Monaghan and Virginia competed for the Ulster U18 Girls Cup at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena, Cookstown on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the conditions perfect for rugby.

The teams had met previously over the year with Virginia coming out on top in the last meeting. Monaghan, due to injury, were down to 14 players for what was always going to be a tough encounter and as it was it was the girls in black that dominated proceedings.

Virginia’s Ciara Byers was first to cross the line with Lisa Mullen converting. Soon after Megan Brodie touched down for Virginia before Byers bagged her 2nd try for the day.

Virginia had a well organised structure and had control of the game with Monaghan spending most of the half defending in their own 22. Virginia’s patience and phase play saw Rebecca Snell score a try in the corner before the impressive Keelin Brady added to the scoreboard quickly followed Byers for her hat trick,  Mullen converted Byers try.

Monaghan came fighting back with some good phases from their pack and held Virginia in their own half but a turnover saw Monaghan on the defence again.

After some hard runs Megan Higgins drove over the line and  Virginia’s Captain Sara Whitley got the last try of the half which Mullen successfully converted.

Monaghan, down to 13 players at half time decided to concede and play the 2nd half as a friendly with Virginia giving Monaghan two players to even the teams up.Even though it was now a friendly neither side let up, with Virginia wanting to top their first half performance and Monaghan wanting to get on the scoreboard.

However, it was Virginia’s Whitley who crossed for the opening try of the 2nd half. Then a shoulder coming from one of the Monaghan girls on Ruth Gilsenan gave Virginia a penalty try.

Monaghan came back fighting and looking for that try. Captain Ella Garland led the way, putting in some huge tackles throughout the game, and she drove Virginia back into their own half. Monaghan forwards put in some big carries before being awarded a penalty meters from the line. Garland picked and drove over the line but Virginia were determined in defence and the ball was held up.

Big carries from Lucinda Kingham and Saoirse O’Neill Treanor took Monaghan back into the 10m and from a scrum Garland made ground before popping the ball off to Amy Dunne who scored Monaghan’s try.

Virginia had the last work with Amber Redmond crossing late on to seal the 61 – 5 win.

Match pictures by John McMurtry

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