Four Portlaoise players lined out for Leinster Laides U-18s in the tri-provincial blitz at Limerick Institute of Technology on Saturday. Anna O’Neil, Geena Behan, and Niamh Griffin, fresh from her All-Ireland win last week, took part in both matches as did Rebecca Mullen who marked her debut with a winning try against Connacht in the opener.
The blitz represented a major-step up in intensity and skill-level for the girls. Once the initial shock of the crunching tackles and fierce pace abated they settled into the task.
The opening game was closely fought with Connaught having the lion’s share of possession. Connaught forwards were well schooled in the line-outs and their lifting technique was very effective. They had a slight edge in the scrum which enabled them to compete very well. Leinster on the other hand were stoic in defence and decisive in the tackle. There was very little to separate the sides at half-time and the 0-0 scoreline reflected this.
The second half continued in the same vein with brilliant defensive rugby from both sides. Leinster gradually balanced the possession stakes while Connacht continued to take advantage in the set pieces. In the dying minutes of the game Leinster were rewarded with a Rebecca’s hard won try from repeated rolling mauls.
In the match against Munster, the attrition of the first game took a heavy toll on Leinster players. Munster pack and backs, on the day, were superior in most departments including match fitness. They emerged worthy winners at 22-0 having scored four tries.
The Leinster coach was very happy with the performance given the limited amount of lineout training already this season. The relative lower age and size of Leinster will improve as the season goes on.
The Portlaoise four acquitted themselves very well and will take a lot of satisfaction from beating the more fancied Connacht. The impact of the tackling and speed of the games will show itself in terms of tiredness and bruising this week.