The first women’s U20 fixture fielded in Ireland certainly offered exciting rugby and showcased some excellent rugby on a bitterly cold night in Coonagh.
Credit must be lauded on Shannon RFC who have been a driving force for girls rugby for years. Their vision and drive to get this fixture off the ground in the hope that more clubs will follow.
Shannon RFC senior player and Munster Women’s Vice Captain Valerie Power is coach of the UL Wolves Juniors and saw it as a great opportunity for both sides.
Shannon U20s started the game strongly and applied early pressure on the UL Wolves Junior’s defence. It took ten minutes for the opening score to come in this historic fixture.
An explosive break up the centre of the field from Shannon forward Elizabeth Mc Nicholas followed by a quick ruck and some intelligent offloading gave Shannons Edel Kirwin space on the outside to run in. Orla Curtin slotted over the conversion.
UL responded through their captain Rosie Newton scoring two breakaway tries in five minutes. It was game on after 15 minutes with a close score line of 10-7 in favour of UL.
History being made @Shannon_RFC. Good opening Shannon U 20s open the scoring with Try Edel Kirwin after a great Elizabeth Mc Nicholas break, conversion Orla Curtin. 10 mis gone pic.twitter.com/XJXr0p3vAF
— Fiona Reidy (@fionareidy3) November 29, 2017
The remainder of the first half was a titanic battle with each team applying immense pressure in both attack and defence. It remained 10-7 going into the break.
Shannon entered the second half with a reignited fire in their bellies. Captain Niamh O’Dwyre led from the front, putting a huge shift in at second row. They looked particularly threatening in attack when the ball went wide. UL’s defence held firm and their defensive organisation was evident, bundling several Shannon attacks into touch on the near side.
UL’s Rosie Newton managed to weave her way through once again to make it 15-7 in favour of UL. Shannon fought back and a ferocious defensive effort ensued which resulted in the sin binning of Shannon winger Roisin Willis for a high tackle.
UL’s experience began to shine through. This UL Junior team was set up two years ago when it was identified that there was an overwhelming demand for a team to facilitate beginners and new first years who may have played rugby at home with their club but also wanted to play in the university league run by Student Sport Ireland.
UL’s continued pressure paid dividends during the third quarter. UL’s Sinead Hogg crossed the whitewash after a quick tap and go penalty 20-7 to UL. This was swiftly followed by UL’s Clodagh Hanniffy cutting a hard line and sprinting clear to score under the posts. This was converted by UL fullback Meadhb Lewis bringing the score to 27-7 to the visitors.
In the dying moments of the game UL Captain Rosie Newton danced around the defence and ran in her 4th trying the evening bringing the final score to 32-5 in favour of UL.
After the game Irish International Nicole Cronin presented medals to all the participants as recognition of the history they were part of.
Speaking to Sporting Limerick after the game she said:
“It is absolutely sensational, it’s a great stepping stone in the right direction in women’s rugby. It’s nice to close the gap from being a youngster going straight into a senior squad.”