Portlaoise U-18 girls nailed their new ‘Profile’ jerseys to the mast when they played the second leg of the Leinster Division One tie against Navan in Togher on Saturday.
Portlaoise had won the first leg and were quietly optimistic. However, the previous week’s tough encounter with Tullamore removed any sense of complacency from the home side.
The disciplined Portlaoise pack consisting of Abigail Mullen, Niamh Riordan, Sarah Culliton, Rebecca Mullen, Shona Whelehan, Robyn Mullen and Emma Hooban stamped their authority on the game during the opening minutes. Pitched against heavier opposition they initially held their own but later began to impose their greater skills on Navan.
The Portlaoise backline of Mairéad Keogh, Róisín Mc Wey, Áine Comphuijsen, Aoife McNeill, Orlaith Phelan, Anna O’Neill, Lauren Roberts and Eimear Corri appeared more methodical than their counterparts and regrouped patiently as the forwards battled it out in rucks and mauls.
At the five minute mark the opportunity came. Niamh Riordan spoiled Navan possession and Emma Hooban picked up and drove forward with support. Mairéad Keogh was up quickly and, with a new tactic fresh from the training ground, she created options either side allowing the ball to be recycled a number of times.
Emma Hooban constantly crossed the gain line during these phases. At the 25 metre mark, the ball was adroitly ushered to the right to the eager partnership of Eimear Corri and Orlaith Phelan. Corri swiftly ran in the try with Phelan on her shoulder.
Navan reeled at the suddenness of the score but regrouped determined to counter the danger. Their hope was short lived, as within five minutes Riordan again broke down Navan’s advance and Hooban, with support from Mullen and Culliton, capitalised by driving forward.
Rebecca Mullen and Shona Whelehan moved the ball to the right where Corri again ran in for a try with Phelan in support.
With their tails now up Portlaoise continued in similar fashion and it wasn’t long before Phelan ran in a try with Corri in support. Emma Hooban neatly converted.
Portlaoise then moved play to the central channel and after period of multiple phases Hooban broke through at pace but was unfairly brought down within metres of the goal line. She slotted the ensuing penalty to bring the score to 20-0 at half time.
In the second half play concentrated in the centre and left with Lauren Roberts and Robyn Mullen showing their power and speed. Róisín McWey controlled everything in the centre and O’Neill switched play from right to left in skilful fashion.
McNeill and Comphuijsen tackled magnificently while Rebecca and Abigail Mullen along with Sarah Culliton simply overpowered the Navan forward line.
It was inevitable that the Phelan-Corri partnership would again reap the benefits of the hard won possession. In the event, with Phelan by her side, Corri ran in two more tries to notch up a remarkable four for the day. Hooban converted one to yield a comprehensive victory with a final score of 32-0.