Connacht must do it all again against Ulster

Connacht women did everything they could to secure a place in this year's interprovincial finals. Following a superb victory over Leinster, they achieved the necessary win against Ulster, but on this occasion two out of three was not enough - Leinster's win over Munster ensured they prevailed on points difference.

Yet Connacht's performance in this round three fixture at the Sportsground was its best of the series, played at a pace well deserving of the 29-24 victory with five tries scored.

Captain Nicole Fowley says Connacht stuck to their principles.

"One of our team values is to keep the ball alive and keep attacking the line. It showed with five tries. We can play that attacking rugby especially in front of the home crowd - it is that 16th person on the pitch who helps drive us to get over the line."

The Galwegian player hailed some of the teams youngsters, including Ava Ryder, who delivered two tries, Maeve Deely's crossfield kick, and centre Clara Barrett's burst which epitomised the team's never-say-die.

"Two home wins was the target, and we fought to the end, it was a tight one, always tight, and a battle to the very end, but we are delighted to get the win."

In highlighting the youth within the squad, Fowley beleives the "sky is the limit" for these talented youngsters.

"I have been playing a good few seasons and am one of the oldest, but this is one of the top ones. The talent we have is great."

Ulster were quick of the mark with a deserved eighth minute try, but Connacht were quick to respond. The result of a penalty to touch was a well executed maul with Lily Brady touching down, and a well-struck conversion from Fowley.

The home side continued to cut through the Ulster defence, running well executed lines, with Fowley putting Ulster under pressure with some super kicking. Having been held up once, the second try came via the 9/10 axis before flanker Orla Fenton crossed, with Fowley adding the extras.

Both sides showed a great willingness to run the ball, and Ulster enjoyed a period of control which resulted in fullback Durkan crossing. Before the half-time whistle they added a second, thanks to instrumental hooker and captain Beth Cregan, for a 14-17 half-time lead.

By the 47th minute the home side was back in front, thanks to a long looping pass from Deeley to Ryder or a try, and an ensuing huge defensive effort. By the 54th minute Connacht had extended their lead with Ryders second try, and a third courtesy of the hard-working pack with Grainne O'Loughlin touching down.

The only change Ulster received was through their maul with a 70th minute try, but Connacht held out for a well deserved victory. They now meet Ulster again for the third v fourth place play-off at Musgrave Park on Saturday (2pm ).

Connacht: M Deely; A Ryder, O Dixon, S Touhey, C Barrett; N Fowley (capt ), O Haverty; S Heapes, L Brady, D Canty, S McDermott, E McCormack, O Fenton, B Gleeson, K Tierney. Replacements:L McGonagle for Dixon (5 ), G O'Loughlin for Heapes (32 ), N O'Grady for Canty (35 ), K Waldron for Gleeson (46 ), F Oviawe for McCormack (54 ), M Starr for McDermott, McCormack for Fenton (both 74 ).

Ulster: E Durkan; M Liston, K McCormill, E Jordan, N Marley; A Moyles, L Cairns; A Fannin, B Cregan (capt ), A O’Connell, K Brady, T Schutzler, S Barrett, M Clenaghan, I Daley. Replacements:M Brodie for Fannin (19 ), R McIlroy for Cairns, Fannin for O'Connell (both half-time ), M Edwards for Liston, T McCartney for Jordan (both 53 ), B Hogan for Cregan, O'Connell for Brodie (both 55 ), B Barr for Brady (59 ), S Sloan for Barrett, B Cassidy for Fannin (both 68 ), Brady for Schutzler (76 ).

Referee: aul O'Connor (IRFU ).


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