NUIG Women logged their first Connacht League victory on Tuesday evening: a 29-5 five-try rout of last winter’s cup finalists Carrick-on-Shannon in Ballyhaunis.
The Carrick contingent managed one try, the match’s fourth, but the students pulled away in the final 12minutes posting two more before the finish.
A lacklustre and altogether far too polite first half-hour from the Galway crowd offered little reward for player or spectator alike. Carrick flatly refused to use a stiff tail wind to any advantage in the first half and spending only short stays in college territory. College, by contrast, spent decent periods in the Carrick camp throughout the first half-hour but accomplished little when there. At fault were the hands (and the cuplrits attached to them), unforgivable given conditions were dry throughout and at 8pm in an Irish Novmber sunstrike was hardly going to factor.
After three failed attempts to cross the chalk, NUIG posted its first points wide out left with nine minutes remaining on the clock. Openside Edel McMahon had to do a bit of work from 12m out but made short work of a scrambling defensive pattern for her first score in a maroon jersey.
Winger Eliza Kelly latched on to the miskicked restart less than a minute later and scarpered 58m on the angle to go in under the bar, inside centre Shauna O’Brien added the extras. Conspicuous by its absence prior to the McMahon opener, NUIG’s aggression soared in the final 10 minutes and running repairs to bruised and battered bodies punctuated any Carrick continuity in the final minutes.
Opening the second half 12-nil up, NUIG wasted little effort in hemming Carrick deep in their own half Hannah Smith (9) and the ever-impressive Rhona Julian (10) largely responsible for territorial gains. Both Smith and Julian, who emerged from the first half reputations intact, shone immediately after the restart and opened up several opportunities for Lauren Aufdembrink and Eliza Kelly in the centres. Kelly, before an ankle niggle forced her from the field, scored a second try 10minutes after halftime to take College 17points clear.
Carrick kicked into gear into the wind and mounted a spirited fightback and for the best part of 15minutes slammed into tiring NUIG defenders right on their own line.
The Leitrim ladies breached the line finally halfway through the second spell to close the gap once again to 12points.
Enter skipper Louise Fitzgerald who, with McMahon, harried under-pressure opposition backs and jolted the ball free 35m from the Carrick line. She threw foot at it and hacked it into the in-goal and won the footrace to secure the fourth try.
Lou Kelly, refreshed after an involuntary 10minute stint in the bin, added the extras and chased up her two points with five of her own late in the game. The score stayed 29-5, and College departed home with a maiden league victory in tow.
Lock forward Rita Breen toiled well in the tight and proved as busy in open space as any loose forward on the paddock. While she too laboured under the same “courtesy” affliction which roadblocked any early College dominance she turned up the heat for the last 50 and led by example across the pitch for a well-deserved player-of-the-day award.
By Luke O’Donnell.