Ulster U18 Girls completed their second competitive fixture on Sunday afternoon in Athlone, maintaining their 100% win record with a convincing 5 – 34 win against Connacht.
The team now face Munster on Saturday 1st October in Westmanstown, Dublin to decide the first ever Inter-provincial champions. Kick off 3:30 pm.
Having arrived in Athlone in the midst of a downpour I didn’t have high hopes for this game, and so it proved in a wet and windy first half as both teams struggled to move the ball more than a couple of phases without some error or other.
Ulster had got off to a good start with Lisa Mullin knocking over an early penalty but the home side replied almost immediately, their big forwards working their way to the corner from the restart for one of their number to go over after a couple of stabs at the line.
Connacht’s pack and their hard running centres continued to put Ulster under pressure for the bulk of the opening quarter but the defence held firm and the reliable boot of Mullen kept the line clear.
A series of penalties eventually saw Ulster up in the Connacht 22 and the hard working Neve Jones crossed after a series of darts at the line. Mullin added the extras and Ulster led 5 – 10 as the game went into the second quarter.
Ulster began to get on top for the remainder of the half but poor handling, some scrappy lineouts, and, of course, the Connacht defence, kept them at bay until the break.
Cue yet another downpour at half time; but it seemed to wash away some of Ulster’s sloppiness and as we switched to bright sunlight shortly after the restart so did the visitors play also brighten.
Half time replacement Vikki Irwin certainly shone, directing Ulster’s operations with military precision as she kept the home side pinned in their own half for the remainder of the game, sending in her troops, to the left, to the right and up the middle, almost at will.
Brittany Hogan was the first to cross after a powerful run through the centre and with Mullin converting Ulster looked fairly comfortable at 5 – 17.
However the lead looked unassailable when Jones barged over for her second after an excellent break by Irwin was stopped just short of the line. Two tries in two minutes the game was over with Ulster now leading 5 – 22.
The big Connacht pack had visibly tired by this stage and nine minutes later Ulster’s second row Caolinn McCormack crossed unopposed of the back of a ruck before Leah McGoldrick jinked her way to the line for Ulster’s fifth, which was converted by Mullin, to give a final score of Connacht 5 Ulster 34.
Ulster U18: Ciara Browne, Kelly McCormill, Leah McGoldrick, Brittany Hogan, Ellie Ingram, Lisa Mullen, Carla Rafferty, Emma Kearney, Sara Whitley, Neve Jones, Caolinn McCormack, Natalie Kingham, Keelin Brady, Claire Boles, Storm Cobain. Replacements: Megan Brodie, Grace Shrestha, Tammy Millar, Katie Hetherington, Ellie Rix, Vicky Irwin, Lucinda Kingham, Delores Hughes. (Kate Aughey – travelling sub).