Portlaoise Ladies claimed the AIL Division 2 title in Ashbourne on Saturday with a three point win over Queen’s University.
Portlaoise lead 15-0 at one stage but their northern opponents came back strong and Portlaoise had to defend superbly at the end to claim the win.
Queen’s entered this promotion battle undefeated from Division Two North, having dispatched Enniskillen, Navan RFC, Belfast Harlequins, City Of Derry, Garda and Cavan.
Portlaoise on the other hand emerged from Division Two South, slightly scathed by Nenagh Ormond, but they dismissed Shannon, Young Munster, New Ross, Galbally and Ballincollig.
Queen’s pack brought with them a fearsome reputation matched by Portlaoise’s super fast running back line.
From the kick-off, these two well-matched teams provided rugby that was a pleasure to watch for both sets of supporters who made the trip to Ashbourne.
Queens used their pack strength in the first quarter of the game but despite the weight disadvantage, Portlaoise exercised better control in the scrum and consistently turned over possession. This forwards’ battle was played out within the Queens half of the pitch but outside the 22 metre line.
Claire O’Connell and Tanala Kehoe led driving forward movements and brought play to within 15 metres of the Queen’s line. Niamh Griffin secured possession and weaved her way towards the line maintaining a low centre of gravity. Under heavy attention from opposition flankers and second row she grounded the ball just centimetres from the touch line in the goal area. The angle was very acute and Claire’s conversion shaved the outside of the far post.
Queens attacked repeatedly but Portlaoise’s disciplined defensive lines held firm. Crunch tackles form Alison Miller and relieving kicks from Yvonne Delaney ensured Queens were not rewarded. Queens for their part completely closed down running movements from Portlaoise however in another marvelous driving movement from the forwards, Niamh Bergin crossed the line for a try.
Queens missed a penalty within scoring range just before half-time leaving the score at 10-0 in Portlaoise’s favour at the break.
The Portlaoise back line took control in the second half and the wingers came into play with great effect. A wonderful burst of speed from Alison Miller allowed her to cross the Queens’s line to bring the score to 15-0 affording Portlaoise some comfort.
Queens regrouped, redoubled their efforts and were rewarded with a converted try. Queens now pressed on with renewed vigour and were again rewarded with a try in the closing minutes bringing score line to 15-12.
Portlaoise clinically played out the remaining time defending staunchly but keeping play in Queens’s territory. The final whistle brought relief and jubilation at the winning of the Cup and promotion to Division One.
Team: Judith Smullen, Diane Lawlor, Jean Moore, Alison Holmes, Tanala Kehoe, Claire O’Connell, Niamh Griffin, Yvonne Delaney, Alison Miller, Marion O’Grady, Carrie Connell, Anne O’Reilly, Linda Pender, Niamh Bergin, Cassie Dunne, Stephanie Gleeson, Zara Healy, Olivia Fennelly, Lorraine Delahunty, Catriona Cassidy, Johanna Tosak, Sharon Moylan