It was a winner-takes-all meeting between the Leinster Women and Munster Women in Donnybrook on Saturday night.
🎉🏆LEINSTER WOMEN INTERPROS WINNERS 2018 🏆🎉 pic.twitter.com/3nzNTxsDSl
— Leinster WomensRugby (@LeinsterWomen) September 15, 2018
Despite the end result finishing in a 14-14 draw, the Leinster Women’s points difference saw them claim the 2018 title, with captain Sene Nauopu raising the Women’s Interprovincial Trophy for only the 5th time in Leinster’s history.
Head coach Ben Armstrong (see video) had predicted an arm wrestle, and the match highlighted the quality defence and improved skills of each of the women’s rugby teams.
Leinster Women reclaim title in 2018
It was a case of deja-vu for both Leinster and Munster, as it came down to the final match of the series to determine the champions again this year. Munster edged out Leinster 11-5 in the same fixture last December, to win their 13th interprovincial title in Thomond Park.
However, in 2018 it was the Leinster Women who earned the right to lift the trophy after an impressive run of results throughout this year’s campaign.
On the road to glory, Leinster denied both Ulster and Connacht a single score. Keeping a clean sheet and notching up a total of 10 tries in the process, the women gave themselves a chance at the title when they clashed with their rivals. Having defeated Ulster 17-0 and Connacht 47-0, Leinster had a commanding 64 point differential, heading into the deciding game.
Munster (missing some of their stars, including Leah Lyons) on the other hand, took only a 37 point aggregate differential into the final – and title-deciding – final game. The Munster side had recorded a 24-7 win over Connacht, followed by a 40-20 win over Ulster. Those results against the reigning title holders meant that a draw in the final, was never good enough for them to repeat last years success [a win would only suffice].
The Story of the Game
It was ‘nip and tuck’ for the opening 15 minutes, with former Ulster; now Leinster outhalf, Nikki Caughley and Munster centre Niamh Briggs exchanging a penalty each. However, Munster’s ill-discipline proved costly, with two penalties in the space of five minutes, which gave Leinster 9-3 lead.
Briggs hit back with a 3-pointer of her own soon after, giving Leinster the smallest 9-6 of margins at half-time.
Domestic | HT in the #WomensInterpros Championship title decider at Energia Park. Three points in it as we go into the break…
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) September 15, 2018
With neither side crossing the whitewash until late in the game, a 63rd minute penalty from Briggs leveled the score once again. With the sides all square heading into the final 10 minutes, Leinster upped the pressure and had Munster on the back foot.
They narrowly missed out on a try, having knocked the ball on over the line. But Leinster eventually broke the deadlock. Juliet Short scoring in the corner. Crucially though, the conversion was missed meaning Munster would have to score a converted try to win.
With over the 80 minutes played, Munster did find that all-important try through outhalf Rachel-Allen-Connolly. Greatly appreciated by the supporters on hand, however, the usually reliable placekicker Briggs couldn’t add the extras. So it finished in a 14-14 draw, meaning Leinster earned the title on points difference.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) September 15, 2018
Heartbreak for Briggs and Munster but utter elation for the Leinster Women as they win their first title since 2016.