Time Runs Out for Sligo Senior Women
Sligo RFC Women 17 Westport RFC Women 20
It was a beautiful day last Saturday in the home of Connacht Rugby and the stage was set for the Connacht Women’s Plate final in The Sportsground. Sligo RFC women had made it to a Connacht final having revived the team after an absence of 8 years.
Sligo started the stronger, dominating in the first 10 minutes. Captain Jo Williams thought she had opened the scoring after a well-timed support run, but play was called back for an alleged forward pass. It was Elaine Maguire, the Fermanagh flyer, who dotted down for the first time after 14 minutes. Sligo worked the ball wide and Maguire’s speed was unmatched on the wing. Westport countered with a series of attacks and were eventually rewarded with the equalising score. Conversions were proving tricky for both sides, as the infamous westerly crosswind kept the scores at 5-5 after 25 minutes. Sligo were reduced to 14 after a high tackle with Elaine Maguire doing 10minutes on the bench and Westport capitalised on their numerical advantage, adding another try to put them 5 points up. Maguire had only returned to the pitch when fullback Sophie Kinghan mistimed her tackle and received Sligo’s second yellow of the day. Scrum half Elaine O’Grady’s game ended after a big tackle against the strong Westport front rows and was replaced by newcomer Aude Bontemps. Westport again took full advantage of the extra player and were 15-5 up on the half time whistle.
Coach Guilherme Coghetto re-enforced his game plan at half time and rallied his starting fifteen, a third of whom had only taken up rugby this season.
Sophie Kinghan’s return to the foray in the second half proved the impetus the team needed and she ran in a try of her own to mark a spirited Sligo comeback. Coach Coghetto made strategic changes with the introduction of front row Aisling Feely, flanker Kate Brady and second row Emma O’Carroll. Sligo started to play a more expansive game, with Eve England, Sinead Mc Tieran and Emma Cullen going through the phases, recycling the ball and then the backline of Sarah Woodmartin, Jo Williams and Hannah Kerins spinning the ball wide. Westport continued to keep the ball tight and were rewarded for their patience when their winger ran a great line and made a break for the Sligo try line. Newcomer Kathryn Maguire made her second try-saving tackle of the day, chasing down the ball carrier and stopping her on the Sligo 5metre line. Kinghan stole the ball and quickly released Elaine Maguire on the wing who ran the length of the pitch through the Westport defence to dot down under the posts for her second try of the day. Out half Sarah Woodmartin added the extras and Sligo went 2points up with only a quarter of the match left.
Sligo dominated in the lineouts with Vicky Lee stealing ball in the air. Both teams continued to put in the big tackles, with forwards Rachel Wharton and Annemarie Flaherty stopping the advances of the girls in blue and possession changed hands several times, but it was Westport who broke through the Sligo defence to score an unconverted try and give them a 3point lead, with 10minutes plus injury time left on the clock.
Retaining possession from the kick off, Sligo charged forward, camping out on the Westport try line, intent on crossing the whitewash and securing the win. Big carries from Hannah Coen, Orla Evans and Aisling Feely took their toll on the defence, but a handling error returned possession to Westport. A solid scrum from Sligo kept Westport on the back foot and they were unable to clear their lines. A combination of Elaine Maguire and Hannah Coen ripped the ball and gave Sligo another opportunity for a final score. Hooker Orla Evans came within inches of the line but was adjudged to have not released the ball after the tackle and Westport were awarded the penalty. The ball was kicked to touch and the referee blew the final whistle on the 80minute mark, with no injury time played, breaking the hearts of the spirited Sligo comeback.
While disappointed at the result, Sligo RFC Women can be very proud of achieving Connacht Senior Silver medals a mere seven months after reforming. With a squad of 30 players, including 11 newcomers to rugby, the future of women’s rugby is looking bright in Sligo RFC.
Sligo: Anne-Marie Flaherty, Orla Evans, Hannah Coen, Sinead Mc Tiernan, Eve England, Rachel Wharton, Vicky Lee, Emma Cullen, Elaine O’Grady, Sarah Woodmartin, Kathryn Maguire, Jo Williams, Hannah Kerins, Elaine Maguire, Sophie Kinghan
Reps: Liz Cullen, Nadia Brosnan, Aisling Feely, Kate Brady, Emma O’Carroll, Aude Bontemps, Katelyn Benson
Extended squad: Maegan Callaghan, Siobhan Alexander, Jasmine Morgan, Jodie Fergus, Letisha McGarvey, Rachel Mc Partlin, Emma Cox, Niamh Donovan