O'Reilly demands better after women finish with a flourish
Ulster Women 12 Connacht Women 12
The Connacht Women salvaged some pride from their interprovincial campaign with victory at Portadown on Saturday.
The performance, while far from flawless, was a step up from the defeats to Munster and Leinster, according to co-coach Luke O'Donnell.
"It was a bit of a dogfight," he said. "Ulster scored first, we hit back a couple of times with tries from Senetima Naoupu and Mairead Coyne to go five ahead and then they took the lead with 18 or 19 minutes to go.
"I told them they only needed one perfect passage of play to get back on top, and they delivered it from the kick-off.
"The girls strung several phases together, created an overlap and Emma Clery gassed two and crashed over a third to put us 15-12 up with quarter of an hour left."
Ulster were far from finished, however, and spent the final eight minutes camped on the Connacht line, but the visitors held firm to avoid the wooden spoon.
"Defensively we're pretty solid, it's certainly something we worked on, but we fought very hard to score interpro tries this year, none of them came easily," O'Donnell added.
A 43-5 pre-season rout of an Ulster selection in Athlone four weeks ago was a far cry from the final fixture in the North, but that was more due to an improvement from the hosts rather than a Connacht regression.
Munster and Leinster posted big scores against Ulster, 43 and 38 respectively and Connacht were expecting to do similar.
Captain Ruth O'Reilly was circumspect following the final whistle and laid out a few home truths.
"We promised so much and worked so hard, but we still didn't turn it on when it counted against Leinster and Munster," she said.
"You cannot afford to have an off-day in this competition. The calibre is so high, and the interpro schedule so short.
"Take this experience back to your clubs and impose your own high standards at practice and game-time. Your job now is raise their game and lead by example."