Connacht 12 Leinster 17
A Michelle Claffey try 13 minutes from time proved to be the difference as Leinster took the spoils in the opening game of the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship.
A maximum attendance of 500 supporters were treated to a very entertaining game at a rare sun-drenched Sportsground, in what was the first game in front of spectators at the venue for over 10 months.
Connacht dominated territory in the opening 10 minutes, and that pressure eventually told when Meadbh Scally found enough power to touch down just beside the College Road goalposts. Fowley added the extras to give the hosts a deserved converted try lead.
Leinster grew into the game heading towards the quarter-hour mark, and if not for a number of handling errors they may have found themselves on the scoreboard earlier. Connacht’s defence were made to work even harder when captain Mary Healy was sent to the sin-bin, and the score eventually came when Leinster found themselves with an overlap off a goal-line drop-out, and Jennie Finlay was the player to get on the end of it.
A thrilling end to the half saw centres from both sides show brilliant feet to evade their would-be tacklers. Shannon Tuohey broke the Leinster defensive line inside their 22 to extend their lead on the half hour mark, before Michelle Claffey found the smallest of gaps on the Connacht 10 metre line.
If the first 40 was all about building momentum, the second 40 became more about finding the momentum to build on. Both sides searched for a stranglehold, but the green and blue defence held strong well past the second half water break. There was a growing sense in the ground that Connacht were finding yards slightly harder to come by than their counterparts, and that proved to be the case when the final score came on the 67th minute mark.
Vodafone Player of the Match Michelle Claffey again found a gap in the defensive line, when some quick passes out wide allowed Leinster to gain crucial territory inside the Connacht 22. Once that score came the visitors had a final 10 minutes to keep Connacht at bay inside their half, and that’s what they managed to do as the Women from the West couldn’t find a way outside their 22.
Next up for Ross Mannion’s Connacht side is a trip south to face Munster next weekend, while Leinster will look to take another big step towards retaining their crown when they take on Ulster. Connacht Women
Nicole Carroll (Megan Walsh 67’), Ursula Sammon, Catherine Martin, Shannon Tuohey (Rhiann Heary 78’), Orla Dixon, Nicole Fowley, Mary Healy (C), Julia Bauer (Hannah Coen 41’), Moya Griffin (Emma Gavin 74’), Shannon Heapes (Elizabeth McNicholas 40’), Aifric O’Brien (Sinead Rigney 67’), Fiona Scally, Ciara Farrell (Faith Oviawe 64’), Meadbh Scally, Kate Feehan Leinster Women
Lauren Farrell McCabe (Ella Roberts 64’), Grace Miller, Michelle Claffey, Niamh Byrne, Meabh O’Brien, Aine Donnelly (Nikki Caughey 46’), Molly Scuffil McCabe, Christy Haney (C), Lisa Callen (Chloe Blackmore), Caoimhe Molloy, Elaine Anthony (Mairead Holohan 52’), Clodagh Dunne (Emma Murphy 52’), Ali Coleman, Jennie Finlay, Jenny Murphy
Referee: Barrie O’Connell