CPL Park at Demesne, Longford was the setting for the first competitive game of the season. Portlaoise had laid down the gauntlet with their impressive win over Tallaght in a pre-season friendly but this was the first real test of the current crop of Portlaoise women.
The tight five of Rosie Palmer, Diane Lawlor, Yvonne Palmer, Danielle Hallinan and Stephanie Gleeson, flanked by Claire O’Connell and Olivia Fennelly proved a formidable forward pack presenting a massive threat to Longford.
The star-studded backline of Rachel Murphy, Orlaith Phelan, Sarah Murphy, Katie Donnelly, Louise Cody and Breda Kenny ensured that the option for an open running game was always on.
The opening quarter of the game was a battle for possession among the forwards with Portlaoise going through the phases gaining ground against a a lively and robust Longford pack prepared to mix it in the central channel. While Portlaoise had a measure of superiority in the scrum and ruck they totally dominated the line-out with the superb aerial talent of Olivia Fennelly lifted by Yvonne and Rosie Palmer and accurately located by hooker Diane Lawlor.
In the end the break came through route one, after a tremendous forward push, in a classic Palmer sister act which saw Rosie off-load to sibling Yvonne within five metres of the line. Yvonne had her work cut out to power over the line near the corner despite the attention of two Longford defenders.
In the second quarter Portlaoise stepped up a gear playing a more open game using both left and right channels against a fit and competent Longford defence. Ironically as Longford pressed deep into the Portlaoise half new-comer Hallinan turned the ball over making it available for scrum-half Rachel Murphy who quickly whipped it to No. 10 Orlaith Phelan who distributed to Rachel Murphy who off-loaded to Louise Cody.
Cody stepped inside and passed to Breda Kenny who intelligently laid off to Orlaith Phelan, who had looped back into line, just inside the half-way line. Phelan trusted her pace and made a fifty-five metre dash for the line side-stepping two defenders en route to touch down beneath the posts. Sure-footed Claire O’Connell neatly slotted the conversion.
The second half proved a test of attrition with neither side capable of gaining dominance and it was a credit to Portlaoise that they could close down the game. Stephanie Gleeson was particularly impressive while Louise Cody and Danielle Hallinan showed brilliant form in their competitive debut.
The return of Liz Brophy from Leinster U-18 duties should strengthen the panel.
Scorers - Tries: Yvonne Palmer, Orlaith Phelan. Conversion: Claire O’Connell
Liz Brophy and Eimear Corri played their last game for U18 Leinster in a match against Connacht where Corri ran in five tries as captain and Brophy was incisive as flanker.
Portlaoise RFC welcomes newcomers to Women’s and Girls’ rugby each Tuesday and Friday evening at 7:30pm. Why not give it a try?