A depleted Portlaoise squad travelled to Blackrock RFC hoping that quality not quantity would prevail in this Paul Flood Leinster Senior Cup game.
Portlaoise began the game battling not only the opposition, but a gale force wind which immediately put them on the back foot. Despite this Portlaoise managed to pressurise Blackrock into conceding a line out on their twenty two. However Portlaoise failed to secure possession from the set piece and Blackrock counter attacked to score the opening try of the game.
Balckrock continued to use the wind to their advantage and managed to score and convert a second try 15 minutes later despite Portlaoise playing a lot of rugby in the opposition half.
Blackrock then went in search of a third try before half time but some excellent defending from the Portlaoise team saw Blackrock held up on the line twice and prevented any further score in the half.
The second half saw both teams endure hail and sleet making playing conditions very difficult. Despite these horrendous handling conditions Portlaoise immediately put their back line to use and following a great passage of play involving the entire back line, dual status player Sarah Johnson ran in a try for Portlaoise in the corner.
It was then Portlaoise’s turn to use the gale wind to their advantage and some excellent territorial kicking from Claire O’Connell and Yvonne Delaney forced the Blackrock back three into making errors.
The Portlaoise pack continued to pressurise the Blackrock line and were held up twice. Jean Moore then showed excellent awareness to halt Blackrock’s former international Tania Rosser’s attempt at a quick restart. This resulted in Portlaoise stealing possession and following some more patient and disciplined rucking, fittingly Jean Moore crossed the line to leave the score 12-10 with 15 minutes to go.
Rhona Julian then made another of her now trade mark breaks up the centre of the pitch and was a t the receiving end of a dangerous high tackle which left Blackrock depleted to fourteen. Portlaoise capitalised on the numerical advantage keeping Blackrock in their twenty two defending desperately. Claire O’Connell then turned over possession which was the start of a move from the Portlaoise pack deserving of try of the season. Jean Moore offloaded to Tanala Kehoe who executed a perfectly placed blind pass which found Niamh Griffin’s excellent run through and there was no stopping the scrum half from that distance. Blackrock returned to full strength and continued to go in search of the match winning score with five minutes remaining. Strong scrummaging from the pack also prevented Blackrock having clean ball and the determined Portlaoise defence held firm with strong tackling from Stephanie Gleeson, Rhona Julian, Carrie Connell and Sarah Johnson ensuring that Blackrock did not break through the centre. Training continues Tuesday and Friday nights in Togher at 7.30pm.
Team: Judith Smullen, Diane Lawlor, Jean Moore, Joanna Tasak, Lorraine Delahunty, Alison Holmes, Claire O’Connell, Tanale, Kehoe, Niamh Griffin, Yvonne Delaney, Karen Plunkett, Carrie Connell, Sarah Johnson, Zara Healy, Cassie Dunne, Stephanie Gleeson, Rhona Julian.