Portlaoise travelled to Railway Union grounds in Park Avenue through the labyrinth of Sandymount streets on Rugby International day and came away with a win that keeps their title hopes on track.
From the kick-off Portlaoise attacked Railway’s defence and forced handling errors. After a controlled ruck about fifteen metres out, Mairéad Keogh linked with Aoife Murphy created a gap allowing Eimear Corri to collect the perfectly timed off-load and score beneath the posts. Captain Róisín McWey neatly slotted the conversion.
Portlaoise piled on the pressure and before the ten minute mark a well worked maul made fifteen metres. Keogh tapped and passed to Tara Buggie who skilfully laid it off for Corri who warded off a tackle, side stepped another before touching down beneath the posts. McWey converted in clinical style.
Railway Union responded well and fashioned a try in the corner. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful but the try gave the side renewed vigour resulting in their formidable front row breaking through. They added a second try soon after which was converted. As half-time approached, Portlaoise re-applied themselves. Niamh Riordan and Rebecca Mullen opened space for Anna O’Neill who combined with Lauren Roberts to set Orlaith Phelan free to score under the posts and Hooban converted.
Portlaoise continued to apply pressure and were rewarded when Shona Whelehan with support from Corri, Mullen and Riordan crossed the line in the corner for her first try this season. Portlaoise went in at half-time with a comfortable lead of 26-10.
After the restart Railway employed a kicking game but Laura Scanlon, Aishling Page and Áine Comphuijsen caught everything that came their way. Portlaoise increased their lead when Aoife Murphy, normally a play maker, took the option to drive for the line taking two opponents with her for a superb try near the corner. Railway replied with a try and a conversion.
In another movement, instigated by Tara Buggie, valuable ground was made with Lauren Roberts combining to put Phelan in for her second try. Anna O’Neill stepped up to convert. Railway not to be outdone countered with another try in the corner.
Portlaoise dominated and after an intensive and decisive push Aoife Murphy went over for her second try of the game. Niamh McGlynn and Ava Drennen togged out for the U-18s for the first time.
The final score of 43-22 and the chance for most the squad to practice was a great precursor to the return match against Tigers on Sunday in Greystones.
Portlaoise are currently four points clear of Tigers and five points clear of Wicklow.
The referee could not make the call between two outstanding players and nominated both Rebecca Mullen and Mairéad Keogh as Girls of the Game.
Portlaoise Scorers: Tries: Eimear Corri (2), Aoife Murphy (2), Orlaith Phelan (2), Shona Whelehan (1); Conversions: Emma Hooban (1), Róisín McWey (2), Anna O’Neill (1)
Rugby Girls U-18 Leinster League Division 1