Connacht 24 – Ulster 17
Hamilton Park played host to a senior women’s inter-provincial game last Saturday, when Connacht took on Ulster in a challenge game in advance of the Inter-Provincial series next month. This was an opportunity for Head Coach Jarleth Naughton and Assistant Coach Sligo RFC’s Jason East to see the whole squad in action, to determine who will earn the starting places against Munster on September 1st. Ireland international and Sligo RFC member Nicole Fowley played at out-half, returning to rugby after a prolonged absence due to injury.
The match kicked off in near perfect conditions for rugby, with the pitch in Hamilton Park a credit to the hard-working grounds crew, worthy of any inter-provincial fixture. Ulster started out the stronger, with the lion’s share of possession, dominating at the breakdown and putting in some bone-crunching tackles. They were rewarded for their efforts and put 10points on the board with no reply from the home side. It took over 20minutes for Connacht to settle into the game, which was being marred by a litany of handling errors and disarray in the line-outs. The nerves were settled when an intercept try by Shannon Tuohy was converted and Connacht began to make more of their possession. Working their way into the Ulster half again, the Connacht pack showed their dominance in the scrum and drove over the line to put Connacht ahead by two points at half-time.
The second-half was dominated in all areas by Connacht, with Ulster failing to clear their lines or get out of their own half until the 57th minute. By then, the home side had scored another two tries. The girls in green showed great patience in scoring their 4th try, going through the phases with the pack and eventually spinning it out wide for Sligo RFC’s own Nicole Fowley to touch down for Connacht’s final try of the game.
Ulster enjoyed a short period of dominance towards the end of the game and their perseverance paid off, as they were rewarded with a well-worked try of their own, bringing them within 7points of Connacht. However, it was a case of too little, too late for the visitors, as the final whistle blew, and Connacht had the win in the bag, much to the delight of the large home crowd.