NUIG received the kick off in slippery conditions to begin the 2013-14 SSI/IRFU college league campaign against UCC on Wednesday. The Galway women were keen to emulate their previous year’s league success against the Cork side and demonstrated this by stringing together phase after phase of pressure in the first ten minutes. Solid defence from UCC saw flanker Louise Fitzgerald held up over the line after a series of pick and gos. Heather Cary made yards from the resulting scrum and after several phases of patient play Elaine Johnson got the over the line to put the Connacht side on the scoreboard.
Cary was next to cross the whitewash taking a well-timed offload from Fitzgerald in the corner to make it 10-0. Cary’s hard work plundering the blindside and wreaking havoc at ruck time earned her the player of the day title. Outhalf Rhona Julian showed enterprise kicking into space and challenging UCC’s back three. Julian used her pace to the Galway side’s advantage chasing and gathering her own kicks. NUIG full back Eliza Kelly dealt well with all that the UCC kickers sent her way and displayed some very effective counter attacking. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for NUIG though with outside centre Nora Kennelly succumbing to a rib injury (acquired at the Connacht Colleges 7s competition earlier in the season) early on.
NUIG, growing in confidence, were determined to put more points on the board. They capitalized on unforced errors from the UCC set piece. Repeated calls of not straight from the referee frustrated stallwart UCC hooker Zoe Grattage.
Scrumhalf Hannah Smith further stretched the lead for NUIG crossing the line in the corner after spotting a gap from the base of the ruck on the 22m line. Louise Fitzgerald again crossed the line, this time being award 5 points for her efforts in a well taken try. Half time saw a 20 point lead for NUIG with their defensive line still not breached.
The second half began off with Edel McMahon chasing the kick and using the opportunity to demonstrate her tackling prowess. A superb performance from Connacht hopeful McMahon saw her making some savage tackles and making much ground in attack. It wasn’t long before on form Fitzgerald had crossed the line for her second try, Julian adding the extras to make it 27-0.
The Galway students were penalized for pushing the definition of “bound” in the uncontested scrums. After winning back the UCC ball from the lineout NUIG camped in the UCC half. Possession was handed forward and back between the two sides, perhaps a sign of the wet conditions, for the next ten or so minutes. While UCC had significantly more possession in the closing quarter NUIG were successful in pinning them back. Some skilful handling from Grainne Donnellan sparked a move that eventually saw Elizabeth McKeever finding a way through the UCC defence bringing the NUIG tally to 32 points.
UCC had to do without Randi London, no. 8, for the last 5 or so minutes of the game. The powerful ball carrier was unfortunate to be the one punished for repeated off side at ruck time. At this point coach Simon Lawless decided it was time for fresh legs and several NUIG girls had their first run out in maroon.
The 32-0 victory brings to a close a run of sustained losses for the students this season. They will hope to continue in this vain when they take on an amalgamated Carrick-on-Shannon/Longford side this weekend in the Connacht Women’s League.