFC), Stephanie Nunan (UL Bohemian RFC), Enya Breen (Blackrock College RFC), Laura Sheehan (Exeter Chiefs); Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian RFC) (capt), Muirne Wall (UL Bohemian RFC); Róisín Ormond (Ballincollig RFC), Kate Sheehan (UL Bohemian RFC), Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemian RFC), Clodagh O’Halloran (UL Bohemian RFC), Claire Bennett (UL Bohemian RFC), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC), Maeve Óg O’Leary (Blackrock College RFC), Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (Old Belvedere RFC).
Replacements used: Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemian RFC) for Nic a Bhaird (half-time), Kate Flannery (UL Bohemian RFC) for Cronin (43 mins), Nic a Bhaird for Sheehan, Eilís Cahill (UL Bohemian RFC) for Reidy (both 52), Heather Kennedy (Ballincollig RFC) for Sheehan, Ciara Farrell (UL Bohemian RFC) for O’Halloran (both 60), Geena Behan (UL Bohemian RFC) for Ormond, Gillian Coombes (Ballincollig RFC) for Bennett, Alana McInerney (UL Bohemian RFC) for Breen (all 71).
ULSTER: Maeve Liston (Blackrock College RFC); Fern Wilson (Queen’s University Belfast RFC), Kelly McCormill (Cooke RFC), Mya Alcorn (Blackrock College RFC), Niamh Marley (Dungannon RFC); Ella Durkan (Blackrock College RFC), Rachael McIlroy (Queen’s University Belfast RFC); Sadhbh McGrath (Cooke RFC), Beth Cregan (City of Derry RFC/Blackrock College RFC) (capt), Ilse van Staden (Cooke RFC), Keelin Brady (Railway Union RFC), Helen McGhee (Cooke RFC), Brenda Barr (Suttonians RFC), Fiona Tuite (Old Belvedere RFC), Stacey Sloan (Cooke RFC).
Replacements used: Sophie Barrett (Enniskillen RFC) for Sloan (half-time), Ava Fannin (Blackrock College RFC) for van Staden, Megan Simpson (Cooke RFC) for Tuite, Lucy Thompson (Enniskillen RFC/Cooke RFC) for McCormill (all 57 mins), Gemma McCamley (Cooke RFC) for McGrath, Amber Redmond (Suttonians RFC) for McIlroy (both 63), Nicole Watterson (Queen’s University Belfast RFC) for McGhee, Amanda Morton (Cooke RFC) for Alcorn (both 69), Alcorn for Durkan (74).
Referee: Sam Holt (IRFU)
Niamh Briggs and Tania Rosser are both targeting more rounded performances from their teams when Munster and Leinster meet next Saturday in a potential Vodafone Women's Interprovincial Championship title decider.
Defending champions Munster are back at Musgrave Park for the second round duel, fresh from beating Ulster 34-0 in their first competitive game under new head coach Briggs.
They bagged their bonus point inside 31 minutes, with Claire Bennett and Vodafone player-of-the-match Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird going on to score two tries each and Briggs able to unload her youthful bench, handing out six new caps.
It was a positive first outing for the Reds but the visit of Leinster, who ran out 38-10 bonus point winners over Connacht, is sharpening minds as the arch rivals prepare to collide in Cork.
"I'm happy with the first 40 minutes for sure (taking a 22-0 lead)," admitted Briggs afterwards. "We got sloppy for a huge part of that second half. I'm really proud that we finished out with a good score.
"Keeping any team to nil is probably the most pleasing aspect. For us going forward, we've got to be better than that, we've got to be way more clinical.
"I thought the young girls that came on did really, really well today, I was really, really pleased with that. It gives you a lot of confidence for next week.
"We've definitely got to work on a few issues around our defensive structure and our tackle tech. For now, we've just got to be delighted with the win, delighted with the nil points and also the fact that we got to cap six players."
Briggs' 2013 Grand Slam-winning team-mate, Rosser, was happy to officially get her Leinster coaching tenure up and running a full year after she was appointed to the role.
19-year-old pair Dannah O'Brien and Aoife Dalton, the player-of-the-match, stood out as Rosser's charges put a misfiring opening 30 minutes behind them.
Jenny Murphy, who teamed up with Tullamore youngster Dalton in the centre, bagged two tries, while Ella Roberts, Anna Doyle and replacements Elise O’Byrne-White and Katie Whelan crossed the Connacht line too.
Only 14-3 behind at the break, Connacht rallied when Nicole Fowley's well-weighted kick picked out Orla Dixon for a try, but the hosts delighted the vast majority of the Energia Park crowd with two closing scores.
Giving her assessment after the game, Rosser said: "I'm happy with it. Sure the first was a bit of a mess, but the girls came together, the start of a new system and they played well, and let loose in the second half.
"I think we just need to stop forcing the passes - build into the game rather than just going with the offloading game all the time. I think that let us down in the first half.
"It's a new system and we just need to clean up a few things and get clarity on the breakdown and stuff like that."
With a total of ten debuts on the day, including O'Brien and Dalton, the former Ireland scrum half added: "It's exciting to see how the younger players are stepping up. I'm looking forward to seeing what the next two games brings for them. They all played well, I'm just super delighted for them."
FIXTURES TO COME:
ROUND 2 -
Saturday, January 14:
Munster v Leinster, Musgrave Park, 12.15pm
Ulster v Connacht, Kingspan Stadium, 2.30pm
ROUND 3 -
Saturday, January 21:
Connacht v Munster, the Sportsground, 1pm
Ulster v Leinster, Queen's University Upper Malone, 5.30pm