Despite the scoreline Ulster’s Women can take quite a few positives out of this encounter at Donnybrook on Sunday afternoon.
The host team, featuring 8 Irish Internationals, were just that bit slicker than the new look Ulster team but the visitors showed great determination throughout and were unlucky not to come away from Dublin with a few more points on the board.
Leinster started the game strongly, with their fast paced expansive game putting Ulster under immediate pressure as the visitors struggled to keep their shape. Leinster’s centre Nora Stapleton slotted over an early penalty and when hooker Yvonne Nolan went over for an unconverted try it looked as though a rout was on the cards.
Ulster regrouped well, with captain Lizzie Ballentine and out half Grace Davitt settling things down, and the visitors took a bit of pace out of the game opting to battle their way out of danger through their forwards with hooker Stacey Lea Kennedy to the fore. Leinster shipped a few penalties and the Ulster girls worked their way up field to be eventually rewarded with a penalty from Davitt to take the score to 8 – 3.
Unfortunately, mid way through the first half, Ulster lost the experienced Eliza Downey to an ankle injury which forced Ulster into further changes with Larne youngster Teah Maguire slotting in at full back and Derry’s Kelly Holmes getting her debut on the wing.
Leinster were able to capitalise on Ulster’s re-alignment and towards the end of the second half the home side went further ahead when winger Ciara Kennedy scored out wide to take the half time score to 13 – 3.
Ulster shipped a soft try at the start of the second half with Leinster’s impressive captain Sinead Ryan touching down after a huge drive from the Leinster pack but the Ulster girls continued to battle hard.
The experienced Laura Nicholl battered the Leinster midfield making good ground, Lauren Day rediscovered her driving game and things between the two scrum halfs’, Imogen Porter and Amy Davis, began to get a bit feisty.
However it was the home side that were able to make the most of their opportunities with first Tammy Breen scoring in the corner and Deirdre O’Brien scoring under the posts for a converted try taking the final score to 30 – 3.
Special mention goes to Teah Maguire who had an outstanding game at full back in her first Senior appearance. One massive hit on Leinster’s Amy Davis had the stand vibrating with the aftershock!
After the game Ulster’s Captain, Lizzie Ballentine was justifiably pleased with the teams overall performance.
“The girls did really well, they gave everything out on the pitch. Overall, it’s a significant improvement from last year. Obviously we have a lot to work on, you don’t come out of a defeat like that without something to work on, but there were so many positives and so many good performances.
We were very disappointed with Eliza’s injury but I’ve got faith in the squad and we have the depth to cover it. Teah Maguire made a couple of try saving tackles, her double tackle which took out Amy Davis and then to get up and take out the supporting player was outstanding but there were a lot of good performances across the team.
We had ten new caps today and even some of our “experienced” players have only been playing rugby for a couple of years. We are at the start of a new cycle with new players and new coaches and (after that performance) the future is looking bright.
We were a bit shell shocked at the start with the change of pace in an interpro but it’s something that the girls had to experience for themselves. Now we’ve got that shock out of the system and we’ll be able to give Munster a shock of their own next Saturday at Ravenhill.”
The Ulster v Munster match takes place at Ravenhill on Saturday 13th November. KO 1:30pm.
Leinster: (15-9) Gill Nolan, Tammy Breen, Nora Stapleton, Michelle Ross, Ciara Kennedy, Shannon Houston, Amy Davis. (1-8) Fiona Coghlan, Yvonne Nolan, Emer McManamly, Orla Fitzsimons, Deirdre O’Brien, Carmela Morey, Laura Haley, Sinead Ryan (c). (16-22) Ailish Egan, Sarah Crosby, Sheena Moore, Chrissie O’Reilly, Fionnuala Gleeson, Paula Fitzpatrick, Katie Fitzhenry.
Ulster: (15-9) Eliza Downey, Teah Maguire, Claire McLaughlin, Laura Nicholl, Laura Stewart, Grace Davitt, Imogen Porter. (1-8) Lizzie Ballentine (c), Stacey Lea Kennedy, Lauren Day, Glenda Mellon, Christina McDowell, Claire Knipe, Shirelle Wilson, Nikita Armstrong. (16-22) Hilary Quinn, Lucy Fagan, Nicola Dickson, Brigid Reynolds, Zoe Templeton, Kelly Holmes, Alana McCaffrey.