South-East 20 North-East 17

South-East just about survived a frantic comeback by North-East in the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Sarah Robinson Cup at Energia Park on Thursday.

Both were looking to keep their unbeaten records intact and the opening skirmishes were fierce, North-East clamping down at the breakdown as South East looked to carry hard and straight.

There was a lot to like about the structure of the teams and the patterns being played out, South-East using the latch to drive carriers through contact and North-East gradually looking to the outside channels to stretch the defence.

South-East appeared to have moved in front when prop Aoife Nixon grounded the ball. But, it was judged to be have been knocked-on.

No matter, they came again for No 8 Jane Neill to crash over from a five-metre penalty with the smart support of second row Rachel Dempsey on her hip in the 14th minute.

They wasted no time in moving back onto the front foot, Neill drove back by a double tackle, convincing out-half Ciara Short to move it wide for full-back Robyn O’Connor to double the advantage.

The back row of Prudence Isaac, Orla Wafer and Neill was carrying through the gain line and scrum-half Eve Prendergast was mixing the game up well.

Eventually, North-East did make the passes stick, full-back Isabelle Brereton shooting a gap to ignite an attack that showed how they were well capable of breaking the line.

The tactic of out-half Abby Moyles bringing Brereton onto the ball worked again until centre Kate Corrigan brought her down and executed the turnover.

Just when North-East were on the verge of breaking back, the ball was lost and South-East left-wing Molly O’Gorman was sharp enough to take it all the way from her 22 for the third try in the 29th minute.

At the same time, the scoreboard was misleading, centre Cara Martin almost getting through O’Connor’s terrific tackle, Brereton going close and lock Naoise Smith crashing over for Moyles to convert from the right for 15-7 at the break.

The footwork of flanker Isaac just before contact was a feature of the first minutes of the second period.

A counter from O’Connor drew a high tackle allowing South-East to set up camp inside the 22, Lauren Fitzpatrick stealing a wayward lineout to come away with the ball.

The temptation for North-East to play out was strong enough for Smith to hammer out the yards, Moyles clearing to touch.

Clever use of the boot by Moyles made room for Sophie Woulfe to have a go up the left and textbook handling and rucking allowed Anna Hilliard to score on the right for 15-12 in the 47th minute.

Then, North-East used the kicking game to eat up the ground, Martin getting in behind the defence to claim the lead for the first time.

A thunderous run by hooker Ava Kavanagh put South-East back in business as they sought to recover from the concession of two tries in as many minutes.

A back door offload by out-half Moyles was a sight to see, wing Hilliard just unable to beat O’Gorman.

South-East had to run from deep and that was not their strength. Or so it looked. Corrigan bamboozled the chasers on a 70-metre break along the touchline.

The ball was recycled for blindside Isaac to steal metres and O’Connor had the legs to ghost over on the left for the clinching try.

It all ended with Woulfe’s arcing run outside the cover until O’Connor’s sensational tackle to end a thrilling, high-quality spectacle.

Scorers – South-East: R O’Connor two tries; J Neill, M O’Gorman try each. North-East: C Martin, N Smith, A Hilliard try each; A Moyles con.

South-East – Robyn O’Connor (Wexford Wanderers); Ciara Byrne (Tullow), Kate Corrigan (Tullow), Grainne Flynn (Arklow), Molly O’Gorman (Wexford Wanderers); Ciara Short (Wicklow), Eve Prendergast (New Ross); Aoife Nixon (Wicklow), Ava Kavanagh (Arklow), Melissa Quirke (Wexford Wanderers); Rachel Dempsey (Wexford Wanderers), Jess Griffey (Wicklow); Prudence Isaac (Arklow), Orla Wafer (Enniscorthy), Jane Neill (Arklow).

Replacements: Aimee Smith (Wicklow), Aoife Farrell (Enniscorthy), Robyn Johnston (Wicklow).

North-East – Isabelle Brereton (Navan); Sophie Woulfe (Dundalk), Aishling Kelly (Navan), Cara Martin (Navan), Anna Hilliard (Navan); Abby Moyles (Navan), Jade Gaffney (Navan); Lauren Fitzpatrick (Navan), Jennifer McElroy (Dundalk), Emma Looby (Navan), Ally Cullivan (Navan), Naoise Smith (Ashbourne), Aoife Purcell (Dundalk), Rosie Searle (Navan), Cliodhna Ni Chonchobhair (Ashbourne).

Replacements: Ava Govern (Ardee), Sasha Guirey (Navan), Lila O’Molloy (Dundalk), Caoimhe Stewart (Ardee), Ava Galvin (Navan).