Leinster Under-18 Girls, sponsored by Bank of Ireland, came up just short of claiming the Interprovincial Series, despite a six-try haul against Connacht at MU Barnhall on Saturday.
Coach Niall Neville made two changes, both in the backline, Orla Molloy making the cut at full-back and Anna Doyle starting at outside centre, after an impressive try-scoring impact against Ulster, with Ali Miley moving across to the right wing.
The rules of engagement had been set as Munster held the advantage of knowing victory over Ulster would seal the deal following on from last week’s 25-5 win over Connacht.
Leinster’s bonus-points from the 17-14 loss to Munster and four-try defeat of Ulster kept them in the hunt.
But, they needed a favour from Ulster in the second game of a double-header in Parsonstown.
Ultimately, they didn’t get one and finished second on the table to Munster, who stayed unbeaten over the course of the three matches.
Early on, Leinster lost their captain Judy Bobbet to injury – she would return at half-time – and Connacht took advantage of the loss of leadership to strike for tries in the sixth and 25th minutes for a 10-0 lead.
It was a time for cool heads and a return to the basics as Leinster set about turning the tide with turnover machine Grace Kelly leading the charge, accumulating at least five turnovers by close of play.
Number eight Tess Meade and full-back Orla Molloy finished off solid approach work for centre Natasja Behan’s conversions to make it 14-10 at the break.
The job was far from done as Connacht hit back with their third unconverted try for a one-point edge in the 44th minute.
The pace of the game led to tiring bodies and the space began to open up for the Girls in Blue to ramp up the pressure for three tries in 10 minutes from replacement Bethany Sharpe, left wing Molly Fitzgerald and out-half Megan Burns, Behan converting the second and third for 33-15 in the 57th minute.
Full-back Molloy misjudged a tackle to see yellow and the western province exploited the extra girl for their fourth try.
It was left to replacement loose forward Meadbh Scally to round out the half-dozen tries.
“The overall impression is that we have to be disappointed we let the game go in Munster,” reflected coach Niall Neville.
“But, we bounced back well and the girls performed really well against Ulster and Connacht.
“For the girls, it is a taste of playing at a level above the clubs. It is all part of their progression.
“This is the pinnacle of the game at this Age Grade because, at the moment, there is no international rugby.”
At MU Barnhall – Leinster 38 (T Meade, O Molloy, B Sharpe, M Fitzgerald, M Burns, M Scally try each; N Behan 4 cons); Connacht 22
15. Orla Molloy (Gorey)
14. Ali Miley (Naas) / Bethany Sharpe (Carlow) 45 mins
13. Anna Doyle (Tullow)
12. Natasja Behan (Gorey) / Orhlaith Murray (Westmanstown) 58 mins
11. Molly Fitzgerald (Navan)
10. Megan Burns (Tullamore)
9. Ciara Carbery (Athy) / Jane Waters (Tullamore) 51 mins
1. Meadbh O’Callaghan (Dundalk) / Aimee Clarke (Railway Union) ht
2. Niamh Tester (Boyne) / Jess Keating (Old Belvedere) 45 mins
3. Casey O’Brien (St Mary’s) / Ciara Moughty (Mullingar) 57 mins
4. Judy Bobbet (Westmanstown) CAPTAIN / Nikki Gibson (Westmanstown) 4 mins/ Judy Bobbet ht
5. Jessica Schmidt (Wicklow) / Nikki Gibson 57 mins
6. Katlynn Doran (Port Darra)
7. Grace Kelly (Tullow) / Meadbh Scally (Mullingar) 51 mins
8. Tess Meade (Ardee)
15. Aine Gavin (Ballinasloe)
14. Aoibheann Reilly (Ballinasloe)
13. Beibhinn Parsons (Ballinasloe)
12. Shona Kennedy (Westport)
11. Niamh Kenny (Ballinasloe)
10. Meabh Deely (Ballinasloe)
9. Muireann Cawley (Westport)
1. Claire Coghlan (Westport)
2. Mia Fahy (Galwegians)
3. Kayley Mannion (Galwegians)
4. Vanessa Finnan (Buccaneers)
5. Jordan Hopkins (Galwegians)
6. Lily Brady (Westport)
7. Sarah Dent (Ballinasloe, Capt)
8. Sarah Walsh (Westport)
16. Claudia McNicholas (Galwegians)
17. Mary McLoughlin (Westport)
18. Sarah O’Rourke (Buccaneers RFC)
19. Rachel Cox (Westport RFC)
20. Rian Callaghan (Buccaneers)
21. Chloe Staunton (Westport)
22. Eleanor McMahon (Ballinasloe)
23. Aisling Murphy (Ballinasloe)