An eight-try rout of the touring students lent further weight to Castlebar’s claim on the Connacht league on Sunday, in Castlebar 54-nil to the Mayo hosts.
While much of the game was contested at rucktime between cohesive NUIG forwards and bruising Castlebar loose forward fringe defenders, it finished as yet another Cora Staunton show as the footballer-cum-rugby player’s indefatigable 35 point effort meant NUIG never stood a chance.
Her seven-try Sunday haul would have once been the stuff of headlines but for the fact she fast-established it as a weekly norm in her first run out.
NUIG competed well in the tight and repeatedly broke backline defences but Castlebar’s ever-present cover tacklers preserved goal-line integrity. And despite playing much of the rugby at the right end of the paddock, NUIG simply could not stop the rampant Staunton who used her well-fuelled stride to round isolated defenders and cover the 30, 40 and 50metres between her and the tryline.
For NUIG midfield combination Megan O’Connor and Sorcha Tarpey not only made much of the ground with ball-in-hand, but contained everything that ran their way. Likewise Lou Kelly, Louise Fitzgerald and Elaine Johnson carried well in the forwards but could not cross the chalk for a five-pointer.
Nil-all with 22minutes gone and neither camp giving an inch bode well for a titanic, albeit dour forward tussle, until a Staunton chip-and-chase bounced favourably for a seven-pointer under the bar having put ball to boot from 55m out.
She followed it up six minutes later with a streaking run down the lefthand touch, and ticked off two more before half-time.
The second half started in much the same fashion, halfback Hannah Smith rallying forward runners well and marshalling her troops in defence, and it remained scoreless for 12 minutes before Staunton regathered a second kick wide out right. She managed two more in quick succession before calling it a day with nine minutes remaining. Castlebar managed one on the stroke of full-time.
O’Connor (13) lost half an ear in the process, splitting the webbing topside and prop Rachel O’Neill succumbed to several well-aimed studs on her forearm and retired with 15 to go.
NUIG meet UCC in Dangan at 2.30pm Wednesday afternoon for the first of their CUSAI league match-ups.
By Luke O’Donnell.