Wicklow U18 complete League and Cup double
March 13, 2023 10:40 am Ronan Griffey
The U18 Girls Leinster season came to an end on Saturday in Carlow IT with the Final of the Leinster Premier League.
This was a repeat of the Leinster Cup Final where Wicklow RFC took on South East Lions who had representatives from Wexford, Enniscorthy and New Ross. The teams had met a couple of times already this season and another epic encounter was eagerly anticipated.
Yet again this game did not let us down. Wicklow were under the cosh form the off as South East Lions used their international studded backline to try and gain the upper hand but to their credit the Wicklow centre partnership of Clara Dunne and Prudance Issac were superb in defence and Irish U18 centre partnership of Robyn O’Connor and Orla Wafer were unable to find a way through.
Wicklow forwards started to wrestle dominance from the South East girls – with Aoife Nixon, Jessica Griffey and Sarah Fizpatrick leading the charge from front row with some superb scrummaging and hard driving.
This was a tough game with no quarter asked or given and defence in general being dominant some superb tackling from SEL – Clara Cloney and Bronagh Boggan stemming the Wicklow onslaught but eventually the pressure told and Clara Dunne carved through the SEL centres for the opening score which was converted by the superb Robyn Johnston.
SEL were not going to give up this final without a fight and the proceeded to dominate for the next 20 minutes but great defence by scrum half Laura Griffen, and rack row Isabelle Cooney and Ciara Short kept them at bay. This was added to by some shuddering tackles from Aoife Nixon and excellent steals at ruck time from Deirbhle Gavaghan and Jessica Griffey left Wicklow hanging on 7-0 at half time.
The second half started with more of the same with SEL exerting pressure and Wicklow defending heroically. Wicklow who were only able to bring a squad of 18 players due to injuries had 2nd row Rebecca Brennan on the wing who did not look out of place and was quite dangerous with ball in hand.
Molly O’Gorman for SEL was particularly dangerous at outhalf and caused the Wicklow girls a number of problems and some great last ditch tackling by Alanah Dixon and Hannah Traynor kept the lions at bay. Wicklow who were using there bench to try and rotate their pack with Sophie Murphy, Julie Phelan, Tara Kelly and Sarah Allen all rotating on and off to keep the energy and drive of the pack at a high tempo.
Wicklow were reduced to 14 for 10 minutes for cumulative penalties midway through the 2nd half and then lost centre Isacc to injury which necessitated moving Ciara Short out from 8 to 12. While Wicklow were down to 14, Amy O’Brien and and Emma Walsh were driving hard at the Wicklow line but were held up by heroic defence. As we entered the last quarter Wicklow had lifted siege and they started to dominate the forward battle again and with the better field position and the increased procession their backs started to really look dangerous.
Wicklow’s resources were further stretched when Ciara Short who had been covering in centre went down and had to be replaced by wing forward Cooney in the centre and Griffey who had done tremendous work up front also coming off with a knock to be replaced by the tireless Julie Phelan. Even with these injuries Wicklow did not lose momentum and an excellent try by winger Hannah Traynor eight minutes from time gave Wicklow some breathing room.
Wicklow saw out the final minutes of the match to be crowned Leinster Premier League champions to add to their Leinster cup. They have one match left in the South East Final where they will hope to hole on to their undefeated run for the season but they will have it all to do up against a talented Tullow side.