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
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.
Amid a spate of early handling errors, Leinster’s well-drilled scrum regularly made inroads and Mairéad Coyne got enough of a tackle in on the pacy Doyle to force her into touch.
An agonising knock-on denied Ailsa Hughes a seventh-minute try after the hosts had won a scrum against the head, with Ali Coleman snatching up possession and driving up close.
Fiona Scally’s well-earned turnover penalty earned Connacht field position, only for their lineout to let them down. Doyle was soon threatening again before Hughes was guilty of knocking on.
Leinster were forced into an early change as flanker Coleman, well tackled by Ava Ryder, injured herself during a promising attack. Blackrock College’s Aoife Moore came on to make her debut.
Coyne used her experience to snuff out a Clare Gorman break, and the latter missed out on a certain try in the 24th minute when Railway Union’s Ryder stood up well to bring her down and force a knock-on.
It finally clicked for Leinster past the half hour mark, a slashing run from O’Brien sparking their attack. She popped up a couple of phases later to send Roberts stepping inside Ryder to score, with the Old Belvedere out-half also converting.
Their lead was doubled to 14 points following a superb run-in from Doyle from just inside her own half. The former Ireland Sevens international used turnover ball won by Murphy to cut past Laoise McGonagle and Ryder on her way to the posts.
O’Brien’s second conversion was cancelled out by Fowley, who drilled over a last-minute penalty to reward lock Scally’s hard work at the breakdown and get Connacht off the mark.
Influential prop Laura Feely lifted Connacht on the resumption, showing her breakdown skills, but again the lineout proved problematic for the visitors as Aoife McDermott quickly pinched possession back.
Following a Fowley penalty that fell short, her opposite number O’Brien turned provider again when her kick through bounced away from McGonagle, and the newly-introduced O’Byrne-White swooped on it to make it 19-3.
Jess Keating put in an impressive day’s work at hooker for Leinster, and she was hauled down just short from a dominant maul before replacement scrum half Molly Scuffil-McCabe fed Murphy to crash over with 25 minutes remaining.
O’Brien slung the conversion over, to the left of the posts, and as space continued to open up, Scuffil-McCabe had a daring raid from deep that was eventually thwarted by a scrambling Ryder.
Connacht showed excellent hands to get 18-year-old newcomer Clara Barrett involved off the left wing, yet the supporting Coyne was injured in the next phase and unfortunately had to come off.
With 11 minutes to go, the westerners’ young forwards wore down the Leinster defence. Fowley’s well-judged kick bounced up invitingly for centre Dixon to dot down, and she also swung over a classy conversion to close the gap to 26-10.
Leinster made sure they finished the stronger, though, with the livewire Scuffil-McCabe embarking on a terrific run from a quick tap. Hannah O’Connor, Murphy and Dalton strung passes together for Whelan to finish off on the right.
Dalton, who had a fine debut for the province, was also involved in the build-up to a breathless sixth try. Connacht were caught for numbers in defence and Moore released Murphy to complete her brace. The final kick was slotted over by co-captain O’Connor.
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)