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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 12 December, 2018
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Tears of joy as Munster regain Interpro title after scoring difference is required to pip Leinster

It’s been a superb first season in charge for Laura Guest.

Munster's Ciara Griffin is overcome with emotion after beating Leinster at Thomond Park.
Munster's Ciara Griffin is overcome with emotion after beating Leinster at Thomond Park.
Image: Ryan Byrne; ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship – Round 3

Munster 11

Leinster 5

Thomond Park 

MUNSTER REGAINED THE IRFU Women’s Interprovincial Championship crown by the very narrowest of margins after defeating two-in-a-row title hunters Leinster 11-5 at Thomond Park this afternoon.

In Laura Guest’s first season in charge, their second win of the campaign saw them pip Leinster on scoring difference.

With Munster and Leinster finishing with two victories and 10 Championship points apiece, it was the Reds who were crowned champions thanks to their +29 scoring differential, compared to Leinster’s +27. It was also pleasing to see Connacht’s resurgence under new head coach Jarleth Naughton, with the westerners’ 29-7 bonus point victory over Ulster seeing them finish on a nine-point tally in third.

Former Ireland flanker Siobhan Fleming was delighted to lift the trophy at the Limerick home of Munster Rugby, telling her team-mates afterwards: “I’m so proud, you have no idea, so, so proud. Thank you so much for all you have given.”

Munster celebrate winning The Women's Interprovincial Series Source: Ryan Byrne; ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Adam Griggs’ Leinster side came into the game in pole position, armed with a three-point lead at the summit. The top of the table clash was tight and tense throughout with both provinces well aware of the various permutations which would secure them the prized Interpro silverware.

With Ciara Griffin, Niamh Kavanagh and goal-kicking scrum half Ellen Murphy leading the charge, Munster built a 6-0 interval lead with Murphy splitting the posts after eight and 11 minutes. Leinster were foiled by a couple of knock-ons, but a late break involving Nicole Carroll and Sene Naoupu, two newcomers to the squad this season, raised their hopes ahead of the second half.

Gillian Bourke scores the first try Gillian Bourke touches down for the home side. Source: Ryan Byrne; ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Munster were rewarded for some patient build-up play in the Leinster 22 when former Ireland hooker Gillian Bourke powered over on the end of a 50th minute maul. The conversion was missed and the visitors hit back with a five-pointer on the hour mark, as scrum half Ailsa Hughes broke from the back of a maul to touch down.

Leinster retained the majority of possession in the closing stages with number 8 and captain Paula Fitzpatrick carrying effectively into the Munster 22.

Laura O’Mahony and Anna Caplice celebrate Source: Ryan Byrne; ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Naoupu made use of the momentum created by the Leinster forwards before prop Lindsay Peat was unfortunate to knock on, and Munster’s resolute defence ensured that they wrapped up the result at the end of a compelling Interpro series.

Munster scorers: 
Tries: Gillian Bourke
Penalties: Ellen Murphy (2)
Leinster scorers:
Tries: Ailsa Hughes

Alison Miller encourages her teammates Alison Miller, seen here representing her country, proved crucial for Connacht in their win over Ulster. Source: Gary Carr; ©INPHO/Gary Carr/INPHO

Ulster  7

Connacht 29

Belfast Harlequins RFC

Captained by flanker Grainne Egan, Connacht finished their campaign in style with an impressive and deserved 29-7 bonus point win over a youthful Ulster side in Belfast. The westerners began the series with a stellar success against eventual champions Munster and followed that up with a loss in Dublin before bringing the curtain down today with this five-try blitz.

Ulster fought hard throughout but were overpowered by the visitors who led 19-0 at the break following tries from star international winger Alison Miller, Jane O’Neill and Orla Dixon. Tullow out-half Hilary Griffin landed two conversions.

The hosts hit back with a well-taken try from promising centre Brittany Hogan, but Connacht were not going to be derailed. The ever-threatening Miller completed her brace and Ireland-capped hooker Ciara O’Connor, who was arguably the province’s best performer over the three rounds, showed deft footwork to make it five tries for Naughton’s charges.

Ulster scorers
Tries: Brittany Hogan
Conversions: Beth Cregan
Connacht scorers
Tries: Alison Miller 2, Jane O’Neill, Orla Dixon, Ciara O’Connor
Conversions: Hilary Griffin (2)

Full results and the final table are available here: http://www.irishrugby.ie/club/women/interpro.php

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Michael Gallagher

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