The Connacht Women paid little heed to Leinster’s week one demolition of Ulster surrendering a miserly 12points to the highly-favoured East Coasters at the Sportsground on Saturday.
Leinster arrived in Galway boasting a five-try victory over Ulster in round one of this year’s Interpro Series. Connacht lost to Munster 22-7 in Cork.
There seemed no such hangover on Saturday as Connacht launched its Atlantic arsenal against the tourists. Connacht failed to convert sustained first half pressure, position and possession into points in dour and drizzley conditions. The fact Leinster was scoreless 40 minutes in nonetheless buoyed the hosts but as inclement weather waned, Leinster gained momentum and outmuscled the girls in green on their own line, twice.
Connacht lost starting scrumhalf Hortense du Bordoncle de Saint Salvy to a knee injury 16 minutes in. The stoppage thrust Galwegians’ Anne O’Callaghan into the fray. There is little French about “O’Callaghan” compared to her predecessor’s handle, but she was nothing short of Napoleonic in communication. The Little General barked continuous and enthusiastic directions at her forwards and performed admirably for the remainder.CarolVLeinster
Centre-cum-fullback Grainne Egan, a rookie in the 15 jersey, shone from start to finish. Positionally-sound on defence, anything kicked into Connacht territory came back in hand as Egan showed little concern for one-off defenders making regular inroads on foot beyond first and second lines of defence.
Claire Raftery’s pinpoint field kicking was largely responsible for Leinster’s inability to bust out of their own 40 in the first half, but the number 10’s unsuccessful penalty attempt with eight minutes to go in the second half was Connacht’s only real scoring opportunity.
Cliona Hughes and fellow second rower Niamh Dempsey surrendered several inches to Leinster opposites Mary-Louise O’Reilly and Dee O’Brien but ensured their collective tackle count easily compensated for any shortfall in the height stakes. Hughes’ broken play contribution, like that of hooker Tosh Haywood and prop Ruth O’Reilly, was invaluable and at times upped the Connacht loose forward count to six.
Irish international Claire Molloy was the Connacht standout. Ably-backed by colleague Carol Staunton at eight, Molloy’s grit and mobility was unsurpassed. On two occasions the 22-year-old tearaway made three consecutive tackles on Leinster ball-runners before anyone else in a green jersey even had an opportunity to employ a shoulder. Where Molloy shone on defence, Staunton was apparent on attack. One blistering 45m run to within spitting-distance of the Leinster line, and four or five telling rumbles into heavy traffic drew three or four blue defenders into the mix.
That said, the Leinster forwards, led by skipper and Number Eight Sinead Ryan, hands down won the breakdown battle. Whereas Connacht had few issues in making the ruck, inferior numbers thereafter meant both ball and player wound up the wrong side of a swarming wave of blue forwards. Connacht could not adjust on Saturday to Leinster’s frightening ability to secure opposition ball once on the ground. Their only alternatives two weeks out from the Ulster clash is to commit more forwards en masse to ruck ball, or fight tooth and nail in the contact situation to remain upright and stay off the turf.
Leinster 12 beat Connacht nil, HT 0-0. Connacht Sportsground, 2.30pm, November 13.
Connacht’s next game is against Ulster at the Connacht Sportsground, November 27.


Gillian McDarby appointed IRFU Head of Women’s Performance & Pathways