by Luke O'Donnell
NUIG women claimed their seventh trophy in two years to make it a very Good Friday indeed last week.
Contesting the Connacht Women’s League final away from home, the 31-0 victory over Castlebar in Cloondeash, Co. Mayo, was as convincing a victory as any one of their last six.
Three tries for scrum-half Shannen Lane set a sturdy first-half platform (all converted by inside centre Orla Dixon), but rival nine Becky Gavin did much to peg NUIG back inside their own 40m with deft box-kicks from base.
Gavin’s execution was near-perfect on the three or four occasions employed and may have served Castlebar well to have continued it beyond the first 20 minutes.
Host pivot Darwyn O’Halloran masterminded several half-breaks through second-row carriers Lisa Carroll and Grace Kelly, and perennial danger Joyce O’Boyle at 13 but NUIG’s loose forward cover defence in Rachel Tierney and Faye Drohan scuppered Castlebar chances outside College’s 22m.
Herein lay the difference, Castlebar – a structured machine with nominated roles for the most part plied effectively – struggled for direction and innovation after the fourth and fifth phase. NUIG’s agents, by comparison, roamed freely across the paddock filling roles as required and, come phase five, were queuing up to make hay from the head-to-head mismatches.
While Lane reaped greatest reward with her treble, any one of five or six bodies began to make inroads as the Castlebar defensive pattern began to crack.
For the hosts, flanker Caroline Staunton was typically busy and marshalled her charges admirably even after the deficit began to stretch, Gavin asked questions from the base and livewire Connacht front-row Anne Marie O’Hora (captain) went close to scoring on two occasions.
Of the students, prop Lizzie McKeever anchored a scrum which seldom stuttered, lock and skipper Buggie led by example and the midfield pairing of Dixon and Cella O’Callaghan did well to contain an enterprising Castlebar 10, 12, 13 trio.
Buggie and Dixon got amongst the tries in the second half but it was the score on the other side of the ledger which most impressed victorious coach Simon Lawless.
“That’s a final, and I don’t care what grade you’re playing, a final’s a final and a perfect defensive record testifies to the pride and the heart in this squad.
“In the last two years these guys have won a Kay Bowen intercollege trophy, two intervarsities tournaments, two Connacht Leagues and two SSI (Intercollege) Leagues.
“Fair dues to Castlebar too, who’ve been with us for two back-to-back Connacht League finals now. Last year was a close-run two-pointer; this year was a different story,” he said.