MATCH REPORT: Connacht Women finish campaign on a high with impressive win

17 September 2018

MATCH REPORT: Connacht Women finish campaign on a high with impressive win
While the Connacht Women may have played second fiddle to the interpro-winning Under 18s this weekend, the Laura Feely skippered senior team emerged worthy winners over Ulster 31-17 in Galway on Saturday.

While the Connacht lead narrowed on occasion, the result rarely looked doubtful as they dominated at setpiece time. For the most part Feely, Ciara O'Connor and Castlebar's AnneMarie O'Hora monstered the visiting pack as they did in the previous games. Fortunately, the rest of Connacht pulled in behind this week and turned in periods of enterprising and entertaining rugby.

Foremost among whom carrying ball was lock Denise Redmond, who got herself through a power of work before and after a short stint in the bin for a first-half tackle (sans arms), and hooker O'Connor devastating in close, out wide, first phase or fifth.

In defence, Amelie Roux (5), Edel McMahon (7), Nic Fryday (8) and wings Jill Draper and Orla Dixon were prominent. Draper and fullback Mairead Coyne's vocal contributions within the Connacht 22m likely proved crucial in denying the visitors two tries. Connacht's Ulster effort compared to the two earlier rounds was a refreshing close to a disappointing campaign which up to Saturday morning had yielded seven points for and 71 against.

Saturday's Connacht side looked much more willing to bruise Ulster's soft centre in the early exchanges and expose fractures several phases in or, for O'Hora and Feely's beneft at least, stick to what works and rumble it through tiring opposition ranks which too often stranded scrumhalf Kathryn Dane as the last resort on their goal-line.

For Dane, who applied herself well throughout with Jemma Jackson (10), the evergreen Eliza Downey (14) and wingmate Ella Durkan (11) it was a frustrating day peppered with occasional Ulster scores shortly followed by Connacht replies.

Mathematics (and indirectly, Connacht) decided the 2018 Interpro competition winners as Leinster and Munster drew 14-all in a winner-take-all final fixture.

Drawn 14 points apiece and tied on aggregate points for (78 each; 47 of Leinster's coming at The Sportsground), Leinster's defensive record - a miserly 14 - catapulted them into first place. Interestingly, at the bottom of the table one point separated Ulster and Connacht on aggregate, defensively identical (88 against), and Connacht one ahead with 38 for.

Connacht's third-placing however came by way of a deserved week three victory, rather than aggregates.

The AIL First Division opens September 29 and Galwegians meet Blackrock in Stradbrook, Dublin, in a new seven-team format, the premier women's club competition healing from a Highfield-sized hole this autumn. Galwegians host the recently-returned St Mary's (relegated midway through 2017 and rejoin at Tullamore's expense) in their first home game, October 7.