The Leinster Women could not complete a late comeback as Munster claimed the Interprovincial Championship at Thomond Park on Saturday afternoon.

They needed to lose by five points or less to retain the title in defeat, losing out to the slimmest margin possible of one point in the points-difference category as both provinces concluded the competition with two wins and one loss.

Leinster coach Adam Griggs made two changes as Nicole Carroll came in at full-back with Susan Vaughan shifting to the wing for the injured Megan Williams.

Ireland’s international Sophie Spence recovered from injury to take a slot in the back row, Meg Kendall dropping to the bench.

Munster made two changes for the title decider, bringing Anna Caplice in at number eight and Ciara Griffin switching to blindside.

Incredibly, it meant there were a dozen starters out of one club – UL Bohemian.

Michelle Claffey

It was this natural cohesion that enabled Munster to come out on top in a match that could have gone either way.

Leinster had to get out to a good start and they did just that by getting into their rhythm.

However, they committed the cardinal sin of not coming away with points in the face of typically aggressive defence by Munster, led by Ireland flanker Griffin.

It was at the breakdown where Leinster began to concede penalties and, by extension, the ground that would test their defence.

Munster made vital inroads, Griffin doing the hard yards and centre Niamh Kavanagh travelling over the gain line.

The gradual build of pressure was augmented by fine work from Syphonia Pua and Laura O’Mahony down the left, before they came back to the middle for scrum-half Ellen Murphy to slice the posts for the lead penalty in the fifth minute.

This was the reward Munster had been hunting and they were soon on the front-foot again, half-backs Murphy and Rachel Allen breaking the game open.

Orla Fitzsimons

When Spence was binned for accumulated infringements at the ruck, Murphy doubled the advantage in the 11th minute.

Leinster reacted in the right way in that they took the territory game to the home side but couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard.

The knock-ons and forced errors from a vigilant defence stymied their game plan, the attacking punch of out-half Sene Naoupu and full-back Nicole Carroll snuffed out as Munster held a 6-0 edge at the interval.

The Munster maul sprung into action, sucking in defenders, for Ireland international hooker Gillian Bourke to benefit at the bottom of a pile of bodies to give Leinster an 11-point mountain to overcome in the 51st minute.

Leinster had to respond in double-quick time and the speed of Ireland Sevens specialist Susan Vaughan was a problem which turned to points. The wing made serious yards to put the Blues in the right area of the field. It was from there that Leinster used their maul to eat up ground, scrum-half Ailsa Hughes’s quickness taking her to the line for 11-5 on the hour.

Ailsa Hughes

Centre Aine Donnelly’s difficult conversion, near the touchline, fell agonisingly short of the posts.

The final quarter turned into a war of wills with Leinster mostly on the hunt for the converted try that would turn the game, their captain Paula Fitzpatrick showing the way.

They just could not find the key to the door, running out of ideas and time against an unbreakable Munster in a shattering loss in Limerick.

2017 Women’s Interprovincial Series Table

Team Played Won Drawn Lost Points For Points Against Points Difference Try Bonus Losing Bonus Points
1 Munster 3 2 0 1 58 29 29 1 1 10
2 Leinster 3 2 0 1 56 29 27 1 1 10
3 Connacht 3 2 0 1 56 39 17 1 0 9
4 Ulster 3 0 0 3 22 95 -73 0 0 0

At Thomond Park – Munster 11 (G Bourke try; E Murphy pens); Leinster 5 (A Hughes try)

Munster: Laura O’Mahony; Laura Sheehan, Aine Staunton, Niamh Kavanagh, Syphonia Pua; Rachel Allen (all UL Bohemian), Ellen Murphy (Old Belvedere); Fiona Hayes, Gillian Bourke, Fiona Reidy (all UL Bohemian); Siobhan McCarthy (Railway Union), Chloe Pearse, Ciara Griffin (both UL Bohemian), Siobhan Fleming (Tralee, Capt), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemian).

Replacements: Leah Lyons (Highfield), Maura Collins (Tralee), Zoe Grattage (Highfield), Roisin Ormond (Ballincollig), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemian), Christine Arthurs (Highfield), Valerie Power (Shannon), Deirbhile Nic a Bhaird (UL Bohemian)


15. Nicole Carroll (Sutonians)
14. Aimee Clarke (Railway Union)
13. Aine Donnelly (Old Belvedere)
12. Michelle Claffey (Blackrock College)
11. Susan Vaughan (Railway Union)
10. Sene Naoupu (Old Belvedere)
9. Ailsa Hughes (Railway Union)
1. Lindsay Peat (Railway Union)
2. Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union) / Jennie Finlay (Old Belvedere) 50 mins
3. Fiona O’Brien (Old Belvedere)
4. Aoife McDermott (Railway Union)
5. Orla Fitzsimons (St Mary’s)
6. Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere) / Meg Kendall (Railway Union) 60 mins.
7. Ciara Cooney (Railway Union)
8. Paula Fitzpatrick (St Mary’s) CAPTAIN

Referee: Brian Deighan, IRFU