Portlaoise U-18 Girls came out on top in a local derby away to Portarlington last weekend Captained by the cool head of Róisín McWey, they faced a Portarlington side bolstered by players from Westmanstown RFC.
Both sides had won their recent matches and the Portarlington team was very different from the one which lost to Portlaoise last year.
Portlaoise hooker Abigail Mullen, props Eimear Lynam and Clodagh Behan, second row Shona Whelehan, Éadaoin Griffin and flankers Aisling Page, Robyn and Rebecca Mullen, with Emma Hooban playing number 8 formed an impressive forward line.
This was matched with an equally talented set of backs in Mairead Keogh, Roisin McWey, Lauren Roberts,Tara Buggie, Orlaith Phelan, Eimear Corri, Anna O’Neill, Niamh O’Riordan, Niamh McGlynn, Aisling Page, Grainne Holland.
The teams were well matched with regard to skill and size and the first half was played mainly between the two 22metre lines, with Portlaoise commanding the majority of possession. The forwards gained a lot of territory through a variety of rucking moves.
Midway through the half Keogh offloaded to the centre via out-half McWey followed by a fine looping movement from Phelan, Buggie and Roberts that allowed Corri to run through to score a try despite the attention of three Portarlington backs.
Once points had been registered on the board, the forwards re-doubled their efforts and brought the ball within the 10 metre area. Once there, strong driving play enabled Abigail Mullen to crash over the line for a try. Full back O’Neill converted adding two points to the 10 scored.
A period of attacking play by the backs followed which was countered by a strong Portarlington defence that closed down any opportunity for the Portlaoise to reach the wings. Play was concentrated in the centre channel.
Portarlington moved steadily towards the Portlaoise goal line and their forwards managed to carry the ball over the line. Portlaoise defence stood solid and managed to hold the ball up, denying the score and allowing Portlaoise to maintain a solid lead of 12-0 at the end of the first half.
Portlaoise changed their tactics in the second half. Communication between backs and forwards improved and Keogh distributed the ball intelligently to the backs and the wings opened up. Portarlington were put completely on the back foot and eventually bent under the strain.
A move, again originating from Keogh, involving McWey, Buggie, McGlynn, O’Riordan, Phelan and Roberts led to a well taken try by O’Neill who converted. Lynam, Behan, Whelehan, Griffin, Page, Robyn and Rebecca Mullen controlled the play for the remainder of the match. Hooban to picked up in Portarlington’s 22 metre area and made a drive for the line supported by the pack, ploughing over for a well-deserved try. O’Neill converted bringing her success rate to 75%, giving Portlaoise a well-deserved victory of 26-0.
Mairéad Keogh was the Referee’s ‘Girl of the Game’ for her outstanding performance and was congratulated by both teams.