Monday 26 September 2016

Battling Connacht overcome by Munster in opener

Connacht 3 Munster 8

Published 28/08/2015 | 02:30

Connacht Ladies in action against Munster Ladies
Connacht Ladies in action against Munster Ladies
Connacht Ladies with the game's mascot

Connacht were frustrated in Galway as Munster repelled their gallant efforts in a scoreless second half.

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An 18th-minute penalty and an unconverted try on half-time enough to give the defending champions a narrow victory in Galway.

Munster, well aware of Connacht's ability to convert turnover ball into points last year, kept the hosts well clear of the danger-zone, out-half Niamh Briggs' educated right boot the go-to exit in defence.

Connacht, by contrast, saw fit to fling the ball about in their own half, chewing through valuable energy reserves and leaving themselves open to relentless pressure every time they made a mistake.

Given the weather swung wildly from breezy sunshine to squally showers, neither red nor green camp was immune to errors.

Disappointing for the hosts, however, was the fact both camps' made the majority of blunders inside Connacht territory.

That said, while Munster looked the more comfortable with ball-in-hand, Connacht's defensive system appeared to be the stronger of the two. Former international Niamh Kavanagh (13), Munster midfield stalwart Nicola Scully (12) and the ever-dangerous Briggs (10) found few chinks in the armour.

Briggs drew first blood halfway through the first half, 26 metres from the posts, but her opposite Nicole Fowley replied 12minutes later from the Munster '22' just wide of the right upright.

The only try of the game came from a well-worked counter-attack just outside the Connacht 22, a penalty clearance to within 10m of the Connacht line and an ensuing lineout maul which crossed eight metres in from the Clann Stand touch as ref Susan Carty blew for the break.

As crucial as defence is in modern rugby, you also need to be able to score points, as Connacht discovered to their cost on Saturday.

Connacht centre Mairead Coyne kept Scully and Kavanagh busy (a second-half injection from Sene Naoupu did similar), and prop Laura Feely combined well with hooker Ciara O'Connor, but an overall inability to retain possession for more than three or four phases at a time, and continuing lineout woes, continue to hamper Western hopes of a heavyweight scalp.

Munster's safety-first approach where territory was concerned and an ever-present loose forward trio of the internationally-capped Heather O'Brien and Siobhan Fleming pair, plus livewire openside Ciara Griffin meant unforced Connacht errors seldom went unpunished.

O'Brien carried from the back of the scrum four times in the first half to alleviate pressure for Munster when most needed, and Griffin's work-rate (rivalled only by opposite number Grainne Egan) meant there was no respite for grounded Green ball-carriers.

Much of Fleming's damage was done during Connacht lineouts.

With few free passes given to either team, Munster was the more clinical with ball-in-hand preferring to surrender possession for territory and await mistakes.

Given the day that was in it, the Munster strategy was hard to fault given greasy conditions would have likely played havoc with hands and retention.

Munster meet Ulster this weekend coming in the second round with the reigning champs tipped to go two from two, Connacht head east to Donnybrook to meet Leinster at 5.0 tomorrow evening.

Connacht Women's Remaining Inter-pro Fixtures

Leinster v Connacht, Saturday August 29, Donnybrook, 5.00pm

Ulster v Connacht, Saturday September 5, Portadown RFC, 3.00pm

Connacht squad's warm welcome in Erris

Following the 28-12 pre-season win over Munster on Friday night and the successful third place finish for the Sevens side in the World Club 7s tournament, a 40-man Connacht squad made up of senior and academy players came together early on Sunday morning to begin the two and a half hour journey from the Sportsground to Belmullet, Co Mayo where they would train for the week.

To kick start the off-site training camp, the squad visited local rugby club Erris RFC at their Kilmore Community Pitch in Drum on Sunday, where they received a warm welcome from its members and visitors.

Mayo-born hooker Dave Heffernan led the squad in games and skills sessions with the attending children at the club. And despite the testing weather conditions, it was a great day out for all followed by a meal kindly hosted by the Mayo club.

The club visit was part of Connacht Rugby's commitment to bring the professional squad to as many corners of the province as possible throughout the season and follows on from other recent visits to Mayo clubs Westport, Castlebar and Ballinrobe RFC.

A big thank you to all at Erris RFC for their hospitality on the day and to all those who have welcomed the squad to Belmullet this week.

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