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Ulster Women finished off their Interprovincial campaign with a 5 – 18 win against Connacht at the Sportsground on Saturday afternoon.

Ulster’s tries came from Imogen Porter, Stacey Lea Kennedy and Nikki Caughey with Caughey adding a penalty early on.

The result matches Ulster’s performance last season with the team finishing up in third place behind Munster and Leinster and again it was a series of what “might have been” for Ulster with the team unfortunate not to take the scalp of one of the big two.

Ulster went into the series on the back foot with Munster and Leinster both managing to fit in games against the Exiles in the build up to the campaign and it was no surprise that the team looked somewhat disjointed in their opening fixture against, eventual champions, Munster in a 10 – 36 defeat.

However with a game under their belt the team finally hit their straps in the second half against Leinster, scoring four tries but converting none in a 24 – 20 defeat, at Ashbourne, in a game that they really should have won.

With two games under their belt and a substantial improvement with each outing the Ulster side took to the field confident of a win against their opponents who had also suffered two defeats and the team started brightly putting Connacht under immediate pressure in the opening quarter with Nikki Caughey slotting over a penalty on the 7th minute.

Connacht came storming back and really should have scored with a massive overlap created out left but Ulster managed to scramble their defence and cleared the danger.

Good work form Nikita Armstrong, Ilse van Straden, Stacey Lea Kennedy and Fiona O’Brien saw Ulster work their way deep into the Connacht half and, after a series of pounding runs from the Ulster front row, scrum half Imogen Porter spotted a gap close to the line to dart over on the 24th minute for Ulster’s opening try, taking the score to 0 – 8.

Ulster continued to batter the home sides line for the remainder of the half but the Connacht defence held out and the teams turned round with the score reading Connacht 0 Ulster 8.

Connacht came out fighting in the second half in what was a very physical game. The home side looked to be getting on top and when van Staden was yellow carded for an offence at a ruck Connacht team took full advantage with their winger Jacqui Mulligan going over in the corner to make it a three point game at 5 – 8.

Connacht pushed hard for another score but they lost the influential Michelle Barry for 10 minutes for a high tackle on Ashleigh Baxter and Ulster were able to weather the Connacht storm and hit back with a try from the outstanding Stacey Lea Kennedy who blasted over the line, on the 30 minute mark, with some force, having being denied a score moments earlier.

With the score now at 5 – 13 Ulster looked well in control with their defence on top and Grace Davitt calling the shots at out half and a powerful run from Shirelle Wilson set up Nikki Caughey out wide for the classy winger to outstrip the defence and touch down taking the final score to Connacht 5 Ulster 18.

The Front Row Union Girl of the Game goes to Stacey Lea Kennedy who produced another outstanding Captains performance for the second week running.

Connacht Women: Alison Miller, Emma Cleary, Christine Arthurs, Clare Raftery, Jacqui Mulligan, Ciara O’Connor, Sorcha NiChadhain, Ruth O’Reilly, Alana Kehoe, Beth Mallard, Cliodhna Hughes, Niamh Dempsey, Heather Cary, Michelle Barry, Carol Staunton. Replacements: Jean Moore, Marie Hanley,  Mary Rose Flanagan, Marion Sheridan, Lisa McDonnagh, Margaret Fitzgibbon, Niamh Ni Dhroma, Leanne McCarthy, Katherine McDonagh, Yvonne Delaney.

Ulster Women: Ashleigh Baxter, Jemma Jackson, Amy Davis, Claire McLaughlin, Nikki Caughey, Grace Davitt, Imogen Porter, Ilse van Staden, Stacey Lea Kennedy (C), Fiona O’Brien, Lizzie Ballentine, Colette Broome, Shirelle Wilson, Gemma McCutcheon, Nikita Armstrong. Replacements: Laura Feely, Sorcha Chipperfield, Hannah Kilgore, Noreen Nethercott, Dani Boyd, Aiofe Walsh, Zoe Templeton.

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