Leinster got their Interprovincial campaign off to a winning start on Sunday afternoon with a five-try 33-8 victory over Connacht in Donnybrook…

With Munster laying down a marker on Saturday with an emphatic 46-0 triumph over Ulster in Thomond Park, Leinster were anxious to set a standard of their own against the western province. Although it was a far from convincing first half performance, Leinster eventually began to show some of their pedigree to close out the game in the second half.

Leinster struggled to gain a foothold initially with the opening quarter being played in the home side’s half. Leinster showed glimpses of their capabilities but due to a combination of poor handling along with indiscipline at the breakdown, the teams remained scoreless until midway through the first half.

Leinster went ahead on the 20 minute mark through No. 8 Debbie Clarke who went over on the back of a superbly well-executed maul. The try was converted by Nora Stapleton who made her debut at full back for the province. Ten minutes later Stapleton added another 3 points from a penalty to send Philip Doyle’s side 10-0 in front going into the break. Leinster made two significant attacks towards the end of the first half, unleashing the potential of their backline with Stapleton linking well with centre, Shannon Houston, and winger, Julie Doyle. However, Connacht’s cover defence scrambled well to guide the home side into touch on both occasions.

Throughout the opening 40 minutes, Connacht remained well in touch with favourites Leinster but were unable to convert their possession onto the scoreboard. For large periods Leinster were pinned back with some well-placed tactical kicking from outhalf Clare Raftery. Strong ball carrying from captain, Carol Staunton, fellow back row, Claire Molloy and front row, Ruth O’Reilly gave the away side a sense of urgency. However, the Leinster pack dominated the line outs and negated that set piece as an attacking platform for Connacht.

Captain Fiona Coghlan issued a statement of intent following the half time break with a determined run deep into the Connacht half from the kick off. However the subsequent phases of play echoed of the scrappy nature of the first half. Leinster eventually began to string some phases together and 6 minutes into the second half, having sucked in the Connacht defence through strong running by Coghlan and flanker Sinead Ryan, the ball was spun out to Amy Davis on the right wing. Davis sprinted past the cover to score in the corner.

Some fine displays in the Leinster pack contributed towards four of the five Leinster tries. Clarke (20’) and Davis (46’) were joined on the score sheet by openside flanker, Sinead Ryan (61’), hooker, Yvonne Nolan (65’), and blindside flanker, Orla Brennan (77’), to end the game as a contest. Leinster maximised their dominance up front using the rolling maul to great effect particularly in the second half.

Leinster also began to move the ball with more authority than the first half with second row substitute, Caroline Mahon, breaking through a gap and showing nice hands to link well with Houston, who relocated from centre to outhalf in the second half. On the Connacht side, Claire Molloy showed a lovely piece of individual skill with an impressive chip kick which she proceeded to gather superbly, catching the Leinster defence off guard and presenting Connacht with some momentum going forward.

Indiscipline, however, was an unfortunate feature of the Leinster game and following a series of high tackles and infringements around the breakdown, Leinster were reduced to fourteen players as Fiona Coghlan was sin-binned for persistent fouling from the team as a whole.

Connacht capitalised on this and launched a couple of meaningful attacks of their own with penetrating running from winger, Alison Miller. Miller broke clean through the midfield on two occasions, the second gain line break eventually, after recycling of possession, leading to Connacht’s try in the dying minutes of the game from the number 14, Emma Cleary (80’).

Leinster will no doubt be disappointed to concede a try but given the pressure exerted by Connacht for large periods of the game, the away side deserved to cross the white wash. Leinster will be looking to improve on their performance as they face defending champions Munster in two weeks time on October 31st in Ballincollig RFC.

LEINSTER WOMEN: Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere), Amy Davis (Blackrock), Grace Davitt (Blackrock), Shannon Houston (Blackrock), Julie Doyle (Blackrock), Tania Rosser (Blackrock) CO-CAPTAIN, Liz Comerford (Blackrock), Fiona Coghlan (UL Bohemians) CO-CAPTAIN, Yvonne Nolan (Blackrock), Emer McManamly (Blackrock), Rachel Vickers (Clondalkin), Mary Louise Reilly (Navan), Orla Brennan (Blackrock) ,Sinéad Ryan (Navan), Debbie Clarke (Blackrock)

REPLACEMENTS: Shirley Corcoran (Blackrock), Zofia Pherson (Blackrock), Caroline Mahon (Ul Bohemians), Jen Leacy (Blackrock), Gill Nolan (St Mary’s), Sinéad Delaney (Blackrock), Aoife Tyrell (Blackrock)

CONNACHT WOMEN: Meadhbh Moriarty, Natasha Haywood, Ruth O’Reilly, Heather Cary, Sarah Hogan, Maire Murray, Clare Molloy, Carol Staunton CAPTAIN, Sorcha NiChadhain, Clare Raftery, Alison Miller, Eugenie Fritsch, Sharon McKeown, Emma Cleary, Sarah Healy

REPLACEMENTS: Samantha Lulham, Edel Durkin, Yvonne Dowd, Katherine McDonagh, Noelle Dunning, Maire Doyle, Grace Kelly