Current Title Holders Deny NUIG

After two wins on the trot the Galway girls were feeling confident heading to Limerick to take on college rugby kingpins UL last Thursday. Last year saw NUIG draw with UL in Dangan and go down by 2 points in the return fixture to UL. The 2012-13 league final finished up at 12-7 in favour of UL.

NUIGwomens 350In the first half of the fixture NUIG seemed to use those results as their motivation, retaining the majority of the territory and possession. The NUIG pack’s driving game was working well in the opening quarter, front row Lizzie McKeever often leading the charge. With the ground work done up front, outhalf Rhona Julian put the first points on the board in a try that demonstrated her fine footwork and running strength. The new look Galway backline was making good yardage with backrower Heather Cary turning her hand to backs play for the fixture.

The first of what was to be 4 yellow cards in the game was produced shortly after 30 minutes. The referee followed through on a threat after repeated high tackles sending a UL player to the bin. While NUIG appeared to be on top in the opening half the sides were closely matched with a superb try saving tackle from fullback Eliza Kelly preventing the Limerick women from getting on the board. Half time saw the score 5-0 in NUIG’s favour.

UL pressure and ferocity at the breakdown started to expose the Galway side in the second half and it wasn’t long before a penalty in front of the posts gave UL flanker Chloe Pearse the opportunity to put three points up in ULs favour. She made no mistake with a strong kick from outside the 22.

NUIG’s Brid Reddington was next in line to spend 10 minutes in the bin, again for repeat infringement regarding high tackles.  

NUIGwomens2 350UL capitalised on an exposed blindside to score next through winger Paula McCarthy. Not content with a three point lead UL struck again shortly after this, this time through Pearse, who spotted the gap and ran a great line to beat the fullback and dot down under the post. The conversion brought the score to 15 – 5 in UL’s favour. This was to be the final result but not without one more from each side spending 10 minutes in the bin for high tackles, Louise Fitzgerald the one who took the punishment this time for NUIG.

While both sides were well matched UL’s killer instinct at ruck time saw NUIG loose many yards and possession repeatedly. NUIG’s inability to adapt to the refereeing of the breakdown may have been the difference. While NUIG can be pleased with most elements of the performance they’ll rue allowing discipline have such an effect on the score line.  

NUIG will meet UL again in Dangan in Febuary. 

Photos by Tony Burke Sports Photography

College Close Out Connacht Womens League Campaign with a Win

NUIG salvaged pride rather than silverware on Sunday beating a staunch and hardy Tuam outfit firmly focused on a league final berth 5-nil at Dangan. With Castlebar having booked its spot in the Connacht Womens League title decider several weeks back and NUIG relegated to this winter’s competition margins, Tuam needed a win on Sunday to leapfrog Carrick for the remaining final spot. A solitary Kate Kerrane try which went unconverted proved the distinction, although the game belonged for the overwhelming majority to the College hosts.

At half-time with the try already on the board, the territory stats weighed heavily in NUIG’s favour up near 95 percent. Possession wasn’t far behind at about 80, but through to the final whistle Tuam continued to prove they were far from beaten sparking several promising forays in the closing stages. That NUIG had such a wealth of possession and could not convert pressure into tangible results stood as much to Tuam’s fortitude and defensive resolution as anything. Ably-led by scrumhalf Edel Durkin, number-eight Marian Sheridan and out-half Pamela Devaney, Tuam’s tackling and collective refusal to allow any more than six-inch gains against them spoke volumes for physicality and pride. Conversely, NUIG’s ability to maintain possession despite obvious frustration suggested that even in dry, warm and firm conditions these two teams were (or would have been) evenly-matched.

College nine Hannah Smith, fullback Eliza Kelly, and loose-forward complement Lou Fitzgerald, Edel McMahon, Rita Breen (and later Lou Kelly and Brid Reddington) were instrumental in mounting concerted assaults against the N17ers, Grainne Donnellan, Kerrane and front row stalwart Elaine Johnson tireless throughout in the tackle count. The 5-nil victory shored up a disappointing league season which, after last winter had promised so much, and the students now turn attention to the CUSAI College League and Easter Tournament. NUIG’s ability to withstand serious pressure on defence and starve opposition of frontfoot ball will stand them in good stead for the CUSAI league campaign but the maroons must string together more enterprising and expansive phase play if they are to outscore opposition in the feature tournament in a couple of months time. While conditions rarely encourage slick handling and width on the run, at full strength NUIG boasts athletic stock and if presented with ball in open space the Orla Dixons, Rhona Julians, Kerrane, McMahon and Claire Masterson will not struggle to carve up opposition. Whether those conditions re-appear as the winter sets in and training attendance allows for combinations to cement remains to be seen.

Luke O’Donnell

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