Castlebar claimed the Connacht 10-a-side Invitational Cup on Sunday, convincing winners over a plucky but well-beaten Galwegians 2nd XV 35-12 in Mayo.

Contested in cool clear conditions, the final risked mismatch disparity at the outset, Castlebar’s pacey and robust Joyce O’Boyle first cab off the rank chalking up try number one up within three minutes of kick-off. Scrumhalf Becky Gavin responsible for the extras.

The first half thereafter fell into more traditional step largely slogged out in close-quarters between the two 22m marks. Galwegians broke the deadlock through recently-returned Sorcha Ni Chadhain’s hard-running metres from the Castlebar line offloading a slick short ball to a rampant, well-angled Denise Reamonn about 7m out. She converted her own.castlebar1

With three minutes remaining, Castlebar took full advantage and ran in their second, back-rower Lisa Carroll making short work from 22m out. Gavin never looked like missing off the tee.

While both sides seemed very aware of the space luxury 10-a-side rugby affords expansive distributors, neither sought any first-half width preferring instead to pick-and-go from the base or utilise runners in the 9/10 channel.

Castlebar’s second try was the first concerted effort of the half to plunder ample space nearer the sidelines and it paid dividends.

After the break, Galwegians shifted into higher gear using deftly-weighted kicks, Ni Chadhain and scrumhalf Helen Duffy doing the damage, forcing much of the first 12minutes to play out deep in Castlebar territory.

The hosts’ Connacht-capped captain Anne-Marie O’Hora however broke free of a gang tackle against the run of play and the lean prop shortened the distance between her own starter’s blocks and the goal-line going 45m to score Castlebar’s third. Gavin, on-song again, pushed the scoreline out to 21-7.

O’Hora’s next touch about 90 seconds later on the other side of the paddock saw her scoot 35m to go in under the bar, the result of disappointing defensive lapses and quick thinking. Gavin again didn’t disappoint and with a quarter-hour to go, 28-7 looked unassailable.

O Boyle was back in the action bothering the scorers, Castlebar’s fifth try an admirable solo effort through both heavy traffic and open space leaving Gavin little headache for the kick. Two more for the number nine.

Other than a final Denise Reamonn dart down the left-hand touch (unconverted), Galwegians’ second half was several notches off their own first half pace, and several more short of Castlebar’s.

That said, Ina Butler (wing), Duffy and Ni Chadhain in the halves, tryscorer (and kicker) Reamonn and late injection Risa Egerton all shone for the visitors; unflappable former Castlebar skipper and livewire flanker Caroline Staunton, tryscrorers O’Hora and O’Boyle, number eight Lisa Carroll and outhalf Darwyn O’Halloran steered a steady Castlebar ship throughout. Gavin’s 100 percent radar success also worth a mention.

CBIRFU President Pat Piggott commended both sides on their respective performances, but lauded Castlebar’s leadership in maintaining pressure as soon as an advantage emerged.

“To the victors the spoils, and it’s always easier going home with some silverware. Castlebar you made sure very early on in the second half this trophy was staying here.”

O’Hora was typically diplomatic in her post-match appraisal saying there was no such thing as an easy game when Galwegians were involved.

Reflecting later, O’Hora continued to heap praise on the visitors despite putting 23points between them at full time.

“We’ve played them twice before today and spent a lot of time discussing match contingencies, their strengths, how they’d broken us already, where they’d made their inroads. We knew if we stayed error-free for as much of the final as possible, we would win. All we had to concentrate on was minimising those mistakes wherever possible, and we just hoped what we’d trained would bubble to the surface today.

“I think we’re maybe guilty of being a little too honest, and a little too accommodating? Where we might run into tacklers we’ve been guilty of giving them too much credit, going to ground, waiting for support and inching our way up the field. So today’s focus was on making Galwegians really work to put us on the ground and bust themselves to stop our momentum. It was a 10-a-side competition so at halftime we decided we were going to use that extra space too. We put all of that into practice in the second half, so trophy and win aside we’re delighted with that too.”

Buccaneers claimed Invitational Cup Plate honours 40points to 20 over Tuam, in Athlone.

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