Portlaoise U-18 Girls played their first match of the New Year against a Mullingar team that included four Leinster players, at Togher on Saturday and came away with an excellent win.
It should have been Portlaoise’s second match of the year but the much billed game against Tigers last week was cancelled due to a water-logged pitch. The contest was played on the full pitch using ten-a-side due to the number of Mullingar players who travelled.
Portlaoise attacked from the outset and had the lion’s share of possession. Mullingar’s forwards were well disciplined and put up a robust defence. A sweeping move, initiated by Mairéad Keogh at the scrum and deftly handled by Róisín McWey to Tara Buggie who off-loaded to Anna O’Neill allowed Eimear Corri to accept the pass and race through to score a try between the posts. Anna O’Neill converted with a sure footed kick against the wind.
Mullingar went into over-drive at the re-start and after constant pressure, matched by stout defence, Mullingar were rewarded with a try near the corner but missed the conversion
At this stage Portlaoise began taking the opportunity to rotate players and once the new players settled in, the tide turned in Portlaoise’s favour. Rucking and mauling was tidier. From a close range scrum play was switched to right by Mairéad Keogh with Aoife Mc Neill passing to Shona Whelehan, and Eimear Corri delivering to Orlaith Phelan at pace on the twenty-two and she ran through unopposed between the posts with Mullingar in pursuit. Emma Hooban neatly slotted the ball over the bar and the first half finished with Portlaoise 14-5 to the good.
Portlaoise brought on the remaining development players in the second half but Mullingar scored a try after ten minutes yielding a score of 14-10. However Portlaoise responded when Robyn Mullen, Emma Startin and Abigail Mullen led a charge supported by Shona Whelehan and Sarah Culliton. Mairéad Keogh passed the ball to Áine Comphuijsen who fed Anna O’Neill. Tara Buggie picked it up from there and gained territory before going to ground. Áine Comphuijsen stepped in and recycled to Eimear Corri who went on one of her trade mark runs to score her second try. The conversion was narrowly missed.
With five minutes to go, Mullingar were awarded a penalty just outside the five metre mark. They, tapped and ran in a try while Portlaoise was distracted. A missed conversion brought the score to 19-15 in Portlaoise’s favour.
There was a nail-biting four minutes but Portlaoise held on to win. Each side scored three tries with the two successful penalties separating them. Portlaoise maintained its record of wins for the season. Eimear Corri was the referee’s Girl of the Game.