Ulster (3) 3
PEN: Jemma Jackson.
Munster (8) 16
TRY: Leah Lyons, Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird. PEN: Ellen Murphy, Edel Murphy.
Ulster Women went down 3 – 16 to Munster Women at Ravenhill on Saturday afternoon and while the Ulster players deserved better from the match they have to be pleased with a competitive showing from their young side against their International laden opposition.
I’d said in my preview that I expected Munster to win a close encounter and that’s pretty much how the match turned out, the final score belittling Ulster’s efforts with Munster grabbing a late penalty and a try to double their tally in the final minutes.
Having said that, the visitors thoroughly deserved their win, though the young Ulster side can take a lot of positives from the result, most noticeably the performances of Storm Cobain and Hanna Beattie up front against a practically all international Munster pack.
Vicky Irwin and Leah McGoldrick were also called upon, late in the game, with Irwin in particular making a substantial impression with her quick hands and her defence.
Munster started the game strongly and kept Ulster pinned in their own half from much of the first quarter. The home side were restricted to the occasional break with Claire McLaughlin, Ilse van Staden, Amy Davis and Lauren Maginnes to the fore but despite their efforts they struggled to get beyond the halfway line.
Munster’s breakthrough came on the 25th minute when Leah Lyons went over, from close range, after a period of pressure close to the Ulster line. The try went unconverted and Ulster started to make more inroads as the half wore on. A break upfield by Claire McLaughlin led to a penalty by Jemma Jackson on the 35th minute and Ulster would have been happy to take a score line of 3 – 5 into the break. Munster had other ideas and a late penalty by Ellen Murphy saw the home side trail by 3 – 8 as the teams trooped off.
Ulster started the second half strongly and were unlucky not to trouble the scoreboard further. Captain Gemma McCutcheon continued to lead from the front with seemingly boundless energy, causing Munster problems at nearly every breakdown. Half time replacement Aishling O’Connell came on for Beattie with the Cavan player adding some go forward to the pack.
Ulster continued to try an play an expansive game, with full back Maeve Liston coming more into play, but the team as a whole failed to take the necessary care of the ball at the point of tackle with possession being turned over too cheaply.
As the half progressed I must admit I did entertain the idea that Ulster would produce a shock result and they certainly had their opponents worried for large stretches of the second half. Irwin, McGoldrick, Beth Cregan and Shauna Martin came on with approximately fifteen minutes to go and Irwin immediately shone with some sparkling passes and crunching tackles; however as the game came down to the final minutes it was Munster on the offensive as they looked to close the game out.
A penalty by replacement Edel Murphy sealed the game with minutes to go and winger Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird added some icing on the cake with a try with the last play of the game.
Final score: Ulster 3 Munster 16.
Ulster Women: Maeve Liston, Peita McAlister, Eliza Downey, Claire McLaughlin, Amy Davis, Jemma Jackson, Kathryn Dane, Ilse Van Staden, Lesley Megarity, Sorcha Mac Laimhin, Naomi McCullagh, Hannah Beattie, Storm Cobain, Gemma McCutcheon , Lauren Maginnes. Replacements: Brigid Collins, Shauna Martin, Beth Cregan, Aishling O’Connell, Vicky Irwin, Emma Jordan, Leah McGoldrick, Imogen Porter.
Our “Player of the Game” goes to, captain, Gemma McCutcheon who certainly led from the front with a tireless display. We caught up with Gemma after the game.
A young team against a stack of internationals, how do you think that went today?
I really think we put them on the back foot early, we got some good hits in and really surprised them to be honest. We forced them to make mistakes and got some points on the board though not as many as we would have liked.
It was a really good effort across the team but their [Munster’s] experience came through in the end to give us the result we see.
You were under pressure for most of the first half but the team seemed to come to life after the 30th minute. How did you hold on to your belief when you were under so much pressure?
We worked hard on keeping our calm and keeping our discipline and forcing errors. We saw them on the back foot and making mistakes and that helped us to pick up our heads and get a few turnovers, we just kept going.
The more experienced players on the team really pulled through, brought the younger ones alongside them and this brought the everyone’s game up a few steps.
And how do you think the young players fitted in?
Great. It’s great to have the depth and the youth coming through this year, it really pushes the whole squad forward. We were chatting beforehand and the U18’s [Grand Slam] win just put a buzz in the air and gave us a lot of belief.
Looking forward to Leinster next week?
Yep, excited. We’ve a training session Wednesday night, hopefully to fix a few mistakes and we’ll be ready to come out and take on Leinster!