Thrilling Comeback for Connacht as They Defeat Leinster in Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship
In an exciting opening match of the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship, Connacht’s Shannon Touhey led her team to a remarkable comeback, erasing a nine-point deficit to secure an 18-17 victory against Leinster.
Strong Start for Connacht with Historic Win
Connacht’s campaign started on a high note at the Sportsground, marking only their second-ever Interpro win over Leinster. The impressive victory showcased the resilience and determination of the Connacht team.
Touhey’s Versatility and Fond Memories
Shannon Touhey, a Tullamore native, displayed her versatility by switching to number 8 during the second half, contributing to the team’s resurgence. The win also brought back fond memories of her Connacht debut in 2016, the last time they defeated Leinster.
Touhey, who earned her first Ireland cap against Japan in November 2021, expressed her satisfaction, stating, “It’s pretty surreal. We worked really hard in training. We have a lot of young girls coming through. We came out of the gates, raring. At that moment (when Méabh Deely scored the first try inside two minutes) I was like, ‘here we go, we have a game on our hands’. But at half-time, we hit our purple patch. One of our pillars is resilience, and we showed it on the day. We came back fighting and here we are.”
Challenges and Emerging Heroines
Despite missing regular captain Mary Healy, Mairead Coyne, Laura Feely, and Fiona Scally, all of whom have retired recently, a new-look Connacht team rose to the challenge. Emerging heroines at the Sportsground, especially 22-year-old Ballinasloe pair Méabh Deely and Aoibheann Reilly, made a significant impact.
Promising Returns and Dynamic Play
Scrum half Aoibheann Reilly made a triumphant return after recovering from a long spell out with an ACL injury – her defense-slashing break set up Deely’s opening try. With a great brand of rugby and new skipper Nicole Fowley leading the way, full-back Méabh Deely created opportunities for her team. She set up replacement Orla Dixon’s try, narrowing the gap to 17-13.
Late Drama and Celebrations
In the 81st minute, Connacht found space out wide once again, allowing Clara Barrett to burst past Jess Keating. Her neat offload back inside led to Deely completing her brace. However, they had to endure seven more minutes of injury time, including a Hannah O’Connor penalty miss, before the celebrations began.
Touhey praised the confidence brought by the squad’s younger players, stating, “I think it came from a lot of the young girls. They’ve been through the Under-20s program, they’re playing AIL with their clubs, they’re meeting these girls every week, so they knew exactly what they were up against. To be honest, they kind of dragged us on. They brought in that belief and that was it, like. We found it and we went with it. Home turf, that was the big thing. We weren’t going to be beaten here. We’ve another match next week. We need to come down, gather ourselves, and we’ll go again.”
Munster Dominates in Bonus Point Win Over Ulster
In another exciting match, Munster emerged as 41-14 bonus point winners over Ulster, with Waterford duo Ellen Boylan and Brianna Heylmann making their senior debuts and contributing with second-half tries.
Strong Performance by Ulster, But Munster Seals the Result
Murray Houston’s first game in charge of Ulster showcased a strong performance across the opening hour at City of Armagh RFC, with Maebh Clenaghan’s 55th-minute try reducing the arrears to 10 points. However, Niamh Briggs’ Munster side sealed the result through closing scores from replacements Boylan and Heylmann, and Vodafone player-of-the-match Stephanie Carroll, who completed her hat-trick late on.
Tightly Contested First Half
Munster held a 17-7 lead at the end of a tightly-contested first half, with Ella Durkan’s converted try briefly giving the hosts the lead in between two Carroll five-pointers. Clodagh O’Halloran crossed in the 36th minute to extend the visitors’ advantage.
Impact Off the Bench for Munster
The closing 40 minutes saw Deirbhile Nic a Bháird, a game changer during last season’s tournament, making the desired impact off the bench for seven-try Munster. The impressive performance demonstrated Munster’s depth and ability to capitalize on opportunities.