Connacht salvaged a 2010 campaign victory in the dead-rubber third game winning at home by one over Ulster on Saturday.
The 11-10 victory was little more than a prelude, however, to this year’s Interpro Series’ third and fourth play-off.
That said, it appeared every bit a finals dress rehearsal where both sides dug deep for any ascendancy. Connacht scored 12 minutes in when out-half Claire Raftery slotted a handy penalty from 23m out.
Ulster’s halves Imogen Porter and Grace Davitt directed much of the northern assault, but the return of first-choice number nine Sorcha Ni Chadhain paid dividends from the off rallying green forwards to shore up the fringes.
Connacht’s backs showed promise on occasion but poorly-directed passing too often pitched balls behind players forcing handling errors and a general lack of continuity.
Connacht backline defence, sound throughout this campaign, impressed again on Saturday. First-up tackles rarely, if ever, missed their mark, and white jerseys seldom featured beyond the green-and-black gain-line.
The West Coasters fared better in the tight exchanges this weekend compared with theirr Leinster hit-out last week, coach Lyndon Jones happier with the finer points of Saturday’s close-fought encounter. Despite the verbal tickle-up, the second half could not have opened in worse fashion for the locals as Ulster crashed over for a try less than two minutes in to go four points up. Far from down, Connacht heads stayed up and they mounted an immediate counter.
Whereas Ulster opted for aerial field position (well-fielded by fullback Lisa McDonagh), Connacht tucked the ball under its collective wing and rumbled it up through forward channels. Ruth O’Reilly, uncharacteristically quiet in the first half, went looking for work in the second, and lock forward Niamh Dempsey and skipper Carol Staunton were conspicuous with ball-in-hand. Connacht’s own Ulster-born convert Maire Murray made a ferocious assault on one-off runners and staked a handy claim for inclusion come the final outing.
The basics may rightly claim responsibility for Saturday’s win. Fewer mistakes, despite wayward passes and subsequent dropped balls, and fewer green infringements levelled the playing field and 58 minutes in Connacht pulled one back, a near-identical effort of Ulster’s first half try to see-saw it their way 8-7. Ulster responded a little over two minutes later with a successful penalty (8-10).
Ulster continued to infringe allowing Raftery to plug the right-hand sideline and creep ever-steadily upfield. Ulster’s refusal to heed Collins’ exasperations finally cost them a penalty 14m in front of the posts. Raftery needed no further encouragement, slotted the goal and Connacht edged one point ahead 11-10. Collins sent one of the visitors packing with a yellow albeit several penalties down the track. Full-time came shortly after, though not before Davitt of Ulster lined up a penalty on full-time which would have swung the win Ulster’s way, but failed. It was always a tough ask left of the left-hand 15m and 34m from the bar.
The one-point margin was a fitting tribute to all involved and Connacht finished 11 points to 10 victors.


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