Portlaoise Girls played their first match of this year’s Leinster Region One against well-seasoned Cill Dara in Togher on Saturday.
Mark Roberts had prepared the side with essential rugby skills in the weeks leading up to the game, while Pat Hooban honed those talents and developed the match plan for the day.
With the promotion of last year’s key players to the senior side and the inclusion of new blood, a number of players were required to play out of their comfort zones.
During the opening minutes the disciplined Portlaoise pack consisting of hooker Eimear Lynam, props Abigail Mullen and Clodagh Behan, second row Tara Buggie and Shona Whelehan, and Emma Hooban as No. 8, stamped their authority on the game. They fed scrum-half Mairead Keogh useful ball that was skilfully channelled to the backs.
Portlaoise consistently gained ground but Cill Dara contested every inch of the way and broke away on many occasions only to be foiled by speedy Orlaith Phelan’s saving tackles. Finally Portlaoise broke the stalemate with a rolling maul culminating to a fine try by Abigail Mullen.
Portlaoise’s backs took control of the game with Áine Camphuijsen dominating. Roisin McWey, Robyn Mullen and Anna O’Neill posed a formidable threat while Jorja Mullen played out of her socks. However Cill Dara finally broke away from a Portlaoise attack and levelled the score at 5-5 with a runaway try.
Portlaoise unabashed pushed on and a move involving Robyn Mullen, Aoife McNeill and Aoife McCormack led to a blistering signature try beneath the posts by Eimear Corri. Anna O’Neill’s conversion gave Portlaoise some breathing space. It proved to be a confidence builder when Cill Dara intercepted near the try-line but failed to convert bringing the score to 12-10.
Portlaoise again took control of the game but a number of off-sides at the scrum compromised an otherwise solid possession. Clodagh Behan and Roisin McWey were involved in some great rucking that led to a brilliant try by Emma Hooban.
Cill Dara countered soon after with a well worked try yielding a score of 17-15.
Portlaoise’s backline persisted and imaginative play by Mairead Keogh, Rosin McWey and Shona Whelehan provided Eimear Corri with the opportunity to ground the ball beneath the posts. Emma Hooban clinically converted.
Cill Dara replied with a try in the final minutes, evening up the tries. Portlaoise emerged worthy winners with final score of 24-20 and it was the vital conversions split the teams in a hotly contested encounter.