Connacht women feel weight of Ulster’s pack

Connacht felt the full force of an Ulster outfit desperate for a victory when the two met again in this season’s women’s interprovincial series in Musgrave Park.

A 36-14 loss was tough to take, particularly having already beaten them in this season’s interprovincial series. And unfair as it may be, Connacht, having claimed two victories in the series with wins over Ulster and Munster, finished fourth by virtue of last weekend’s third v four play-off.

The play-offs provide the women with another opportunity to play competitive rugby, but Connacht, having completed the series with the same number of wins as both Leinster and Munster, but two points adrift on the table, were seven points clear of Ulster, who came into the play-off without a win.

It does not detract from Ulster’s superiority on the day. They were fully deserving of the 36-14 win against Connacht in Musgrave Park, and it marked their first win since 2012. Coincidentally it was Connacht they beat by 18-5 in that game, and current Ulster coaches Grace Davitt and Amy Davis were in the starting team.

Connacht will not bedrudge Ulster the win, but it is a bitter pill to swallow, having finished the series with more points. However, Ulster were on the front foot for the majority of this match - taking a 14-0 lead at half-time, having scored two converted tries within the opening 20 minutes. It set the tone, with Connacht on the back foot for long periods against a physically bigger Ulster side that enjoyed superiority up front with big ball carriers and big hitters.

Connacht carved chances but could not make the breakthrough, and disaster struck immediately after the break when an interception gifted fullback Durkan a third try. It was always going to be an uphill battle thereafter, and although Connacht replied with a try from Lily Brady, converted by Nicole Fowley, Ulster captain Beth Cregan crashed over for Ulster’s fourth try from a line-out maul. There was little respite for Connacht but a second try through Orla Dixon, but on this occasion there was no way through the Ulster pack, and no way back.

CONNACHT: M Deely; A Ryder, C Barrett, S Touhey, L McGonagle; N Fowley (capt ), O Haverty; G O’Loughlin, S Hanley, Ni O’Grady, S McDermott, E McCormack, O Fenton, L Brady, K Tierney.

Replacements used: F Oviawe for McCormack (9 ), D Canty for O’Grady, PGarvey for Hanley (both h/t ), O Dixon for Haverty (49 ), C O’Sullivan for Ryder (53 ), M Starr for Fenton (58 ), L O’Grady for O’Loughlin (60 ), M Kelleher for McDermott (66 ), N Corless for Garvey (68 ).

ULSTER: E Durkan; M Liston, P McAlister, K McCormill, N Marley; A Moyles, R McIlroy; A Fannin, B Cregan (capt ), A O’Connell, K Brady, T Schutzler, I Daley, M Clenaghan, B Hogan.

Replacements used: M Brodie for O’Connell (29 ), S Sloan for Hogan (HT ), B O’Connell for Fannin, L Cairns for McIlroy ( 52 ), T Macartney for Moyles (66 ), B Barr for Sloan, M Simpson for Brodie, B Cassidy for Cregan, M Edwards for Liston (all 71 ).

Referee: Barrie O’Connell (IRFU ).


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