Women XV v Tullamore (H) 07.01.2018

Happy New Year, indeed! The second half of the season kicked off on Sunday in Templeville road against Tullamore. Being top of the Leinster league table ensured that the girls would play in the AIL cup, something which they were already familiar with. Cup season always draws excitement from any team, but this match came with an added edge, Tullamore, the team who were promoted to AIL last year as we were relegated. The girls had a point to prove! Due to a lack of promotion/relegation battle last season it was the first time these teams would meet.

From the toss St Mary's were playing into the low hanging sun in the first half with little wind advantage as it was cross field for most of the day. Mary's were receiving from the kick off and the opening exchanges mainly focused around the middle park with each team entering into the others half for spats but with little consistency and building. Mary's were dominating heavily in each scrum and strong in the contact areas, but there were clear dangers in the Tullamore backline who had challenged already. Eventually Tullamore took the opening score after 8 mins crossing the white wash in the corner. The try went unconverted and the restart went against the home side with Tullamore claiming the ball and pushing into the St. Marys half- eventually crossing the line and taking the full complement. The scores sat at 12-0 to the visitors with 20 minutes gone. The next points would be a turning point in the game and through a lot of grit and determination they came from the hands of Emma Hooban who was refusing to be stopped easily. After a number of excellent pack carries under the control and guidance of Aoife Thompson the ball was brought out wide and popped back in to Hooban who hit the ball and line like a train. Touching down about midway to the left of the posts and the score stood at 12-5 with about 10 minutes to go in the first half! Unfortunately, St Mary's come back was short lived when they failed to control the restart and some missed tackles let Tullamore in for a break away try. Going unconverted by the midlands team once again they extended their lead to 12 points – 5-17 to the visitors.

With about 8 mins left in the first half Mary's restarted with the kick off falling short which turned out to be quite fortuitous as the pack had dominated scrum after scrum – turning over ball and gaining penalties. The front row drew another penalty on the half way line. A quick tap was taken from the penalty and Tullamore were once again pinged for not rolling away at the break down- Mary's were awarded a penalty 10 meters inside the oppositions half. A quick-thinking Sarah Duignan tried to retrieve the ball from Tullamore hands to allow quickly play – she was pushed off the ball a couple of times out of play which lead to a further 10 meters being given to the advantage of the home side from the second infringement. Giving the women in blue a penalty on the 22-meter line. Duignan kept her composure to kick a fantastic ball for touch finding the 5-meter line and setting up her team for a dogged end to the first half which eventually saw Duignan cross the line after a number of phases to finish out the first half within touching distance of the visitors at 10-17.

The second half brought some changes to the Mary's team- having lost Sarah Callaghan early in the game Michelle Carroll continued in the second row where she had been working well and Karen Plunkett was changed for Casey O'Brien our young prop with the feet of a centre with Shayne Richardson pushed out to the wing. With a knock, on from the restart giving the home team a scrum inside the Tullamore half- Aoife Moore picked and carried to the blind side and linked for a great offload which was well defended by the Offaly side. Aoife Thompson managed to get the ball away to Shayne Richardson playing on the wing who crashed through numerous Tullamore defenders and set up the ball inside the oppositions 22. Back in the hands of the pack and marshalled by Thompson eventually saw Christy Haney pick a couple of meters out and crash through for a great try. Bringing the score to 15-17. Mary's didn't do themselves any favours from the restart where they had Tullamore pinned back in their own half but through some quick hands and a fantastic chip from the outhalf all of sudden found themselves back in their own 5 meters with a lineout to the Blues. A poor clearance put a lineout inside the 22 to the Tullamore side which saw them convert after some dogged defence on the outside with a try in the corner. The gap extended to 15-22. The home side closed down the Tullamore side and controlled the majority of the ball for the rest of the game. Building momentum, an inspired chip through from Duignan to the left-hand side of the pitch saw a Tullamore player fail to gather the ball and a pacey Casey O'Brien capitalised by chasing through and diving on the loose ball over the line for the concluding try of the game. The score stood at 20-22 and 15 minutes of Mary's side pushing continuously into their opponent's half they were definitely looking like they had the upper hand until a dominant Mary's scrum annihilated the Tullamore team on the visitors 5-meter line only for the ball to be lost at the back of the pack, the turned over ball saw a fantastic hoof down the pitch from the Tullamore 10. The foot race was ultimately won by Liz Brophy and Sinead Lennon who managed to hold out the attackers to claim the ball and ward off a certain try. The Mary's team continued their march back down the park in this thrilling and end to end game. With time up another penalty for poor scrummaging saw the Mary's team choose the line and play in the Tullamore teams 22. With a 5-man lineout – Duignan flanked by forwards and the ever-imposing Shayne Richardson crashed and offloaded their way to the 5-meter line where 2 penalties were conceded by the travelling team for ruck infringements and offside. The latter of the 2 penalties sat in front of the post and with no time left on the clock Aoife Moore (Captain) took the brave decision to put the winning or losing of the game on the young but experienced shoulders of Liz Brophy who stepped up and expertly slotted the ball between the sticks to give St Mary's the winning points for the highly contested game. A much-deserved win by all accounts and a fantastic performance by all involved. A special mention should be made of the pack dominance from the girls in Blue showing that irrelevant of divisional differences they are a force to be reckoned with and also to the back line who continued to react and change to the different personnel in their line with positivity and taking opportunities.

Team: 1. Christy Haney 2. Emma Kiernan 3. Melissa Hayden 4. Sarah Callaghan 5. Emma Lackey 6. Niamh Fitzgerald 7. Emma Hooban 8. Aoife Moore (C) 9. Aoife Thompson (V.C) 10. Sarah Duignan 11. Karen Plunkett 12. Shayne Richardson 13. Liz Brophy 14. Sinead Lennon 15. Amy Moran
Subs: 16 Leah Hayden (Sub 50mins) 17. Sarah Fallon (Sub 75mins) 18. Michelle Carrol (Sub 30mins) 19. Casey O'Brien (Sub 40mins) 20. Laura Power 21.Aoife Kelly 22. Eimear Tester

By Sarah Fallon