Mighty Munster pick up crucial win over Leinster at Musgrave Park

Reds now have one hand on the Vodafone Women's Interprovincial Championship title
Mighty Munster pick up crucial win over Leinster at Musgrave Park

Chloe Pearse of Munster, right, is proposed to by partner and teammate Clodagh O'Halloran after the Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship win at Musgrave Park. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Munster 26 Leinster 17

MUNSTER took a giant leap towards retaining the Vodafone Women's Interprovincial Championship title thanks to a 26-17 bonus point win over Leinster at Musgrave Park.

Replacement Stephanie Carroll's last-minute try, set up by captain Nicole Cronin, moved Niamh Briggs' side five points clear at the top of the table ahead of next Saturday's final round trip to Connacht.

Jenny Murphy and Deirbhile Nic a Bháird ran in their third scores of the tournament in an explosive start in Cork, before prop Róisín Ormond Ormond's 22nd-minute effort from close range handed Munster a 14-7 half-time lead.

Referee Andrew Fogarty may have opted to keep his yellow card in his pocket had he had the benefit of TMO assistance, but he deemed Murphy's tackle on Aoife Corey to be late and sin-binned the Leinster centre just before the break.

Clodagh O'Halloran and Elise O'Byrne-White traded tries during a tit-for-tat third quarter, and Aoife Dalton capitalised on Maeve Óg O'Leary's sin-binning to bring Leinster within four points.

Leinster's Molly Boyne is tackled by Clodagh O'Haloran of Munster. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy
Leinster's Molly Boyne is tackled by Clodagh O'Haloran of Munster. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

Despite losing Vodafone player-of-the-match O'Leary, Munster finished the stronger with replacement Ciara Farrell slicing through midfield before Carroll clinched a deserved victory via Cronin's long skip pass.

Two early penalties allowed Leinster to build initial pressure in sunny but cold conditions. Dannah O'Brien pulled the trigger with a neat pass on the switch to send Murphy powering over for a seven-pointer beside the posts.

Munster were level barely four minutes later, Nic a Bháird again providing the inspiration with a looping offload to Alana McInerney whose return pass sent the number 8 darting away from Molly Scuffil-McCabe to open the hosts' account.

Following Cronin's conversion, Leinster had some lineout issues to iron out and the home side showed their ability to swiftly turn defence into attack when O'Leary countered brilliantly from deep.

As good as Leinster's tackling was, with Dalton landing some big hits, Nic a Bháird and O'Leary continued to pose a threat with ball in hand. McInerney's kick chase set up a five-metre scrum.

The Munster forwards made it count through the next few phases, Kate Sheehan being held up just short before her front row colleague Ormond picked and plunged over for Cronin to make it 14-7.

Leinster recovered from a crooked lineout, getting the edge at scrum time but Ella Roberts knocked on a high pass from O'Brien when Munster's defence had looked vulnerable out wide.

Luck was not on Leinster's side approaching the break as O'Halloran stole one of their lineouts, Jess Keating was guilty of a crooked throw and then Murphy saw yellow for her challenge on Corey as the Munster full-back kicked out of her 22.

It was a big setback for the visitors, and Munster took advantage early in the second half. O'Leary made the hard yards again and lock O'Halloran followed up to raid over from the close-in ruck.

Munster's Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird scores a try. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy
Munster's Deirbhile Nic A Bhaird scores a try. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

Another well-struck conversion from Cronin put 14 points between the sides, yet Molly Boyne, Murphy and Niamh O'Dowd drove Leinster back into try-scoring range, earning a central penalty.

Co-captain Hannah O'Connor was used in a smart move off a tapped penalty, Aoife McDermott then feeding the ball wide for winger O'Byrne-White to squeeze over in the right corner past Muirne Wall.

The gap stayed at nine points with O'Brien's touchline conversion attempt falling short, while Nic a Bháird, who repeated her move from the back row to hooker from the opening round, Dorothy Wall and replacement Chloe Pearse provided more punch in Munster's carries.

Ailsa Hughes was a bright spark off the Leinster bench, launching Roberts and replacement Lisa Callan forward before Nic a Bháird picked up a crucial turnover penalty in her own 22.

However, Munster came under further pressure when O'Leary was binned for collapsing a lineout maul. Leinster worked the home defence from side to side before Hughes passed for Dalton make it over in the left corner.

O'Brien's missed conversion left it 21-17 and Leinster were suddenly back within reach. That was until the pacy Farrell launched Munster downfield and they converted the pressure into points, Cronin releasing Carroll to go over out wide on the left.

Scorers for Munster: Tries: Deirbhile Nic a Bháird, Róisín Ormond, Clodagh O'Halloran, Stephanie Carroll; Cons: Nicole Cronin 3.

Leinster: Tries: Jenny Murphy, Elise O'Byrne-White, Aoife Dalton; Con: Dannah O'Brien.

MUNSTER: Aoife Corey (UL Bohemian RFC); Aoife Doyle (Railway Union RFC), Stephanie Nunan (UL Bohemian RFC), Rachel Allen (UL Bohemian RFC), Alana McInerney (UL Bohemian RFC); Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian RFC) (capt), Muirne Wall (UL Bohemian RFC); Róisín Ormond (Ballincollig RFC), Kate Sheehan (UL Bohemian RFC), Fiona Reidy (UL Bohemian RFC), Clodagh O’Halloran (UL Bohemian RFC), Claire Bennett (UL Bohemian RFC), Dorothy Wall (Blackrock College RFC), Maeve Óg O’Leary (Blackrock College RFC), Deirbhile Nic a Bháird (Old Belvedere RFC).

Replacements: Chloe Pearse (UL Bohemian RFC) for K Sheehan (48 mins), Eilís Cahill (UL Bohemian RFC) for Reidy, Kate Flannery (UL Bohemian RFC) for Allen (both 65), Gillian Coombes (Ballincollig RFC) for Bennett (71), Ciara Farrell (UL Bohemian RFC) for Ormond, Stephanie Carroll (Railway Union RFC) for Nunan (both 75). 

LEINSTER: Ella Roberts (Wicklow RFC); Elise O’Byrne-White (Dublin University FC/Old Belvedere RFC), Aoife Dalton (Tullamore RFC/Old Belvedere RFC), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere RFC), Anna Doyle (Tullow RFC/Blackrock College RFC); Dannah O’Brien (Tullow RFC/Old Belvedere RFC), Molly Scuffil-McCabe (Garda Westmanstown RFC/Railway Union RFC); Aoife Moore (Blackrock College RFC), Jess Keating (Old Belvedere RFC), Christy Haney (St. Mary’s College RFC/Blackrock College RFC) (co-capt), Aoife McDermott (Railway Union RFC), Eimear Corri (Portlaoise RFC/Blackrock College RFC), Niamh O’Dowd (Old Belvedere RFC), Molly Boyne (Dublin University FC/Railway Union RFC), Hannah O’Connor (CYM RFC/Blackrock College RFC) (co-capt).

Replacements: Megan Collis (Greystones RFC/Railway Union RFC) for Moore (48 mins), Lisa Callan (Railway Union RFC) for Keating (61), Ailsa Hughes (Tullamore RFC/Railway Union RFC) for O'Byrne-White (62), Elaine Anthony (Old Belvedere RFC) for Corri, Vic Dabanovich O'Mahony (Old Belvedere RFC) for Haney (both 67).

Referee: Andrew Fogarty (IRFU).

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